The Western Conference is Black & Gold.
By way of Minnesota United's 2-0 loss to Houston on Wednesday night, LAFC has taken a momentous step in its 2019 regular season. The Supporters' Shield, the possible first trophy in Club history, remains the ultimate goal with five matches to play. But the Western Conference regular-season title was a necessary step on that road. And it still comes with its perks.
For starters, LAFC has secured a free pass to the Conference Semifinals. The Black & Gold will begin their quest for MLS Cup on Oct. 23 or 24. The No. 1 seeds in each conference receive byes as the other six sides start the playoffs on Oct. 19-20.
More importantly, the road to MLS Cup in the West now goes through Banc of California Stadium. LAFC has secured home-field advantage and will not have to travel in any of the rounds leading up to MLS Cup. When you own the best home record in MLS season, that can't be understated - take the next step by securing the Supporters' Shield and the Banc may host its first final as well.
But there's more. The world's stage is calling LAFC.
In capturing the Western Conference's top spot, the Black & Gold have qualified for the 2020 Concacaf Champions League. And with it, LAFC has a shot at competing against the world football giants like Real Madrid, Liverpool, Boca Juniors, or Barcelona in the FIFA Club World Cup.
For those unfamiliar with the CCL, it's essentially North America, Central America, and the Caribbean's version of the UEFA Champions League.
Sixteen teams compete in a knockout tournament beginning in February. Each round in the CCL is a home-and-away two-leg series. The team with the highest aggregate score over the two legs goes through to the next round. If the aggregate scores are tied after the two legs, the team with more away goals goes through. And if they're still tied, then a penalty shootout decides which team advances.
Spots in the CCL are spread out across the region. Both Mexico and the U.S. have four spots each in the tournament. The four U.S. spots go to the MLS Cup winner, Supporters' Shield winner, the other regular-season conference winner, and the U.S. Open Cup winner. LAFC would participate as the winner of the Western Conference but could ultimately be qualified as the Supporters' Shield holders or by raising MLS Cup. Atlanta United has also already qualified by way of their U.S. Open Cup win.
So how do teams like Barcelona and Liverpool come into the picture?
The FIFA Club World Cup takes place in December each year and brings together the champions of the six confederations around the world. Win the CCL and there's a chance you'll face the UEFA Champions League winner with the world title on the line.
No MLS side has reached the FIFA Club World Cup in its current format, although Toronto FC came within a penalty shootout in 2018.
LAFC will have its chance to make history once more by becoming the first.