Thirty-six weeks of MLS play, and it all comes down to this; Decision Day. Never before in the history of the league has so much come down to the last match-ups of the season. Sunday October 25th, 10 teams will play in two waves of high stake games that will determine the teams and seeding of the MLS Audi Cup Playoffs.
The Easter Conference is first up with all five matches set to kick off at 2pm PT. Though things in the eastern conference are much more settled than the mayhem happening in the west, there is still much at stake. The Wild West however is truly living up to their name, as only three teams have clenched playoff berths. Western Conference matches are set for 4pm PT, and though only one team (San Jose) outside of the current top six is in contention to cause an upset, the seeding in the conference is literally anybody’s guess.
With so much still left to be determined, here are the highest stake scenarios to watch heading into Decision Day 2015:
Fight for the Supporters Shield: New York or FC Dallas
Though FC Dallas is tied with the NY Red Bulls in W/D/L, the Red Bulls are still currently favored to take home the Supporter’s Shield with a hefty advantage in goal differentials. This meaning if Dallas matches NYRB’s performance on Sunday, win, lose or draw, they will come up short of the shield. However Dallas is at the advantage of knowing the outcome of the Red Bulls match going into their match against San Jose since the Eastern Conference matches will take place 2 hours before the West is set to kick off.
Top vs Bottom: New York Red Bulls VS Chicago Fire
Obviously the Red Bulls are traveling to Chicago looking for the three points that would lock up the MLS top spot & secure the Supporters Shield. And, it would seem that for the top team in the MLS, earning a win against Chicago (ranked last) would be nearly a sure bet. Unfortunately history has shown Toyota Park to be the Red Bulls kryptonite. On all occasions NYRB have failed to walk away with a win in Chicago, so perhaps it is overdue.
Eastern Underdog: Orlando City SC
Last weekend Orlando City SC won a do or die match against NYCFC. The win “technically” kept OCSC in playoff running, though a lot of things have to go a very specific way in order for them to sneak into that 6th seed. First things first Orlando has to win. They are 3 points behind New England Revolution, so they also need New England to lose. On top of a must win, and New England must lose they also have quite a bit to make up in goal differentiation. And by quite a bit we mean A LOT. If we are realists, sorry newbies it’s not looking good, though as we’ve learned time and time again it’s not over till it’s over… but it’s over.
The Ultimate Upsetter: San Jose Earthquakes
San Jose has the potential to cause the biggest upset in the entire league. A Decision Day win for San Jose could send them into the playoffs, knocking out either the Seattle Sounders or Sporting Kansas City depending on their Sunday results. Obviously that would be an upset to many, but on top of that if San Jose win it also means that FC Dallas lost. A loss for Dallas does not do anything to their western conference position as they sit comfortably in the first seed, but it would cost them the Supporters Shield. Both FC Dallas and San Jose have a lot at stake.
The Duel: D.C. United VS Columbus Crew
In true duel fashion current second ranked D.C. United, and third ranked Columbus Crew are paired up to vie for the Eastern Conferences second seed. Along with the bragging rights, the second seed comes with a bye right into the semifinals which adds a whole other layer to the already high stakes match. For the loser of them match the risk dropping anywhere from 1-3 spots down the rankings depending on the results of the days other matches. And, in a very unlikely scenario, a scoreless draw has the potential of both duelers to miss the 2nd seed to Toronto FC if they have a fantastic blowout win over Montreal.
The Battle Royal: … Basically everyone ranked between 2nd and 7th in the Western Conference
Seeding in the west is a warzone. Technically speaking in either conference no one in true playoff running (sorry Orlando) is counted out for the second seed sans Montreal and San Jose’, but things are really up in the air in the west. Three points or less separate all teams from 2nd to 6th place, and with San Jose waiting in the shadows with a very real chance of sneaking into the top 6, the rankings after the weekend is through could be anybody’s guess.
There is so much on the line for so many teams. No doubt there will be tears both tears of joy and devastation. Arguably the most high stakes weekend every seen in the MLS, and we can’t wait.