The 2022 MLS season is in the home stretch. While some teams are closing in on a coveted postseason berth, others are on the outside looking in and hoping for a strong finish to reach the playoffs.
Here's a look at what's a stake from a playoff perspective in this weekend's games.
Friday, Sept. 9
For Montreal, it's pretty simple. Win and you are in. Head coach Wilfried Nancy has done a masterful job this season in Quebec and a victory over sixth-place Columbus would seal the deal and also keep their slim Supporters' Shield hopes intact. Meanwhile, Columbus would like a win to possibly fend off New England and Cincinnati from jumping them in the table and leaving them out of the playoff zone in eighth place.
Saturday, Sept. 10
Despite a 1-1 draw at Cincinnati on Wednesday that has kept them winless in four straight games, reigning champions NYCFC are still in position to host a first-round playoff game. However, time is running out on 12th-place Charlotte to make up seven points to get into the playoff zone.
Only four points separate third from seventh in the west and Nashville is right in the middle of it in fourth with 45 points. They're assured of finishing the weekend in the playoff zone, but they'd rather win to stay top four. The Galaxy are the nearest pursuers in the west for playoff spot, with 39 points in eighth place. Win, and they could be back in a postseason spot.
The Red Bulls are right smack dab in the middle of that second-to-fourth slot that has them on track to host in the first round. The situation is far more perilous for the Revs, who in the East's eighth place and therefore on the outside looking in. NYRB could afford a loss here; New England can't.
While defeat doesn't officially eliminate either side from the playoffs, it would be the next-to-last nail in the coffin. It's likely last call for 10th-place TFC (34) and 11th-place Atlanta (33), with the latter suspending Josef Martinez for the game due to "conduct detrimental to the team."
Cincinnati are in the 7th and final spot in the East after Wednesday's 1-1 draw with NYCFC, so three points is paramount for the hosts. Meanwhile, the Quakes would say adios to the postseason with a loss.
The race for the Supporters Shield is on, with the already-playoff bound Union neck-and-neck with LAFC for that trophy. As for Orlando City, they'll be on cloud nine after winning the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, but currently fifth with 42 points in the East and four points ahead of eighth-place, the margins are slim.
Inter Miami are lurking in ninth place with 36 points, just two behind Cincinnati and New England. Hiccups from both could allow Phil Neville's boys to catapult themselves into a postseason spot with a win. Chicago are seven points off the playoff zone, so it basically has to be a perfect finish from the Fire if they are to return to snap their playoff drought (2017).
Austin FC are hoping the third time is a charm after not securing a first ever playoff berth in their previous two games, both ending in defeats. Still second in the West with 51 points and a five-point cushion on third-place FC Dallas, Austin can be playoff bound with a win against a Seattle side that are six points back of seventh place. Seattle's streak of having qualified for the playoffs every year is hanging by a thread.
LAFC have already clinched a playoff spot and are on track for a first place finish in the West, but FC Dallas still have some work to do to make sure they host in the first round. Just two points separate them from having to go on the road in Round One.
The Bee Gees' hit "Stayin' Alive" could well be sounding the locker room for the victor in this one. Sporting KC are assured of staying in the playoff hunt if they can win in Space City, while the last-place Dynamo, who fired coach Paulo Nagamura on Monday, need a win and either Portland or Real Salt Lake to drop points to stay mathematically alive.
These two teams have almost identical records and sit 10th and 11th in the West, with Vancouver slightly ahead at 34 points as opposed to Colorado's 33. A loss here basically means elimination, while a win keeps the slim playoff hopes alive.
Real Salt Lake are sixth with 42 points but not far over their shoulder are the Galaxy in eighth with 39. However, a win could see them jump into fourth and hosting position in the first round. D.C. are last in the East with 26 points and a loss plus New England getting a result means no playoffs in 2022 for the boys from the capital.
Minnesota find themselves also right in the middle of that Western logjam in fifth place with 44 points, with a home playoff game to missing the playoffs all together both possibilities. Portland are hanging on to the final playoff spot in the West (42 points) and a draw would at least keep them there for another week.