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What needs to happen for a Crew playoff berth in 2019

A breakdown of what Crew fans need to see in order to look ahead for a potential MLS Cup bid in 2019.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 Major League Soccer season hasn’t been an easy one for Columbus Crew SC and (spoiler alert) it won’t be getting any easier either. With only four (mandatory) matches that remain for the Black & Gold in 2019, time is running out for the team to catch up to the rest of the pack in the MLS standings.

As it stands over the international break, Columbus sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with 31 points. Ahead of the Black & Gold are the Chicago Fire and Orlando City SC with 34 points in 10th and ninth respectively, and the Montreal Impact in eighth place with 37 points. Sitting in the seventh and coveted last playoff position is Toronto FC with 38 points.

While it’s not necessarily impossible for the Crew to make a run for the final playoff spot, it just may very well be with what the team faces in order to make it to the postseason. Four games remain in the Black & Gold’s 2019 season, which leaves them with a possible maximum total of 12 points to be attained. Add that to the current total of 31 and that would put them at 43, good for fourth place as of now.

Unfortunately, much will be different by the time the schedule hits 34 games for the rest of the teams in the conference. Others who are much higher than the Crew will climb even higher. The biggest area that may hurt Columbus is that most of the other teams that have all-but secured playoff spots this season haven’t yet played even 30 games.

Sixth and seventh placers in the New England Revolution and Toronto have both played 28 matches, two less than Caleb Porter and company. Six games remaining for them means that they have a maximum possibility of 18 points to get before playoff time comes. That’s bad news for the Crew.

If fifth place New York Red Bull, who are ahead of Columbus by 10 points with 41, win one of the team’s remaining five (they have played 29) or draw three of five, then it will be mathematically impossible for Columbus to grab any playoff spot ahead of the sixth or seventh spot. The bid for a top three spot ended weeks ago.

It may only seem reasonable to count Columbus for a playoff spot if, and it’s a big if, the team can secure a four-game winning streak and get a total of 12 out of a possible 12 points to close out the season. However, the Crew hasn’t had a stretch of four consecutive victories since the 2012 MLS season. Not to mention, three of the four remaining opponents include third place Atlanta United, first place Philadelphia Union and Toronto. Combined, those three have a record of 40-24-28.

In between, the Black & Gold faces a dismal Vancouver Whitecaps team who are one of only three in the entire league that sits below Columbus with 27 points.

Mathematics will say that a playoff berth is still possible. In addition to getting all the wins they can with the matches that remain, the Crew needs to hope for a string of bad results by teams that have been ahead of them since April. However, it may be best for fans alike of the Crew to begin looking ahead to the 2020 season and beyond.