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MLS Cup playoff scenarios: Where can the Crew finish, who the Black & Gold play

Columbus can finish as high as third and as low as fifth on Decision Day.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Back in March when the Major League Soccer regular season was suspended for three months, it was hard to imagine the league would get to the end of the year in November. Yet that is exactly where we are on Sunday. The final day of the 2020 MLS regular season is almost here and the Columbus Crew has already booked its place in the MLS Cup playoffs.

The only things in question going into the Decision Day battle with Atlanta United in Columbus on Sunday is what seed the Black & Gold will get in the playoffs and who Columbus will play in the first round. The Crew can finish as high as third place in the Eastern Conference and as low as fifth place depending on the result of the team’s games and how others around the league perform on Sunday.

Here is a guide as to what needs to happen for each scenario to come true. Keep in mind that only two other matches can affect Columbus’ seed. Orlando City SC vs. Nashville SC and the Chicago Fire vs. New York City FC.

How the Crew finishes third

Two things need to happen for the Black & Gold to hop above Orlando City to claim the third seed in the Eastern Conference. First, Columbus must beat Atlanta at home on Sunday. Second, Orlando City must lose to Nashville in Florida at the same time. No matter the result in Chicago for the Fire and NYCFC game, the Crew would then come in third place.

Who they can play: New England Revolution, Nashville SC or the New York Red Bulls at MAPFRE Stadium

How the Crew finishes fourth

After the 2-1 loss in Orlando on Wednesday, there is around a 66 percent chance Columbus finishes with the fourth seed. In the event of a Crew win against United, the Black & Gold finishes fourth if Orlando wins or draws against Nashville. In the event of a loss to Atlanta, Columbus would need NYCFC to not win to stay in fourth rather than fall to fifth place. If the final match of the season at MAPFRE Stadium ends in a draw, the only way Columbus doesn’t finish in fourth is if NYCFC wins and either Nashville wins or draws.

Who they will play: New York City FC at MAPFRE Stadium

How the Crew finishes fifth

The nightmare scenario is still possible where the Black & Gold falls out of a top-four spot and does not host the team’s first-round match in the MLS Cup playoffs. It’s unlikely but still mathematically more probable than getting the three seed.

Here is the simple scenario. If Columbus doesn’t win and NYCFC does, the Crew finish in fifth place. Even if a draw occurs at MAPFRE Stadium and NYCFC is level with Columbus on 39 points, NYCFC would own the tiebreaker with 12 wins over the Crew’s 11.

Who they will play: New York City FC at Red Bull Arena