MLS Playoffs: It All Comes Down To Decision Day Sunday
With midweek matches wrapped up, all teams in the Western Conference - Houston Dynamo FC aside - have played 33 of their 34 games, and attention now turns to Decision Day across MLS this coming Sunday.
Seattle Sounders were held 1-1 at home by LA Galaxy on Monday, taking them one point clear of Sporting Kansas City and the Colorado Rapids at the top of the standings. Sporting KC had the chance to regain top position when they traveled to Austin FC on Wednesday but suffered a 3-1 defeat.
A win for SKC would have lifted them to 61 points and guaranteed them at least second place. The Rapids would not have been able to catch them, even if Robin Fraser’s side beat LAFC on Sunday and Sporting lose at home to Real Salt Lake. This is because the two teams would be level on points, but Kansas City would edge the Rapids on the first tiebreaker, which is total wins.
And so, with SKC’s reversal, just one point separates the leading three teams heading into Sunday’s final day of the regular season. First, second, or third place are all options for the Rapids. The team finishing first would secure a bye to the second round of the playoffs, though this would mean a three-week break from the end of the regular season.
The top four Western Conference teams are assured of a place in the playoffs. The remaining three spots are being fought over by five teams, and that battle will go the distance.
That means LAFC heads to Colorado with purpose, though knowing only a win will give them a chance to see action beyond November 7.
The Burgundy Boys have defeated Minnesota twice at home this season, overcome RSL the once, and were held 1-1 by both LA Galaxy and the Whitecaps, tackling Vancouver just as they were beginning their resurgence. This Sunday will be a second meeting with LAFC, and the first at home. The Rapids lost 2-1 in California back on May 22.
As things currently stand, the Rapids would host in-form Vancouver Whitecaps in the first round of the playoffs. The Whitecaps, including the draw in Commerce City, have gone 5-1-4 in the last 10 games. Options on the table would be a meeting with one from Minnesota United, the aforementioned Whitecaps, LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, or LAFC.
Of those, perhaps the Whitecaps - the side hitting a hot streak - are to be avoided if possible, though the Rapids will fancy their chances against most teams at altitude in November.
In the last five games, the Loons have gone 3-1-1, Vancouver 3-0-2, the Galaxy 2-1-2, RSL 2-3-0, and LAFC 3-0-2.
Bring on Sunday!
About the author: Richard Fleming is in his ninth season covering the Colorado Rapids in Major League Soccer. During 16 years with the BBC, he covered two FIFA World Cups, five Africa Cup of Nations, a FIFA Confederations Cup, and a European Championship. He has also covered UEFA Champions League, English Premier League, and football at all levels of the game during more than 30 years covering the sport.