Here’s what’s up in the MLS
Major League Soccer (MLS) was set for a wild season even before COVID-19 gripped the world. The 2020 season marked the league’s 25th year as well as the addition of two new clubs, Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC.
Of course, the coronavirus eventually did strike and threw a wrench in the celebrated season. Like the rest of the sports world, MLS shut down for a spell, but they would be the first of any US pro sports leagues to make a return.
Now, this wild season is about wrapped up and Decision Day is drawing near. Decision Day will fall on Nov. 8 and see all 26 MLS teams playing their final game on the same day. This year will be especially tense with the intense race for the playoffs, but that will be covered further below.
This year’s playoffs will be slightly different than usual too. The Eastern now has 14 teams with Miami and Nashville while the West still has 12. Because of this, ten teams in the East will qualify and eight from the West.
The complexity comes when the bottom four qualifiers will play each other in what would be an equivalent to a ‘wild card’ game. The two winners will move on leaving eight teams in the East. From there, the playoffs will just be a standard bracket playoff.
Now let’s look at where all the teams sit. For those who don’t know, MLS rankings are by points with three points for a win, one point for a draw and ties are determined by goal differential.
In the East, four teams have already clinched playoff spots. Toronto FC was the first to do so and currently lead the league with 41 points. The Philadelphia Union, Columbus Crew and Orlando City are the other three teams to clinch so far.
Toronto has been one of the better teams for quite some time, but the other three have had some adversity getting here. The Union had their first playoff win just last year despite being one of the original teams. The Crew was saved in the off-season from being relocated by an unmatched rally of support from their fans, and this is the first time in the playoffs for Orlando.
The New England Revolution and NYC FC are behind those four with 28 and 27 points respectively. Following them in seventh and eighth are the New York Red Bulls and the Montreal Impact. The Red Bull’s are at 25 points and Impact at 23. These teams will need to be on the defensive. NYC FC and New England will be trying to stay above the Red Bull’s and Montreal, keeping themselves out of the wild card. Meanwhile, Montreal and the Red Bulls will be trying to make sure they don’t fall out of the playoffs altogether (especially since it’s pretty chaotic behind them).
Spots nine through 12 are within three points of each other, and no team has been eliminated from the playoff race either. It could all come down to Decision Day. In order of ranking, the next teams are Nashville SC, Chicago Fire, Atlanta United and Inter Miami CF. The conference is rounded off by Cincinnati FC and DC United in the bottoms two spots.
Crossing the mighty Mississippi (other than technically Minnesota United FC who’s stadium is in St. Paul), it’s the Wild West. Like the East, no one is out of the race yet, but no one has clinched a spot either.
The West is led by the Seattle Sounders, with 31 points. Behind them is the Portland Timbers, who also have 31 points. Then, it is Sporting Kansas City with 30. Is the chaos already showing? These three should be okay since the fourth seed LA FC is all the way down at 25 points, a nice enough buffer. However, it could be quite the battle for that number one seed.
The rest of the conference (including LA FC) is within 7 points. Minnesota United, FC Dallas and the San Jose Quakes all have 24 points, but Minnesota leads the goal differential. In the eighth place spot is the Vancouver White Caps who have 21 points. The ninth place Real Salt Lake has 21 as well just to make it interesting.
Rounding off the West is the Houston Dynamo, Colorado Rapids and LA Galaxy with 20, 19 and 18 points respectively.
The West will be a battleground all the way to the end of Decision Day. It’s crazy to think that only 10 points separate the number one seed from a team not in the playoffs.
Each team will have about four or five matches left depending on previous schedule changes, so there will be room for the standings to get shuffled around.
After the Nov. 8 Decision Day, the playoffs will kickoff on Nov. 20.