An in-depth look at MLS’ Eastern Conference playoff picture

It’s officially the end of the MLS season, however there is still so much up in the air in terms of the playoff picture. Two teams are fighting to get into the playoffs, seeding is up in the air for five teams, and the top two are fighting for the supporters shield! Here’s an in-depth look at MLS’ Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Everything in the Eastern Conference playoffs will be decided on the final day of the MLS season! Here’s a look at all the madness that’s going to unfold Sunday!

Current Standings:

At the top Atlanta and New York are battling it out for the Supporters Shield (aka the best record in MLS). Within a point of each other, both teams will play their number one squads to try to lift some silverware!

NYCFC, Philadelphia and DC United have already clinched playoff qualification, but they do not know what their seeding will be. Each of them have a shot at hosting a knockout round home match!

Columbus and Montreal are fighting for their playoff lives. For Columbus it’s simple; win and they’re in. For Montreal they need to take care of business and hope for some favorable results.

New England, Toronto FC, Chicago and Orlando are already eliminated from the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs and will have to try again next year!

Decision Day fixtures:

Every team in MLS kicks off at 4:30 on Sunday to determine how things will finish. Every game involving Eastern Conference teams has playoff implications!

Playoff seeding scuffle:


NYCFC and Philadelphia Union play match, that in all likelihood will be for third place in the East. The game is set in the Bronx in Yankee Stadium. The Union won the first match between the two of these teams earlier this season with a 2-0 thrashing. NYCFC have been trending down the last couple of months. Their shaky play has left the door open for Philly and DC to climb closer to them. Can the win the reverse fixture and secure a playoff home game for the first time since 2011, or will NYCFC hold onto their place?

Here’s an in-depth preview of the match from our Union writer Jeff Green


DC United are the tear of a lifetime thanks to the addition of Wayne Rooney. Before Rooney played with a match with DC, they had won two games and were in last place. Since Rooney’s emergence in MLS they have risen to a team that has qualified for the playoffs. The remarkable turnaround could be capped off by  securing a home playoff match. The first step to that is beating long-since eliminated Chicago Fire.

Still trying to qualify for the playoffs:


At the middle of the season Columbus looked like a real playoff contender. Fast-forward to the last match of the season and Columbus still have not punched their ticket. They get to play Minnesota United at home in a win-and-in situation. Can Columbus find a way to get out of their fall slump, or Will Minnesota play the spoiler?


Montreal Impact have been a fringe playoff team for the entire 2018 MLS season. Thanks to Columbus’ slump they have hung around and are in a position where they can qualify for the playoffs. They have to win and get some help from others. While the chances are slim for the Impact, they have a favorable matchup playing eliminated New England Revolution.

Supporters Shield Race:


New York Red Bulls have had a historic season. They have been a team that has gotten results with the players they’ve had for a while. They didn’t spend too much to make this big jump. Red Bulls have the chance to win the supporters shield, and secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They play underperforming Orlando City for the chance to pass Atlanta United with a win and Atlanta United win/tie.


Atlanta United take on Toronto FC for the chance to pass Toronto’s record for points in a season set last year. Toronto is eliminated from the playoffs this season after their record-setting 2017 campaign. For Toronto’s record to stand, they’ll have to beat Atlanta in this match. If Atlanta win’s they break Toronto’s record and win MLS’ supporters shield. Should Toronto win, the Red Bulls will have the inside track to the Shield.

Eastern Conference Playoff Scenarios 3rd-6th place:

Here’s a look at all the possibilities of outcomes for the Eastern Conference seeds three-six. I do have to give credit to Nate Pumpkin on Twitter for sharing a similar chart for Columbus Crew playoff outcomes. I have created a simplified chart to just include playoff scenarios.

New York City and Philadelphia are the only teams that can secure the three seed. However, NYCFC can drop as low as five, and Philadelphia can fall as far as six if certain results unfold. NYCFC have the greatest chances to have a home playoff game in either the 3rd or 4th seed. This is helpful for them since they have an astounding home record.

DC United can be in either the four, five or six. That four spot is key, as that would be a home match for DC.  DC United have been lights out at home since Wayne Rooney joined their team. They’ll want that to get that four seed since their home record has been so stellar since Audi Field opened.

Columbus can finish anywhere between fourth and sixth with certain results going their way. The most likely scenario is that they get the last playoff spot. Columbus have the better chances to get the six seed over Montreal.

Of the 16 possible outcomes Montreal can only make the playoffs in four of them; they can only obtain the six seed.

For the Union fans out there that want a look at Philadelphia’s possible playoff matchups, check out Adam Cann’s amazing in-depth article on the subject!

Opponents and scenarios: How can Decision Day play out for the Union? 

Tune in for all the crazy action October 28th at 4:30 pm:

All matches will air at the same time Sunday afternoon. All games will air on  MLS Live through ESPN+, except SKC vs LAFC which will be live on FS1. Don’t miss out on all the action!

Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union, Steel FC, and other soccer content!

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Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports