The Road to MLS Playoffs; The intensity is ramped up with 3 weeks to go


There are only three weeks left in MLS regular season play. With such little time left, the playoff field seems to be taking shape. However, there are still spots and seeding up in the air! Here’s a look at where things stand in MLS’ eastern conference with three weeks to go!

NYCFC has a five-point lead over Philadelphia with three weeks left to play!
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports & Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The East with 3 weeks to go:

Last week we saw some separation at the top of the standings; NYCFC drew Toronto FC midweek, and then beat San Jose on the weekend. They now sit five points clear of Philadelphia, who drew LAFC at home last weekend in a monumental effort, and nine points clear of Atlanta United after they fell at home to Columbus.

Toronto FC, DC United, New York Red Bulls, and New England Revolution are the other four teams holding playoff spots. TFC made the biggest jump moving to 4th place; they now hold that coveted home playoff game place, and still, have four matches to play. DC was dead in the water a few weeks ago, but have rattled off two wins in as many weeks to solidify themselves in 5th place. The Red Bulls are in free-fall after another loss, this time to Seattle. New England had been red hot since Bruce Arena’s arrival, but in the last few weeks, they have been winless and sit just three points above would-be playoff teams.

Speaking of those would-be playoff teams, Chicago, Montreal, and Orlando are all still alive to make the playoffs. Chicago thrashed Dallas at home to move into striking distance of New England. Montreal lost to Cincinnati, which should be enough to disqualify them from the playoffs, but they are somehow still alive. Orlando had a big lead on New England last weekend, which would have put them two points behind the revs, but they blew it and drew the match and sit four points out of the playoffs.

Teams from Ohio still won’t make the playoffs… Columbus did Atlanta dirty beating them 3-1 in ATL, but being six points out of the playoffs with three matches left to play means they will be out; they can keep playing spoiler though with games against Philly and Toronto on their schedule. Cincinnati won their sixth game of the season beating lowly Montreal. Their last four games of their first MLS season are against eastern conference teams in playoff contention, could they play spoiler?

There’s a true leader in the race for 1st place:

NYCFC is looking like the favorites to win that top spot in the east, and that 1st round bye. Their schedule is a tough one with all four teams they have yet to play being in playoff contention. Even with that, City’s chances of getting that top spot are up at 78% according to This weekend they take on FC Dallas, who are coming off of an awful defeat to Chicago.

Philadelphia has shown they are a legitimate threat to make a splash in the playoffs. Beating Atlanta United and now drawing LAFC is no small feat. Philly may be five points off the lead, but if they can play the way they have been playing, they can still get 1st place. The Union head to New York Red Bulls this weekend looking to keep their good form rolling.

Atlanta lost to Columbus Crew at home this past weekend. They went up early but then gave up three unanswered. The bright side for them is they currently have a game in hand. Atlanta head to Cincinnati tonight, and then take on San Jose on the weekend. The chance is there for them to make up six points of the nine they need to climb to the top.

Shake it up; Would-be Playoff Teams are moving up and down the table

Toronto has not lost in six matches and has quietly moved to 4th place. They hold a home playoff game with four games to go. With that being said they only have a 27% chance to get that home playoff spot. This week they take on high flying Colorado Rapids, hoping to keep their good form going!

DC has fallen off, and come back to life over this last month. They are in 5th place but are more likely to have that 4th place finish, with a 47% chance to claim a home playoff game. United host Seattle this weekend; can they leap over TFC to get to 4th place?

Red Bulls are falling down the table, as their lackluster 2019 season continues. They have lost their last three matches and need to turn things around if they want to keep their playoff place. They can do just htat this week as they have two matches. One tonight in Portland, and another this weekend against Philadelphia. Four points from these two matches would likely be enough to sure up their playoff place.

New England is trending down. They only have a 64% chance to make the playoffs, and currently, sit just three points above their challengers. They will look to right their ship this weekend as they take on Real Salt Lake. Can they hold on against those on the outside looking in?

Can These Three Teams make it above the red-line?

Chicago is looking like a team that is good enough to make the playoffs, well at least at home. They have a great home record and a subpar away one. As the season ends, this could be a deciding factor. Two of Chicago’s last three matches are on the road. They will need to get good results in those matches to get above the red line; which starts with this weekend at Cincinnati.

Montreal is a dumpster fire. They were at one point near the top of the conference, but a slippery slope in the summer has carried over to the fall. The Impact has three matches left all against teams looking to solidify their own playoff places. The first of those matches is this weekend at LA Galaxy.

Orlando had a chance to get a leg up on the teams trying to get above the red line and fumbled that chance. Now, they sit four points behind with three matches to play; they are winless in their last five matches, and only have a 7% chance to make the playoffs.

Win’s for both Ohio teams; could they play the spoiler down the stretch?

Columbus are on a three-match unbeaten, and their <1% chance of making the playoffs means they are just delaying the inevitable. But could they play spoiler in their last matches? This weekend they take on Vancouver who is out of the running in the west, but their last two matches are against Philly and TFC. Could they provide a hit to the hopes of seeding or playoffs for them?

Cincinnati won a match! They pulled off their first win in their last 10 matches. They’ve been out of the playoffs for some time now but could be a huge spoiler with four games to play. Misery loves company; could Atlanta provide some misery to Atlanta tonight, Chicago this weekend, or Orlando and DC in the next two weeks?

Getting down to the Knitty-gritty! Matches with 3 Weeks to go:

Here’s a look at the games that kick off this third-to-last week in MLS regular season play!

Wednesday, September 18th:

Cincinnati vs Atlanta – 7:30 PM
Portland vs New York Red Bulls – 10:30 PM
Seattle vs Dallas – 10:30 PM

Saturday, September 21st:

Atlanta vs San Jose – 3:30 PM
Vancouver vs Columbus – 5:00 PM
Cincinnati vs Chicago – 7:30 PM
New England vs Salt Lake – 7:30 PM
Houston vs Orlando – 8:30 PM
Kansas City vs Colorado – 8:30 PM
LA Galaxy vs Montreal – 10:30 PM
LAFC vs Toronto – 10:30 PM

Sunday, September 28th:

Portland vs Minnesota – 3:55 PM
Dallas vs NYCFC – 6:00 PM
New York Red Bulls vs Philadelphia – 6:30 PM
DC vs Seattle – 8:00 PM

Every game matters now. Will things get more hectic and hazy this week or will teams begin to sure themselves into playoffs positions. Tune in to find out!

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Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports & Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports