Over the course of the next couple of days, I'll take a brief look at each remaining MLS playoff team and give you reasons why they can and why they can't win MLS Cup 2008. We'll start with the Supporters' Shield winners.
Why they will win MLS Cup 2008: Columbus was the best team in the 2008 regular season. With 17 wins and a tough-as-nails defense, Columbus did nearly everything right this year. Guillermo Barros Schelotto gives the team a tremendous advantage on set pieces and also provides offense with his dazzling passes and fantastic vision.
Alejandro Moreno and Robbie Rogers complement each other very well. Moreno is a brusing player who can score from close range and mix things up in the penalty box while Rogers can bang shots in from close range as well as from distance.
Chad Marhsall is one of the league's best defenders and Frankie Hejduk provides quite a bit of speed and experience on the backline as well. Sigi Schmid has been there and done that as coach, having guided the 2002 LA Galaxy to the MLS Cup title. With players such as Pat Noona, Emmanuel Ekpe and Steven Lenhart on the bench, Schmid has options to choose from.
Why they won't win MLS Cup: It's not exactly a jinx but the last team team to win the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup in the same season was the 2002 LA Galaxy. Great regular-season clubs such as the 2005 San Jose Earthquakes and 2007 DC United have gone out quietly in the playoffs. While the Crew has advanced further than those two teams, odds are still against Columbus from winning the title.
Also, the formula for winning MLS Cup has been simple the last few years. A team has won the title after overcoming previous playoff adversity. Houston crashed out of the postseason party in 2005 as the 'Quakes and overcame that failure to win back-to-back titles. In fact, the last team to win MLS Cup one season after not even reaching the playoffs was San Jose in 2001. Again, the odds are stacked against Columbus.
Another statistic going against Columbus: the last Eastern Conference champion to win MLS Cup was DC United in 1999.