I am a huge fan of Major League Soccer’s Decision Day format. This is something the the league started a few years back where all MLS teams play their final game in the same day and the kickoffs are all done at the same time.
There are competitive reasons to start the final week’s games concurrently, but it’s also a rare moment during which in-stadium results and scoreboard watching are often equally important. For the many fans that aren’t attending one of the matches, multiple TV screens and laptops are running while they make futile attempts to monitor the progress of two to three soccer games at the same time. It’s a unique experience in American sports.
With that said, Sunday will be tricky for Columbus Crew SC fans. What we know is this: if the Black & Gold win on Saturday against Minnesota United, the team is in the 2018 MLS Cup playoffs. A point, combined with a Montreal Impact win at the New England Revolution will see both teams on 49 points with the Impact taking the final postseason spot on the wins tiebreaker (in this case it would be 15 for Montreal and only 13 for Columbus). If the Impact does anything other than win, Crew SC is into the postseason.
But there are plenty of other scenarios at play and there will be good reasons for Black & Gold fans to check their phones throughout the match to keep up with scores around the league on Sunday. Up to four games could have playoff implications for the Crew, meaning there are 81 possible game-result scenarios to consider. By my analysis, these 81 can be grouped into 16 different paths that will deliver one of five outcomes:
- Crew play @ New York City FC in the knockout round (33 scenarios, 6 paths)
- Crew play @ the Philadelphia Union in the knockout round (24 scenarios, 4 paths)
- Crew play @ D.C. United in the knockout round (3 scenarios, 1 path)
- Crew hosts Philly in the knockout round (3 scenarios, 1 path)
- Crew miss playoffs all together (18 scenarios, 4 paths)
As shown above, it will be difficult for Crew SC to have a home playoff knockout round game — which seemed almost a certainty not too long ago — but we’ve seen what this team can do on the road in the playoffs before.
Columbus fans will of course be cheering for a Crew win on Sunday, but to host the midweek contest in the knockout round, the team also needs NYCFC and the Chicago Fire to come through with home victories. My guess is that Crew and Manchester City Lite will win, but that D.C. will tie or win in Bridgeview, resulting in Columbus heading to D.C. of all places for their midweek game. Columbus vs DC in the playoffs… how appropriate this year.
MLS Cup Final Host Sites
I’m also keeping an eye on potential MLS Cup Final hosting sites. Other than Atlanta United and the New York Red Bull, it’s lopsided for the Western Conference right now. Columbus’ lone hope to host the MLS Cup once again is that the idle Real Salt Lake makes the playoffs (at the expense of the LA Galaxy, which would require LA to fail to beat the Houston Dynamo at home) and wins the Western Conference side of the bracket.
Well, there you have it. Now you know exactly what needs to happen on Sunday for the various playoff scenarios to play out. I will update this after Sunday’s results.
If you’d like to continue to follow my #CrewPlayoff4caster updates, you can find me on Twitter at @BeckmanNate.