Philadelphia Union are in 1st place after 20 weeks of MLS play, can they stay there?


After 20 weeks of MLS play, the Philadelphia Union sits atop the standings. They have played the most games out of any team in the East, and the proverbial big boys are rising to the top of the eastern conference to challenge for the top spot. Will Philadelphia be able to keep their place at the top moving forward?

Where we stand:

Of the eight real contenders in the eastern conference, Five of them picked up wins while three lost.

The Union’s win over Chicago gets the team back on the right track after a rough few weeks. Atlanta United leapfrogged DC United to move to second, pushing DC to third. Red Bulls and NYCFC continue to gain ground with their winning ways. New England picked up another win to move their unbeaten streak to 10 games. Montreal and Toronto both fell to teams they should have beaten.

As we move to Week 21, the pack is tightening, and there is little room for failure.

What can we expect from week 21?

There are 12 games in week 21. Of those games, seven matches are of importance to all the eastern conference contending teams.

  • NYCFC vs Sporting Kansas City
  • LAFC vs Atlanta United
  • New England Revolution vs Orlando City SC
  • New York Red Bulls vs Columbus Crew SC
  • Chicago Fire vs DC United
  • Montreal Impact vs Philadelphia Union
  • Toronto FC vs FC Cincinnati

These games directly affect the top eight in the eastern conference, and for the Union, there are obvious best/worst-case scenarios that could occur in week 21!

Best & Worst-case Scenarios for the Philadelphia Union:

Shout out to Mike (@Thomas19064 on Twitter) for doing the math on the best and worst-case scenarios for the Union. Give him a follow!

Obviously, the best-case scenario for the Union would be for Philly to win at Montreal and have NYCFC, Atlanta, New England, Red Bulls, DC, and Toronto to all lose. This is a stretch, but it’s what Union fans need to root for this coming weekend.

These results would put a six-point cushion between the Union and the pack. This would be a huge boost moving into the Month of August, where the Union plays five matches; three of which are against the teams directly below them!

The worst-case scenarios for Philadelphia would make things pretty bleak. This would look like the following: The Union losing to Montreal, and
NYCFC, Atlanta, New England, Red Bulls, DC, and Toronto all win. These results could be more realistic than the best-case scenario…

Kansas City has not been playing well, so NYCFC should dominate that game on their small field. LAFC pose a strong opponent to Atlanta, but Atlanta looks to be coming into their own; could they give LAFC their 3rd loss of the season? The Revs have looked damn good under Bruce Arena them doping points against Orlando doesn’t seem very likely. DC Has been faltering a bit, but a game against Chicago could right their ship as it did for the Union last week. Toronto is not going to lose to Cincy (hoping there is some journalistic curse to make that statement wrong)!

August is coming:

Should the worst-case scenarios come to be, the Union will be tied with Atlanta on points at the top of the table, but will actually fall behind Atlanta based on wins and goal difference. This would mean the Union will need to get results in a really tough stretch in August.

The Union play at DC, vs Houston, at Chicago, vs DC and vs Atlanta in August. This month could very well determine where the Union finish in the playoff hunt.

Anywhere within the top four spots will ensure a home playoff match, but with two-thirds of the season completed, the Union sits in the spot that would ensure a bye in the playoffs. A tough stretch is coming, will Philly be up to the task?

Whether or not the best case, or worst case, scenarios do come to fruition this coming week, the Union needs to take care of what’s in front of them. Beating Montreal will go a long way to keeping them in 1st place for the time being; beating each team in front of them in each match is the way to stay in first place for the rest of the season.

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Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports