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MLS Decision Day playoff scenarios

The excitement grows when you look to the Western Conference, where 4 teams are fighting for the final two berths. 

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Update: See the 2019 MLS Cup Playoff schedule.

Eleven of the 12 games to be played on Decision Day have playoff implications. 

In the Eastern Conference, all seven playoff teams are locked in, but there could be a change in positioning between No. 2 and No. 3, as well as No. 4 through No. 7. The excitement grows when you look to the Western Conference, where four teams are fighting for the final two berths. 

Portland and San Jose square off with each other, while FC Dallas needs a win to get in and Colorado requires help along with three points. 

Below is a look at every Decision Day game and how it affects the playoff race. All games are scheduled to kick off at 4:25 p.m. ET. 

Eastern Conference 

New England Revolution at Atlanta United

Sep 29, 2019; Montreal, Quebec: Montreal Impact midfielder Samuel Piette (6) and Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8) battle for the ball at Stade Saputo.(Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

Atlanta controls the No. 2 seed in the East.

With a win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Five Stripes beat out Philadelphia on the wins tiebreaker and land on the opposite end of the bracket as top seed New York City FC. 

New England’s ceiling is sixth place. A road win combined with a Toronto FC loss would move Bruce Arena’s team up from seventh to sixth. 

If the Revs win and TFC draws with Columbus, they would have to outscore the Toronto by 10 goals to win the goal-differential tiebreaker. In this situation, both sides would be even on 12 wins. 

FC Cincinnati at D.C. United

Sep 29, 2019; Harrison, NJ; D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid (24) makes save against New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips (99) at Red Bull Arena. (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

A win secures a home playoff game at Audi Field for D.C. United. That match could be against rival New York Red Bulls. 

Anything other than three points complicates the hosting picture for Ben Olsen’s side. D.C. United would drop to sixth place if it somehow loses to FC Cincinnati and the Red Bulls and Toronto win.

If D.C. loses, the Red Bulls tie Montreal and Toronto stumbles, then Chris Armas’ side earns the No. 4 seed by tiebreaker for number of wins.

New York Red Bulls at Montreal Impact

Sep 29, 2019; Harrison, NJ; New York Red Bulls midfielder Cristian Casseres Jr (23) plays the ball against D.C. United during the first half at Red Bull Arena. (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

The Red Bulls need help from FC Cincinnati to earn a postseason contest at Red Bull Arena. 

A win over Montreal and a D.C. victory leaves New York in fifth place with a first-round matchup in the nation’s capital. If D.C. loses and the Red Bulls win or draw, Chris Armas’ side lands the No. 4 seed. 

A loss or draw could allow Toronto to swoop in for the No. 5 seed. If the Red Bulls and Toronto end level on points, the Red Bulls hold the wins tiebreaker and are ahead by one in goal differential. 

New York City FC at Philadelphia Union

Sep 22, 2019; Harrison, NJ; Philadelphia Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin (6) plays the ball against New York Red Bulls midfielder Josh Sims (20) at Red Bull Arena. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Philadelphia needs a win and help from New England to leap over Atlanta for the No. 2 seed. 

If the Union don’t get that assistance, a win is still imperative for possible Concacaf Champions League qualification. 

If LAFC (Supporters’ Shield), NYCFC (first in East) or Atlanta (U.S. Open Cup) win MLS Cup, the team with the fourth-most points in MLS receives the final CCL bid. 

Jim Curtin’s side is two points ahead of Seattle and Minnesota going into Decision Day. 

Columbus Crew at Toronto FC 

Sep 29, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Toronto FC defender Omar Gonzalez (44) reacts after scoring a goal against the Chicago Fire at SeatGeek Stadium. (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

Toronto’s best-case scenario is landing the No. 4 spot and a home playoff game. 

However, that is unlikely since D.C. is expected to take care of business versus FC Cincinnati, but strange things have happened on Decision Days past. 

With some help from Canadian rival Montreal, the Reds could leapfrog the Red Bulls for the No. 5 spot and a meeting with D.C. on either Oct. 19 or 20. 

If D.C., the Red Bulls and Toronto FC all win, then TFC remains in sixth place and in line for a road trip to Philadelphia. 

Chicago Fire at Orlando City

No playoff implications. Both teams are eliminated. 

