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Cheat sheet: How the Crew can make the MLS Cup playoffs

Our scenario guide to use for Sunday’s MLS Decision Day as Black & Gold try to make the playoffs.

SOCCER: OCT 27 MLS - Orlando City SC at Columbus Crew SC

Every team in Major League Soccer has played 33 games with just one left to go. Sunday will be among the most chaotic Decision Days in MLS history, with each conference having three more playoff spots up for grabs. Eight teams have clinched while 11 sides will battle it out for the last six spots. Among those 11 teams is the Columbus Crew, who needs a small miracle to qualify for the postseason.

We did the match and looked at the scenarios to figure out what needs to happen for the Black & Gold to miraculously find its way back into the MLS Cup playoffs and explain why each scenario must happen. You can refer back to this article as a guide going into Sunday’s game.

Note: All of the below things must happen for Columbus to make the playoffs

The Crew must win

Simple as that, the Black & Gold must defeat the Chicago Fire on Sunday to have any chance of qualifying for the MLS Cup playoffs. Should Columbus draw or lose to Chicago, the Crew will be eliminated.

New York Red Bulls loss

The Red Bulls will be in Nashville to face Nashville SC on Decision Day. Crew fans will have to wear their Nashville fan caps on Sunday because New York must lose for the Black & Gold to have a shot at playing on. The reasoning behind this is because of RBNY’s draw with Atlanta United on Wednesday.

Atlanta has 48 points entering its match with FC Cincinnati and will automatically finish above the Crew. Should the Red Bulls get a result, that leaves Atlanta, New York and Orlando City SC above Columbus.

D.C. United lose or draw

D.C. will be in Canada for a Decision Day game against Toronto FC. Adding on with a Crew win and Red Bulls loss is United failing to win at BMO Field. D.C. is currently tied with Columbus on 44 points but ahead on the wins tiebreaker with 13 compared to the Black & Gold’s 12.

Should United win, that automatically keeps the team ahead of Columbus on that wins tiebreaker, even with a Crew win.

CF Montreal draw or loss

The fourth thing that needs to happen is Montreal not getting a victory against Orlando City on Sunday at Stade Saputo. Montreal’s 2-0 win against the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night kept the team’s hopes alive for an MLS Cup playoff spot and the Crew would be unable to qualify if Montreal wins on Sunday.

CF Montreal is currently one point behind Columbus in the standing. If Montreal wins, that puts them, Orlando and Atlanta above the Crew even with a Black & Gold win. If Montreal draws and Columbus wins, both teams end on 47 points but the Black & Gold finish ahead of on the wins tiebreaker.

But that is still not enough.

The Crew must make up the seven-goal difference on the Red Bulls

The fifth and final thing that must happen for Columbus to make the MLS Cup playoffs is making up goal difference on the Red Bulls. The Crew cannot outright claim seventh place on points. The best the team can do is tie New York with 47 but the Black & Gold have to have an equal or better goal difference to advance.

The first tiebreaker in MLS is wins and if Columbus wins and the Red Bulls lose, both teams will be tied with 13 wins. The second tiebreaker is goal difference and the Crew enters this final round of games with a -1 goal difference while New York has a +6 goal difference.

To clinch a playoff spot, the Black & Gold needs to make up at least seven goals and that can happen in a number of ways. If Columbus wins 4-0 and the Red Bulls lose 3-0, both teams would have a goal difference of +2. But then they are tied on goal difference so what happens next?

The third tiebreaker is goals scored and the Crew enters Sunday with 44 goals while RBNY has 38. Columbus just needs to equal the Red Bulls' goal difference to jump ahead of them in the table.

Scenarios where the Crew makes the playoffs

Scenario 1: CLB WIN + RBNY LOSS + DCU LOSS + MTL LOSS + TIE/BEAT RBNY ON GD

Scenario 2: CLB WIN + RBNY LOSS + DCU DRAW + MTL LOSS + TIE/BEAT RBNY ON GD

Scenario 3: CLB WIN + RBNY LOSS + DCU LOSS + MTL DRAW + TIE/BEAT RBNY ON GD

Scenario 4: CLB WIN + RBNY LOSS + DCU DRAW + MTL DRAW + TIE/BEAT RBNY ON GD