This weekend, MLS will play its annual slate of Decision Day games.
Every Eastern Conference team will play at 3:30pm ET and every Western Conference team will play at 6:30pm ET.
With plenty of playoff implications, the goal is maximize excitement and prevent meaningless games. Everyone playing at the same team allows us the pleasure of changing the standings in real time. (Too bad we don’t have any kind of RedZone-style whiparound show this year.)
Depending on the results of Wednesday’s scheduled games, there will be various playoff storylines to watch, including some unusually complicated math calculations given the importance of points-per-game this year. Most notably, the Supporters’ Shield race will come down to the final day. A major trophy — the second-most important in MLS — will hinge on the results of Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC matches. With the Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew also loosely in the race, the Shield has a chance to be thrilling.
Philadephia Union, Toronto FC have inside track to Supporters’ Shield
Right now, the Union and TFC have identical records — 13 wins, five draws, and four losses, good for 44 points from 22 games. The Timbers and Crew have 38 points from 21 games, and will each have games on Wednesday and Sunday.
In theory, the Timbers and Crew could win out and have both TFC and Philly lose. In that scenario, all four teams would be tied on points. The first tiebreaker is wins, and they’d all be tied with 13 there too. (Orlando City, who also have 38 points and play the Crew on Wednesday, are out because they only have 10 wins, and thus can’t equal 13.) Goal differential is the next tiebreaker, and the Union have that pretty close to sewn up, at plus-22. Columbus is at plus-15 and Portland is at plus-12. They’d have to make up substantial — but not impossible — differences to overtake the Union.
Given how unlikely it is that the Timbers and Crew end up having a chance at this, let’s focus on TFC and Philly. If the Union beat the New England Revolution on Sunday, TFC will have to make up more than 14 goals due to Philly’s massive goal differential lead. The Union’s 5-0 torching of TFC a couple weeks ago is proving massive now.
But Toronto still has a perfectly good shot of stealing the Shield at the death. It seemed unlikely a week ago, but Philly lost 2-1 to Columbus and TFC beat Inter Miami to extend the race another week. Losing now would be pretty dispiriting for Union fans, who have yet to celebrate a major trophy in MLS.
The Union face a tougher task on Sunday against the feisty Revs, a disciplined Bruce Arena outfit who generally avoid mistakes and play solid defense. Then again, New England’s most recent game was a bizarre 4-3 win over lowly D.C. United, a complete inverse of everything the Revs have done this season. If the Revs are going to be weak defensively again, that would obviously bode well for Philly. Less positive would be continued attacking performances from Teal Bunbury and Tajon Buchanan, who tore up D.C. last week.
Philly controls their destiny. But they’re going to have to win to feel comfortable, as TFC will play the weaker New York Red Bulls, who sit in eighth-place in the Eastern Conference. Just last week, though, the Red Bulls beat the Revolution 1-0, so the difference between the two opponents is not dramatic. The Shield will come down to each team doing the job.