MLS’s Decision Day is on Sunday. It is the last regular season game for everybody, and the whole league will play at the same time to decide various playoff matchups and seeding. For many, it is a crucial day.
Let’s run through the five most important matches.
Portland Timbers vs San Jose Earthquakes
This is basically winner-take-all here. Both teams qualify for the postseason with a win. The Timbers, who will play at home (debatable whether that’s even a positive for them), make it through with a tie. San Jose, who trail seventh place by one point, have no chance at the playoffs if they lose, but would qualify if they draw at Portland and both FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids hold up their end of the bargain.
The Timbers will be without ice-cold forward Brian Fernandez, who will be suspended on a red card. San Jose’s current free-fall (five straight losses, though all have been against good teams) would indicate that Portland are the favorites here.
Atlanta United vs New England Revolution
New England are safely in the playoffs, thanks to some epic long-term choking out of the Chicago Fire, but they would love to avoid traveling to a New York baseball stadium for the first round. A win against Atlanta (don’t count on it, but crazier things have happened) plus a Toronto FC loss to Columbus (more plausible) would move the Revs up to sixth.
Atlanta have all the motivation to beat New England, because any win on Sunday guarantees them second in the East and a rubber match with the Revs in the playoffs. Hosting Bruce Arena’s side again is much more favorable than having to deal with Toronto or even the New York Red Bulls in a knockout game.
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United
The 2-5 slots in the Western Conference are up for grabs on Sunday. Seattle and Minnesota are locked at 53 points and 15 wins right now, with the Loons holding the goals tiebreaker and thus second place. The winner of this game secures second, while the loser could drop as low as fifth if the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake both win.
They might play to a cagey draw. That result could benefit both teams, but a Galaxy win and a Seattle-Minnesota draw would elevate LA to second and drop the Sounders and Loons. LA play the 11th-place Dynamo. Seattle and Minnesota should both be playing to win.
FC Dallas vs. Sporting KC
In addition to being a rivalry match, this will be make or break for FC Dallas. A win over SKC and Dallas are in. A draw or loss, though, and they’d have to root heavily for Portland (and LAFC, to prevent a miracle rise out of Colorado).
Last week, FCD fell flat in a 3-0 loss to the Rapids, which assured that this game would be of interest. They will have to rebound here, and play much better on defense.
NYCFC vs. Philadelphia Union
This is the other end of the battle for second in the East. Atlanta have the wins tiebreaker, so the Philadelphia Union don’t control their destiny here. They’d need to win or draw and have the Five Stripes pick up fewer points against the Revs in order to finish second.
NYCFC have no immediate implications to play for here. But this might be the most interesting game of the week, given that both teams are elite and gearing up for a chance at a deep playoff run. NYC are the better team, and have a much clearer shot at going far in the playoffs. Philly could prove people wrong if they walk into Yankee Stadium and score an important victory.