MLS regular season heads toward frantic finish

By Dylan Butler | Posted 1 year ago

Decision Day has arrived and every year it is the most chaotic day of a Major League Soccer regular season that has a lot of them. 


And with simultaneous start times for matches in the Eastern Conference (2:30 p.m. ET) and Western Conference (5 p.m. ET), it’s hard for fans to keep track of all of the drama. 


That’s where we come in to help with this viewer’s guide to Decision Day. 


We start with a caveat. There’s two pretty important Eastern Conference matches left to play before Sunday’s regular season finale. Both are rescheduled matches due to inclement weather. 


Charlotte play host to Columbus and Inter Miami CF are home to Orlando City SC. All four teams are among a field of five vying for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth so surely those two matches will have a large impact on what happens four days later. 


Orlando and Miami are both above the playoff line, but tied on 45 points. Columbus also have 45 points, with Charlotte on 41 points. 


One thing that won’t be up for grabs on Decision Day is the Supporters’ Shield, which was locked up by LAFC Sunday following a 2-1 win at Portland combined with the Philadelphia Union’s 4-0 defeat to Charlotte on Saturday. 


It is LAFC’s second Supporters’ Shield title in four years, meaning the Black-and-Gold have home-field advantage throughout the MLS playoffs, which would include the MLS Cup final. 


Among the five-team field in contention for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, FC Cincinnati are fifth place, but their hopes of a first postseason appearance took a hit with a 3-2 home loss to Chicago Saturday night. 


Cincinnati, which took the Wooden Spoon for finishing last in the league in each of the last three seasons, are the only team among the five alive in the East with just one game remaining — at already eliminated D.C. United, which have locked up the Wooden Spoon ahead of Decision Day. 


Also on Sunday, Inter Miami are home for CF Montreal, while Orlando host Columbus in what should be the biggest game of the day among the Eastern Conference matches. 


The top of the Eastern Conference is also up for grabs. Philadelphia are two points clear of Montreal with both teams having one game left to play. The Union are home, where they’ve 11-0-5 this year, to already-eliminated Toronto FC. 


Home field also hasn’t been completely locked up in the East, though NYCFC secured the third home berth Sunday with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Orlando City. The defending MLS Cup champions are on 52 points, ahead of a Decision Day match at Atlanta, which were eliminated Saturday


Out West, there are fewer teams still alive — four competing for two spots — but there’s a mere three points separating those squads. 


And, as luck would have it, those four teams are all up against each other which makes for high drama among Sunday’s 5 pm kickoffs. 


Portland are sixth in the West with 46 points, one point clear of MinnesotaReal Salt Lake are just below the playoff line with 44 points and Vancouver have 43 points in ninth place. 


Minnesota play host to Vancouver, which should give the Loons an advantage, especially considering the Whitecaps are 2-10-4 away from home. 


But current form says otherwise. Minnesota enter the final day of the regular season reeling, They’re winless in their last six matches, with Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at San Jose their fifth loss in their current slide. 


Vancouver, meanwhile, have won three games in a row, beating the LA GalaxySeattle Sounders, which saw their league-record 13-year run of consecutive playoff appearances come to an end, and Austin FC. 


All three games, though, were at BC Place. 


Decision Day drama is nothing new to Vanni Sartini’s squad. They clinched a playoff berth on the last day of the regular season last year. 


Real Salt Lake, which booked their postseason berth last year on a stoppage-time goal that also sank the Galaxy, are home for Portland. 


America First Field was a fortress earlier in the season for RSL, who have won just one of their last six home games. Portland won just three of their road games this year, the fewest amount of road wins among teams currently above the playoff line in both conferences. 


RSL are winless in their last five matches, while Portland saw a stretch of five matches without defeat, which included four wins, snapped with a 2-1 home loss to LAFC Sunday. 


Like the East, precious home playoff games are still up for grabs in the West. Dallas are third on 50 points, three points ahead of the Galaxy, who are level with Nashville SC though LA are in fourth on the total wins tiebreaker. 


If that’s not enough to watch on Decision Day, how about the Golden Boot race? Hany Mukhtar of Nashville SC is atop the list with 23 goals, two clear of Austin FC’s Sebastian Driussi


Daniel Gazdag from Philadelphia (19) is a long-shot, but considering how the Union have scored a boatload of goals this year, it’s not out of the realm of possibility the Hungarian international goes off on the final day of the regular season. 

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