Heading into the final weekend of regular-season play leading up to the MLS Playoffs, many questions remain as to which teams will qualify for the six positions allotted to each conference. The final standings will also determine which two teams are granted a bye next week and which four teams will play in the knock-out stage in each conference beginning next Wednesday.
With all 11 matches scheduled for this Sunday at 4 p.m. ET, these teams will be giving their all, not knowing where they will emerge in the playoff schedule until all the matches are completed. With the first three determinants of table position being points, total wins and goal differential, let’s take a closer look at where the contending teams stand leading up to MLS “Decision Day.”
While all six teams qualifying for the playoffs have been determined, only the top spot (Toronto FC) and the sixth spot (New York Red Bulls) are set. The other four teams in the playoffs (NYC FC, Chicago Fire, Atlanta United and Columbus Crew) all have a shot at the second spot and can avoid the knock-out stage, with New York City FC and Chicago Fire the most likely to claim the number two slot.
Conversely, three of those same four teams will claim slots three through five and will compete in the knock-out match. Keep in mind that claiming the third spot is important as well, since that team will have home-field advantage for the knock-out match.
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Entering the final week of the regular season, there are eight teams that can qualify for the six playoff berths. Three of those teams, Vancouver Whitecaps, Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders can all clinch the top spot in the conference, with Vancouver only needing a tie to maintain the top slot.
Should Vancouver lose on Sunday, four teams could end up in second place (Vancouver, Portland, Seattle and Sporting Kansas City). While those four teams and the Houston Dynamo are assured of a playoff spot, the final slot is still up for grabs. Currently the San Jose Earthquakes hold the spot based on the tie-breaker of total wins, but both FC Dallas and surging Real Salt Lake can take the final spot should San Jose fail to earn any points in their match at home against Minnesota United.