MLS Decision Day: Covering the Scenarios

October 17, 2023

There’s only one more full day for the Major League Soccer season — “Decision Day.” It’s a do-or-die day for some clubs trying to get into the playoffs, or to maneuver in seeding before the postseason begins.

On Sunday, Oct. 15, 28 of the 29 MLS teams will finish off the season, with some clubs trying to clinch higher seeding and some just trying to qualify for at least the play-in match that pits the eighth and ninth seeds against each other in each conference. (The playoff format was tweaked for this season, with ‘Wild Card’ matches between the No. 8 seed and No. 9 seed. The winners of those matches become the 8 seeds for the playoffs.)

MLS playoff schedule

(All games can be watched on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV):

Wild Card matches: Oct. 25-26

  • Round One Best-of-3 series matches: Oct. 28-Nov. 12
  • Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals: Nov. 25-Dec. 3
  • MLS Cup presented by Audi: Dec. 9

Current Seedings

Western Conference

Wild Card

  • Dallas (No. 8) hosting San Jose (No. 9)

Round One

  • St. Louis (No. 1) hosting winner of No. 8 vs. No. 9
  • LAFC (No. 2) hosting Portland (No. 7)
  • Seattle (No. 3) hosting Vancouver (No. 6)
  • Houston (No. 4) hosting Salt Lake (No. 5)

Eastern Conference

Wild Card

  • Montréal (No. 8) hosting New York (No. 9)

Round One

  • Cincinnati (No. 1) hosting winner of No. 8 vs. No. 9
  • Orlando (No. 2) hosting Nashville (No. 7)
  • Philadelphia (No. 3) hosting Atlanta (No. 6)
  • Columbus (No. 4) hosting New England (No. 5)

Current MLS championship futures:

So, to get ready for D-Day, let’s look at Saturday’s games and see what their significance will be:

Saturday, Oct. 21

6 p.m. ET Matches

Atlanta (13W-9L-11T) at Cincinnati (20W-5L-8T)

FCC is locked into the No. 1 seed for both the East and MLS overall as winners of the Supporters Shield for best record. Atlanta has clinched a playoff spot and will be either the 6, 7, or 8 seed, depending how they, New England, and Nashville do on Saturday.

Philadelphia (15-8-10) at New England (14-9-10)

Philly can secure the No. 3 seed with a victory but could fall to fourth with a tie, coupled with Columbus defeating Montreal. A Philly loss and Columbus tie would put them both at 54 points, but the Crew would win the tiebreaker by virtue of goal differential.

For their part, NE can leapfrog the Crew into fourth place by beating Philly if Columbus loses. The Crew has the tiebreaker over NE if they both finish at 55 points, however.

Orlando (17-7-9) at Toronto (4-19-10)

Orlando is locked into the No. 2 seed. Toronto has been eliminated from contention.

Montreal (12-16-5) at Columbus (15-9-9)

As mentioned above, the Crew need at least a tie to assure themselves of the No. 4 seed and thus home-field advantage in the first round. They could also move up to the 3 seed with either of these combinations: Crew tie, Philadelphia loss; Crew win, Philadelphia loss or tie. Montreal is currently 8th but needs a win to secure a Wild Card spot. A tie could put them on a razor’s edge.

Miami (9-17-6) at Charlotte (9-11-12)

Miami (and Lionel Messi) is out of contention. Charlotte trails four other teams and must win to have a chance at either the 8 or 9 seed and a spot in the Wild Card game.

New York Red Bulls (10-13-10) at Nashville (13-10-10)

Nashville will be at least the No. 7 seed but could move up to 6 if they win and Atlanta loses. NY is currently in the No. 9 seed spot, but a loss and even a tie could put them in dire straits, depending on what other teams do Sunday.

Chicago (10-13-10) at New York City FC (8-11-14)

NYCFC is on the outside looking in and needs to win and have several other matches go their way to get into the Wild Card game. Chicago would clinch a Wild Card game spot with a victory, or a tie and some help.

9 p.m. ET Matches

Houston (13-11-9) at Portland (11-12-10)

The Timbers are currently the 7 seed but have not qualified for the playoffs. Even a tie could doom them if three of the teams below them win. A win locks them into that 7 spot. Houston has clinched a playoff spot but needs to win to assure themselves home field in the first round as the 4 seed.

Los Angeles FC (14-10-9) at Vancouver (12-10-11)

LAFC can secure the 2 seed with a win or a tie, and Seattle either losing or tying. At worst, LA could drop to the 4 seed but still would retain home field advantage in the first round. Vancouver at worst will be the 6 seed but could get to 3.

Minnesota (10-12-11) at Kansas City (11-14-8)

They are both in the same boat – win and get help. A tie and they are both out.

Seattle (13-9-11) at Saint Louis (17-11-5)

The Sounders need a tie to secure top four seeding. A loss – paired with other teams winning – could drop Seatown to the 7 seed. Saint Louis has the No. 1 West seed locked up.

Dallas (10-10-13) at LA Galaxy (8-13-12)

Dallas is currently the 8 seed but needs a victory to clinch at least a Wild Card spot or even move into the 7 seed. A tie, and they are forced to hope other results fall their way. The Galaxy are in wait-until-next-season mode.

Austin (10-15-8) at San Jose (10-10-13)

Austin is eliminated, and the Earthquakes – currently sitting in the 9 seed position – need a victory to secure a playoff berth. A tie or loss and they could be in trouble.

Salt Lake (13-12-8) at Colorado (5-16-12)

SLC is currently No. 5 but can move into a top four spot (and home field in the first round) with a win and some help. Colorado is out.

Alex Valdes
Alex Valdes is Web Content Manager at Tipico North America. He has written, edited and performed user and site analysis at MoneyTalksNews, NBC Sports, MSN, Bing, MSNBC, as well as newspapers and magazines.