The 2022 MLS season has trickled down to its final two games for most teams, but there is still time left for some to get into the postseason through the backdoor. Meanwhile, the Golden Boot and MVP races are still there for the taking.
Here’s a look at what’s at stake from a playoff perspective in this weekend’s matchups.
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Miami can do themselves a massive favor by getting a win against eliminated Toronto. Currently seventh with 42 points and with a game in hand, Inter would make things very hard for their nearest pursuers, including eighth-place Columbus (42 points), by earning three points on Friday.
New England Revolution vs. Atlanta United
Atlanta United have made a late surge with seven points from their past three matches to rise to ninth place with 40 points, two shy of Miami. If they are to entertain any hopes of clinching a playoff spot on Decision Day, they absolutely have to come away with a win in Foxborough. The same can be said for the Revs, who are 11th and on 38 points. Anything less than a victory and the playoffs will assuredly be gone.
The boys from the Lone Star State have already clinched their playoff spot and are in a relatively comfortable third-place position in the Western Conference with 50 points. They can sew up a first-round home playoff game with a win at eliminated Colorado.
Charlotte FC vs. Philadelphia Union
The good news for Charlotte is that even though they are in 10th in the East with 38 points, they have a game in hand and can make up ground prior to Decision Day next weekend. The bad news is that they host a buzzsaw in Philadelphia, who are keen to edge out LAFC for the Supporters’ Shield.
FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire FC
Cincinnati helped themselves enough with a midweek 1-1 draw in Seattle on Tuesday night, nudging themselves into fifth place out East with 46 points and four points above eighth-place Columbus. But four teams chasing them in the standings — Inter Miami, Orlando, Charlotte and Columbus — all have a game in hand. Victory at home against eliminated Chicago would help immensely.
Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls
Columbus are just barely on the outside looking in at present with 42 points, but the Crew do have a game in hand. No matter, though, Saturday against New York is still a must-win because the two sides right in front of them, Miami and Orlando, also have a game in hand. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls have clinched a playoff spot and can nail down a home game in Round 1 with a win.
Technically, there is still a chance Montreal can win the Supporters’ Shield, which would be extraordinary. If Philly and LAFC each lose their final two games and Montreal beat last-place D.C. United and then win their finale, the Quebec side would lift the trophy.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Minnesota United
The likes of Real Salt Lake (43), Vancouver (40) and Seattle (40) are still pursuing seventh-place Minnesota (45) for the final playoff spot, so it is simply a must-win for the Loons at eliminated San Jose.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Austin FC
Making up five points in two games is asking a lot of Vancouver, and more so against Austin, who will finish second in the West and boast the conference’s best road record (8-6-2). There is also the MVP and Golden Boot carrot still dangling for Sebastian Driussi (21 goals), who trails Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar (23) by two goals in the scoring race.
Huge game for both. This thing can break many ways. During the international break, the Galaxy used a win against San Jose to catapult themselves into fifth spot (46 points) in the Western Conference and now all of the sudden, leapfrogging Nashville (47) for a home game in Round 1 is very attainable. A loss, however, would put them level on points with RSL and force a dramatic Decision Day setup, which hasn’t gone well for the Galaxy in recent years. Meanwhile, if Real Salt Lake drop any points, their postseason hopes will be in serious jeopardy.
New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC
Fourth-place NYCFC (49 points) can punch their postseason ticket with a home win against Orlando, but the visitors from Florida are equally hungry for victory, sitting sixth with 45 points. Orlando have a game in hand, but three points in Gotham would make things easier in that final week.
Portland Timbers vs. LAFC
LAFC are still jousting with the Union for the Supporters’ Shield, so while the top spot in the West is already decided, the chance to win a second Shield is there. Portland are sixth with 46 points and could clinch a playoff berth with a win and an RSL loss or draw, but could also find themselves in trouble with a loss.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Seattle Sounders FC
Is the streak over? Seattle have never missed the MLS Cup playoffs in their history, but they are staring at that fate going into their final two games. Currently ninth with 40 points and five points off seventh-place Minnesota United, the Sounders have to win out, starting against eliminated Sporting Kansas City, and hope the teams ahead drop points.
Nashville SC vs. Houston Dynamo FC
Nashville can clinch a playoff berth with a win against eliminated Houston, and they will also be keen to hang onto fourth place in the West so they are assured of at least one home game in the postseason. They are one point ahead of nearest pursuers LA Galaxy and Portland for hosting at home. There is also a race for MVP candidate Mukhtar, who is trying to fend off Austin’s Driussi for the scoring title.
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