For one Major League Soccer team — the Supporters’ Shield-winning New England Revolution — Decision Day is merely a formality.
But for 11 other teams, the final day of the regular season will either mean securing one of six remaining spots in the playoffs, or heading home early for the offseason.
There are three playoff berths that still haven’t been officially claimed in each conference and seedings are still largely up the air, setting the table for a chaotic Sunday. A little perspective: Last season there were just five teams still alive vying for two spots.
Four teams have clinched spots in the Eastern Conference: New England, Philadelphia, Nashville and NYCFC. Still vying for playoff positions are Atlanta United, Orlando City, the New York Red Bulls, Montreal, D.C. United and the defending MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew.
In the Western Conference, the Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City, the Colorado Rapids and Portland Timbers have already clinched. Minnesota, the Vancouver Whitecaps, the LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake and LAFC are still jockeying for three spots.
Salt Lake will need a win Sunday at Sporting Kansas City to secure a spot. RSL had a pair of chances at home to clinch, but dropped consecutive games against the Earthquakes and the Timbers.
“It’s on us and we’re going to have to do it the right way and the hardest way possible, which is on the last game of the season on the road against a good Kansas City team. It ain’t going to be easy, but if there’s 1% chance, we still have to believe and take advantage of that chance we’ll have on Sunday,” Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak said.
Following the chaos that is Decision Day the league goes on an international break. The playoffs open Nov. 20.
CLAIMING THE SHIELD
The Revolution have already set a single-season record for wins with 73, besting LAFC’s mark of 72 in 2019. New England can pad the record when the team plays Inter Miami, which has already been eliminated.
The Revs got win No. 73 last week in a 1-0 victory over the Rapids.
“I guess they accomplished more than any team in the history of the league,” coach Bruce Arena told reporters afterward. “That’s a heck of a story. So you guys all have something to write. You don’t have to write about formations and all the other stuff. You can write about it. It could be a history essay.”
Speaking of Arena, he matched Sigi Schmid’s record for most career wins with 240, and could break it with a victory over Miami.
TOO CLOSE TO CALL
There are three teams in the West still clamoring for seeding on top.
The Seattle Sounders have just a one-point lead atop the standings over Sporting Kansas City and the Colorado Rapids. Meanwhile, regardless of Sunday’s results, the Timbers are the fourth seed.
The lone team among the league’s 27 clubs to already wrap up its season is the Houston Dynamo, which lost 2-0 to Montreal on Wednesday.
The Dynamo finished at the bottom of the Western Conference with just six wins this season. On Thursday, the team parted ways with coach Tab Ramos after just two seasons.
KEY GAMES IN THE EAST
Atlanta, which is all but in the playoffs, would have to lose at last-place Cincinnati by eight goals to lose its spot. … Montreal needs a win at home over Orlando to get in, but Orlando can clinch with a tie. … The Red Bulls need at least a tie at Nashville to secure a spot. … Columbus needs to beat visiting Chicago and a lot of help for a chance to defend. D.C. United also needs help and a victory over host Toronto.
Seeding is still to be determined, except for the top seed, which goes to the Revs.
KEY GAMES IN THE WEST
RSL needs a victory at Kansas City to make the playoffs, while Vancouver needs at least a draw at home against the Sounders to get in. LAFC must win at Colorado and get help. … Minnesota needs a win or tie on the road against the Galaxy, while Los Angeles must win and get help to get in.
Seeding, except for the fourth-place Timbers, is up in the air.
THE GOLDEN BOOT
The regular-season scoring title will also be claimed Sunday. NYCFC’s Taty Castellanos currently the field with 18 goals, but D.C. United’s Ola Kamara and Seattle’s Raul Ruidiaz each have 17. Sporting’s Daniel Salloi and New England’s Adam Buksa each have 16 goals.
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