The Road to MLS Playoffs: The east is set; Decision Day will determine seeding

We have reached the final week of the MLS regular season. All seven playoff spots have been clinched, five teams have been eliminated, and the seeding of six of the seven teams is still up in the air!

Mandatory Credit: New York City FC

The East is set heading into Decision Day:

The top three in the east did not fare well in the second to last week of the season. NYCFC went up to New England and lost, and Atlanta drew Montreal dropping two points at home. This left the door open for Philly to pull three points behind NYCFC and contest for 1st place in the east; unfortunately for the Union, they laid a duck at Columbus losing 2-0. While it wasn’t a fun time for the top of the east, the four other playoff teams were solidified.

DC and Red Bulls, who currently sit at the four and five seed in the east played to a 0-0 draw, but both of those teams are safe from elimination and will likely play each other in the opening round of the playoffs. Toronto FC sit in sixth place and rallied to get a draw at Chicago to secure their place in MLS Cup Playoffs. Then there’s New England; if you had said back in May that the Revs would earn a playoff spot on the second-to-last weekend I would have called you crazy, but that’s exactly what happened. These four squads all qualified for the playoffs with a week to spare, which means five teams won’t be there.

Chicago needed a win over Toronto to keep their playoff hopes alive, they had the lead in the second half but coughed it up uprooting their playoff hopes. Montreal completed their mediocre fall out of the playoffs by drawing at Atlanta killing their hopes for a 2019 playoff run. Columbus had a less than one percent chance of making the playoffs; they beat the Union, but other results sealed their fate. Orlando needed to beat Cincinnati and get some other help to keep their playoff dream alive; alas they drew their must-win game against the east’s bottom dwellers. Cincinnati was the first team to be eliminated, at least now they have company.

It’s been a crazy ride through 33 games, what will the final matchday have in store?

NYCFC won the East; Atlanta and Philly battle for 2nd Place!

NYCFC has had one hell of a season. Their jam-packed second half of the season was a test they passed with flying colors. They are clearly the second-best team in MLS Behind LAFC and will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs whether it be in the baseball stadium in the Bronx or the baseball stadium in Queens. Their season finale comes at Philly this Sunday, which could be a possible eastern conference final preview.

Atlanta has been a consistent playoff looking squad for most of the summer and fall. They have relied heavily on Josef Martinez to be the match-winner that he is, his current absence due to injury has been jarring for the five-stripes. The team looked lost in the attack without him vs Montreal. They’ll hope he’s healthy for the playoffs and will be without him for Atlanta’s Decision Day clash with high flying New England.

Philadelphia was in an interesting position last week. Their second half was delayed at Columbus due to a rainstorm, and the stars were aligned for them to have a shot at first place. They saw NYCFC lose to New England and Atlanta drop points vs Montreal. All they had to do was defeat the already eliminated Columbus for a shot at playing for first place in their final regular-season match at home vs NYCFC. They saw that things were aligned for them, and lost to Columbus anyways. While the 2019 season has been a huge success for Philly, this missed opportunity leaves a bad taste in their mouth heading into their regular-season finale. They still have to end the season on a high note if they want second place over Atlanta.

Who wants that home playoff game?

DC went to Red Bull Arena and had a chance to secure that fourth place seed, and with it, home-field advantage for the first round of the playoffs. They looked uninspired and hopeful that Wayne Rooney would be enough to bear Red Bull but he was not enough. DC’s 2019 has been a rollercoaster, they’ll hope for a Decision Day win over Cincinnati to clinch that home-field advantage.

Red Bulls could have leap-frogged DC last week but failed to play well. They have been a streaky team throughout the 2019 season, but not being able to beat their biggest rivals, at home, with playoffs right around the corner might mean the needle is trending in the downward position for New York. They’ll look to get a W at Montreal on Decision Day to get their mojo right heading into the playoffs, and to possibly get that first-round home-field advantage.

Toronto has awoken. While they still have their flaws that have plagued throughout their 2019 campaign, they are in a position to surprise everyone by taking the fourth seed. They’ll have to beat Columbus and hope that DC loses, and Red Bulls lose or draw on Decision Day. However, a loss to Columbus coupled with a New England win could see TFC drop down to seventh!

New England took the last playoff place, and are looking very solid!

The Revs 2019 story is the tale of two coaches. Brad Friedel did a poor job of getting the most out of his players, the Revs were at the bottom of the east when he was fired. Bruce Arena came in, signed a DP attacker, got the most out of the players, and made this team a playoff contender. They clinched their spot by beating top-seeded NYCFC and could move to sixth place with a Decision Day win over Atlanta, and a Toronto loss.

In Memorium; the 2019 Season is at an end for five clubs:

Chicago has officially been eliminated from the playoffs. Of the teams eliminated, they looked the best. Through the 2019 season, they played some great games, but when they were off they were very off. They’ll look to build off the times where they played well next season in their new-old home inside the city of Chicago, Soldier Field.

Montreal was the definition of a dumpster fire in 2019. They had some early season success, but never look solid. Their inconsistencies are vivid as they are going to miss out on the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs but won the Canadian Championship, which means they’ll be in Concacaf Champions League in 2020.

Columbus never really clicked in 2019. They were dreadful in the middle of the season, and while they went on a little run of good form this past month, they never did enough to crack playoff contender status. They’ll look to correct that in 2020 in their new fortress that’s being built.

Orlando, Orlando, Orlando. They have been in the league for five seasons and have failed to make the playoffs in all five. Their 2019 season was supposed to be different, they added Nani to a core of young studs. Unfortunately their strong attacking couldn’t make up for their pore backline.

Cincinnati wanted to add player’s familiar to MLS to build a foundation for their inaugural season. That foundation was thought of by their manager Allan Koch, and it was one not built on solid ground. Cinch struggled early. Sacked Koch, and they never recovered. They’re hoping 2020 will be better, it’s hard to be worse than this season, to be honest.

Decision Day 2019 Matches

All 24 teams play on Sunday at the same time! We’ll have a set bracket, and we’ll know when the first-round playoff games are around 7:00 PM! It’s an exciting time, be sure to tune in!

Sunday, October 6th

Atlanta vs New England – 4:25 PM
DC vs Cincinnati – 4:25 PM
Montreal vs New York Red Bulls – 4:25 PM
Orlando vs Chicago – 4:25 PM
Philadelphia vs New York City – 4:25 PM
Toronto vs Columbus – 4:25 PM
Dallas vs Kansas City – 4:25 PM
Houston vs LA Galaxy – 4:25 PM
LAFC vs Colorado – 4:25 PM
Portland vs San Jose – 4:25 PM
Seattle vs Minnesota – 4:25 PM
Vancouver vs Salt Lake – 4:25 PM

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

Follow our writers on Twitter:

Tim Lovenguth | Jeff Green | Matt McClain| Matt Nissenfeld

Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: New York City FC