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What will count as success for LAFC in 2023?

A fair but realistic goal for the black-and-gold.

Toronto FC v LAFC - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

LAFC are coming off their double-winning season, and it’s back to work for 2023, as they’ll try to put the past behind them and aim to add more to the trophy cabinet. The season kicks off Saturday as they take on the LA Galaxy at the Rose Bowl in Week 1 of the MLS regular season.

With the season upon us, the obvious question must be asked: What will be a successful season for LAFC in 2023?

Before I get into my answer, here’s the competitions LAFC will be playing in this year:

  • MLS regular season
  • Concacaf Champions League
  • U.S. Open Cup
  • Leagues Cup
  • Campeones Cup
  • MLS playoffs (should they qualify)

So that’s five guaranteed competitions with a sixth included if they qualify for the postseason. Based on this, I have a simple answer for what a successful season will be for the black-and-gold in 2023: Win a trophy.

I will offer some qualification, however. I’m not someone who really spends much time pondering what competitions are “more important.” They judge different things, they come at different times in the year, and they come against different opponents. Is Champions League more important than a Supporters’ Shield? Probably to LAFC in 2023, it is, because they haven’t won CCL. But it’s a short tournament against a full season — the conditions are much different.

My qualification is this: There is one competition listed above that’s a Supercup, the Campeones Cup, which will come against a Liga MX season champ (there’s a separate all-Liga MX Supercup to qualify for Campeones Cup). If LAFC were to win the Campeones Cup and nothing else this year, would the season be successful? That would be a very “sort of” situation, honestly.

But if LAFC win any of the other competitions, I think there’s no qualifications necessary. If they win the U.S. Open Cup and miss the playoffs, would it be disappointing? Of course, but it would also be a success because they won a trophy. Hopefully they win a trophy or more and also ensure playoff qualification (if they don’t repeat as MLS Cup champs, of course), but any trophy will mean success and any title other than Campeones Cup will be successful.

Some of you will read this, think I’m being soft on demanding the best and say something like “Treble or bust, baby!” I, too, would more than welcome three trophies won by LAFC in 2023, but you need a combination of luck, skill, form and timing to do that. It’s a worthy goal, but if LAFC “only” win one trophy is it disappointing? It very much should not be.

Here’s the teams in MLS that have won three trophies in a season:

  • Toronto FC, 2017 (Supporters’ Shield, MLS Cup, Canadian Championship)

That’s it! It has happened but that doesn’t mean it’s a common occurrence. So working for a treble is great, but expecting it is realistically too much.

In contrast, winning two trophies in a season is not so unusual in MLS lore. D.C. United (1996, 1997, 1999), Chicago Fire (1998), LA Galaxy (2002, 2005, 2011), Columbus Crew (2008), Seattle Sounders (2014), FC Dallas (2016), and LAFC (2022) have all done it (and Atlanta United won two trophies in 2019 including Campeones Cup, so that’s kind of a qualified double). Still, it’s not like it happens every year — teams need to find lightning in a bottle, either for a full season for the Shield or for a short tournament.

In that way, I think LAFC will go for every competition they’re in this year, and that’s what I would prefer. I understand when coaches basically throw the towel in on certain cups because of fixture congestion, but I don’t like it. Coming into the season, I see no reason why Steve Cherundolo will punt anything this year. Adjustments may have to be made and the squad will absolutely, definitely be rotated, but I think LAFC will give everything a go. That’s what you hope to see from your team.

In 2021, LAFC had a very unlucky year, and in 2022 they had a pretty lucky year. Don’t discount that factor here, and hopefully luck is on their side, but that is a factor that can’t be controlled. My hope, expectation, goal for LAFC in 2023 is they win a trophy. Hopefully they are competitive in as many competitions as long as possible, hopefully they stay healthy and avoid rotten luck, and hopefully they are hoisting at least one title in the air this season. That is a reasonable and fair expectation for this team in 2023.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.