Preview: MLS Regular-Season Finale

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

MLS_logo.svgSunday is the final day of Major League Soccer‘s regular season, its so-called Decision Day. All 11 games across both conferences will kick off at the same time, at 4:20 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. Some games have little or no significance, but here’s what to keep an eye on.

Out West

All San Jose has to do is beat visiting Minnesota. If the Earthquakes defeat an expansion Loons side that has struggled all year and has nothing to play for on Sunday, the Quakes will be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. This seems like a reasonable task for a playoff team, but MLS is full of surprises and San Jose is shakier than most playoff sides. A win would match the club’s longest unbeaten streak of the season — only three games.

Should San Jose stumble, Dallas is first in line to take its place in the playoffs. Dallas plays Los Angeles under different circumstances. Dallas clinched the Supporters’ Shield with a win against the Galaxy last year; this time around Dallas is hoping for help just to return to the playoffs. Dallas would be the first Shield winners to miss the playoffs the next season since … San Jose in 2013.

Salt Lake is the longest shot, and also faces the toughest opponent. RSL will need both Dallas and San Jose to drop points, and get a result at home against Kansas City. It may be unlikely, but a draw could be enough for RSL provided the teams above it both lose. SKC, for its part, has an outside shot at finishing in second, and a first-round bye that goes with it.

The top two spots in the West will probably be occupied by teams from Cascadia, but which two, and in which order, remains to be determined. Portland will host Vancouver in battle for first place. The Whitecaps will finish first with a draw. Because at least one of those two will drop points, Seattle is guaranteed second place if its beats visiting Colorado.

In the East

If New York City can defeat Columbus, it will lock up second place and a first-round bye. A result for the visitors would open the door for Chicago or Atlanta to take that spot instead. A win for the Crew would lift them above the Pigeons, guaranteeing the Crew at least one playoff home game. How the Columbus fans would react to such an occasion is an open question after the week’s revelation that the club could move to Austin, Tex., for the 2019 season. Adding another wrinkle to the proceedings is that the game will be played at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets because Yankee Stadium is not available.

Chicago and Atlanta are the teams chasing NYCFC for second. The Fire travel to Houston in the sole interconference match on the schedule. Atlanta will host Toronto with a crowd of more than 70,000 expected. If the visiting Reds are able to get a result from the match, they will break the MLS record for points in a season; TFC’s current total (68) matches the 1998 Galaxy.