Western Conference

Sporting Kansas City at FC Dallas

Sep 29, 2019; Commerce City, CO; FC Dallas midfielder Bryan Acosta (8) controls the ball in the first half against the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

Three games in the West will decide the final two playoff berths. 

FC Dallas sits in seventh place with 45 points, one point ahead of the San Jose Earthquakes and three points above the Colorado Rapids. A victory over already-eliminated Sporting Kansas City puts Luchi Gonzalez’s team in the postseason. 

FC Dallas also qualifies with a San Jose loss or draw, or through losses by both San Jose and Colorado. A victory combined with an Earthquakes win sets up FC Dallas with the No. 6 seed. A draw requires a Portland win and Colorado loss, or a draw between San Jose and Portland at Providence Park, which would leave the Quakes one point short. 

If Gonzalez’s side somehow loses, it could be in trouble if San Jose pulls out three points from Cascadia. But if the Quakes and Rapids both fall as well, FC Dallas gets in. 

San Jose Earthquakes at Portland Timbers

Sep 29, 2019; San Jose, CA; San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Shea Salinas (6) controls the ball against the Seattle Sounders during the second half at Avaya Stadium. (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

Simply put, this is a win-and-get-in game.

Portland clinches the No. 6 seed and a possible playoff showdown with the Sounders by earning all three points. Last year’s MLS Cup runner-up can also get in by way of a FC Dallas loss or draw. 

If Matias Almeyda’s side earns a single point in Oregon, it gets in with losses by FC Dallas and Colorado, or a FC Dallas defeat combined with a Rapids win by one goal over LAFC. 

Colorado Rapids at Los Angeles FC 

Sep 29, 2019; Commerce City, CO; Colorado Rapids midfielder Andre Shinyashiki (99) controls the ball as FC Dallas defender Reggie Cannon (2) defends at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

Here’s your Root for Chaos situation. 

The Rapids make the playoffs with a win at Banc of California Stadium and losses by FC Dallas and San Jose. They could also make it through a three-goal triumph over LAFC, a FC Dallas loss and a San Jose tie.

If the Rapids win by two goals, FC Dallas loses and San Jose ties, then Robin Fraser’s side gets in because of the goals scored tiebreaker. 

LA Galaxy at Houston Dynamo 

September 29, 2019; Carson, CA; Los Angeles Galaxy forward Chris Pontius (12) celebrates with forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic (9) his goal scored against Vancouver Whitecaps at StubHub Center. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

The LA Galaxy need three points to lock up one of the first-round hosting spots in the West. 

A win combined with a draw between Seattle and Minnesota would give the Galaxy in the No. 2 seed and set up a collision course for an El Trafico in the Western Conference final. 

A draw and a Real Salt Lake draw would keep the Galaxy in fourth place. A loss and a Real Salt Lake win would send the Galaxy to fifth. 

Real Salt Lake at Vancouver Whitecaps

Sep 29, 2019; Sandy, UT; Real Salt Lake players celebrate forward with Jefferson Savarino (7) after his second half goal against the Houston Dynamo at Rio Tinto Stadium. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

Real Salt Lake could jump as high as third if a certain scenario plays out. 

That includes a win, a Galaxy loss or tie to the Houston Dynamo and a loss by either Seattle or Minnesota United. That would land RSL third place with more wins than Sounders or Loons. 

If a draw occurs in Seattle and the Galaxy win, RSL will be stuck in the No. 5 position, one point back of the three-way tie on 54 points. 

Minnesota United at Seattle Sounders

Sep 18, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders FC forward Jordan Morris (13) dribbles against FC Dallas during the second half at CenturyLink Field. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

A draw allows both Minnesota and Seattle to host a playoff game, but they may drop a spot in the standings depending on the Galaxy. 

If there is a winner at CenturyLink Field, it gets the No. 2 seed in the West.

The loser could be in danger of dropping to No. 5 if RSL and the Galaxy win because RSL would have one more win if they tied at 53 points. 

Both teams will also have an eye on the Union. If Philadelphia ties NYCFC, a Minnesota win would vault them into fourth place in the Supporters’ Shield on goal differential, which would make them the first choice for the Concacaf Champions League if LAFC, NYCFC or Atlanta win MLS Cup. 




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