Since 2012, MLS Cup has been hosted by the team with the best regular season record. Eastern Conference champion Columbus Crew SC finished 15-11-8 with 53 points. The Western champion, Portland Timbers, finished 15-11-8 with 53 points, the same exact record. As both teams were tied on the first two tiebreakers, it fell to the third tiebreaker, goal differential. Crew SC had a goal differential of plus five, the Timbers finished at plus two.
Crew SC's edge was paper thin and the Cup final easily could have been headed to Portland if the results on the final day of the regular season had been a little different. A look at the Supporters Shield table on Decision Day underscored how tight the difference was.
|1||New York Red Bulls||57||17||18||60|
|5||Vancouver Whitecaps FC||50||15||6||42|
|6||Columbus Crew SC||50||14||0||53|
The Black & Gold were in sixth place with 50 points and edging Portland by one in goal differential. Columbus was facing a sagging D.C. United team while the Timbers faced a terrible Colorado Rapids team with nothing to play for. Both teams wanted to win to climb up the standings and get a better seed. Crew SC was third in the East while the Timbers were fourth out West.
Both games would be a shootout. Crew SC finished their 5-0 domination of D.C. by the time the Timbers kicked off, but the combined score sheet from both games shows how important the second half surge from Columbus was.
|Minute||Scorer||Team||Crew SC GD||Timbers GD|
Columbus pulled away in goal differential with their three goals in the second half. Without that, Portland was close to overcoming Crew SC's significant advantage. Columbus did have the next tiebreaker in goals scored, but a 1-0 win or a few late United goals would have seen the game head to Portland instead of Columbus.
The final standings show how close the margin ended up being.
|1||New York Red Bulls||60||18||19||62|
|3||Vancouver Whitecaps FC||53||16||9||45|
|4||Columbus Crew SC||53||15||5||58|
|6||Seattle Sounders FC||51||15||8||44|
Home field advantage has been helpful since MLS moved to the current format. LA Galaxy beat Houston in 2012. Sporting Kansas City won the Cup on their home field as the second best team in MLS in 2013. The LA Galaxy defeated the New England Revolution, a matchup of two versus five in the Supporters Shield Standings last year. Now Columbus Crew SC hosts the Portland Timbers on Sunday at MAPFRE Stadium and it came down to the final day of the regular season.