There are two numbers: 55 and 56.
Expansion teams in MLS are aspiring to those two numbers. The 1998 Chicago Fire set the standard for expansion teams back in 1998 with 56 points in its inaugural season. In 2017, Atlanta United was the first MLS expansion team in nearly 20 years to come close to topping that mark. They fell one point short with a total of 55 points that season.
On Saturday, LAFC defeated the Colorado Rapids 3-0 to raise its points total this season to 53 with three matches remaining. And more importantly, the victory earned LAFC a spot in the 2018 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in its inaugural season.
LAFC is primed to overtake the 1998 Chicago Fire for the best regular season by an expansion team in MLS history. The Club needs four points over its next three matches, two of which are at Banc of California Stadium where it is 8-1-6 this season. And while the Black & Gold are just the fifth team in MLS history to secure a playoff spot in its inaugural season, you might be wondering how LAFC stacks up against expansion teams over the years across all major sports.
Well, you're in luck.
Since 1970, six teams across the five major sports in the U.S. (MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL) have made the playoffs in an inaugural season. The most recent example outside of MLS is the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL last season.
The Golden Knights made a run all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in its first season. But they're hardly the norm when it comes to expansion teams in an inaugural season.
NFL: No expansion team has made the playoffs in its inaugural season. In fact, no NFL has won at least half of its games in its first season. The only team to come close were the 1995 Carolina Panthers. That team ended the season with a 7-9 record and finished fourth in a five-team division.
MLB: Again, no such luck by an expansion team when it comes to reaching the playoffs. The 1961 Los Angeles Angels are the only team in an inaugural season to reach the 70-win mark. The Angels finished with a record of 70-91 and were 38.5 games back of the first place New York Yankees that season.
NBA: One. One expansion team reached the playoffs in its first season. The 1967 Chicago Bulls are the only NBA team to make the playoffs in an inaugural season. They finished with a record of 33-48 and went out in the first round of the playoffs.
NHL: In addition to the Las Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, the NHL has had four expansion teams reach the playoffs in an inaugural season. The 1967-1968 season saw the league go from six to 12 teams. The result of the expansion was an entirely new division with all teams in their first season. That year, four teams from each division went to the playoffs, so four of those six teams in the "expansion division" reached the playoffs - St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, and Minnesota North Stars. Like the Golden Knights, the St. Louis Blues reached the Stanley Cup Finals in its first season, but also fell short of the ultimate goal losing to the Montreal Canadiens.
MLS: As already mentioned, LAFC became the fifth team in MLS history to make the playoffs in an inaugural season. That list includes: 1998 Chicago Fire and Miami Fusion, 2009 Seattle Sounders, 2017 Atlanta United, and 2018 LAFC. Of that list, three teams reached the 50-point plateau that first season (Chicago, Atlanta, and LAFC). As it stands now, the 1998 Chicago Fire are the only team in any of the five major sports since 1970 to win a championship in its inaugural season.
The playoffs are still three weeks away, but LAFC are on the brink of besting that 1998 Chicago Fire team in at least one regard.