If Frank de Boer’s side does not win versus the Crew, it still can wrap up a playoff spot through a few scenarios. Should the Montreal Impact fall to a defeat or tie against FC Cincinnati, Atlanta would clinch not matter its result.
Below is a look at the Week 28 matches that will impact the playoff races in both conferences.
Columbus Crew at Atlanta United (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
As detailed above, Atlanta has one foot in the door for the postseason.
The primary goal for the Five Stripes is not to clinch a playoff berth, but to earn the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and they could take a big step forward with a win over New York City FC Sept. 25.
For now, they just have to keep winning, and they should breeze past a Crew side that will be officially eliminated from contention with a loss or tie combined with a New England victory, or a defeat partnered with a Montreal win.
Atlanta has won three of the past four regular-season meetings with the Crew, but Caleb Porter’s side pulled out a victory in March. That was well before the defending MLS Cup champion found its stride under de Boer.
New England Revolution at Orlando City (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Saturday’s showdown at Exploria Stadium is the game to watch in the Eastern Conference this weekend.
Bruce Arena’s Revolution sit four points clear of the Lions in the competition for the No. 7 seed. A road victory would help them feel much more comfortable going into a closing stretch that concludes with NYCFC and Atlanta.
Orlando is the only team in the top 10 of the East with a home record below .500. In addition, James O’Connor’s side has a four-game winless run bookended by draws with Minnesota United and Los Angeles FC.
Home draws will not get the Lions anywhere, and if they come out victorious Saturday, they have a real chance to grab the final playoff spot in the East since they finish with games against the Houston Dynamo, FC Cincinnati and Chicago Fire.
D.C. United at Portland Timbers (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Many thought Portland’s spell of home games to end the season would result in a high seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
That theory has not been proven yet, with spots No. 2 through No. 8 separated by four points entering the weekend. The Timbers currently sit sixth with a game in hand on the rest of the competition.
Portland needs to take full advantage of its matches at Providence Park. But taking three points from Sunday afternoon’s meeting with D.C. United will not be easy since Ben Olsen’s side is in the thick of the fight for a home playoff game in the East.
The Black-and-Red are locked on points and an 11-10-9 record with Toronto FC, and they face a two-goal deficit in goal differential, which is the second tiebreaker behind wins.
D.C. has to outgain Toronto in points for the rest of the regular season in order to secure the No. 4 spot. A road result Sunday is imperative.
Real Salt Lake at Minnesota United (Sunday, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
It is a shame that Sunday’s most important match will not be nationally televised.
Real Salt Lake and Minnesota United have two of the best on-field stories in MLS this year, and the victor will earn some separation in the race for second in the West.
The runner-up and third-place spots carry importance because those clubs will avoid LAFC until the Western Conference final.
The past two meetings between RSL and the Loons have been 1-1 draws. Adrian Heath’s side holds two home victories over the Claret and Cobalt.
New York Red Bulls at Seattle Sounders (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Similar to the D.C.-Portland match, the New York Red Bulls’ trip to Seattle will affect both playoff races.
Chris Armas’ side enters CenturyLink Field on a two-game losing streak and in danger of being dragged into the red-line fight if they lose Sunday and the Revs win Saturday.
The Sounders are rooting for a draw between RSL and Minnesota so it can leap into second with a victory at home, where it is 9-2-3.
Seattle has one fewer win than RSL, and its goal differential is worse than both of its closest rivals for the No. 2 seed.
A multiple-goal victory would be ideal for Brian Schmetzer’s squad, and if it keeps pace for No. 2, it could clinch the runner-up position on decision day against Minnesota.
Sporting Kansas City at LA Galaxy (Sunday, 10 p.m. ET, FS1)
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Galaxy fans should have two hands positioned right above the panic button going into Sunday, and anything but a win is cause to hammer that button into oblivion.
The Galaxy have one win since July 27 and slipped down to eighth after a midweek loss to the Colorado Rapids. With other teams above them playing much better, dropped points this weekend could be catastrophic.