Aside from two dead rubbers, the 11 simultaneous 4 p.m. ET finales on Sunday will feature a host of matches with either playoff or sentimental significance.
MLS's Decision Day is coming, and while 11 of the league's 12 playoff tickets have been punched, there's plenty left to be, well, decided.
Aside from two dead rubbers (Montreal vs. New England, Philadelphia vs. Orlando), the 11 simultaneous 4 p.m. ET finales on Sunday will feature a host of matches with either playoff or sentimental significance.
D.C. United bids farewell at last to RFK Stadium against the rival New York Red Bulls, who are locked into the Eastern Conference's sixth seed. The four teams ahead of them, however, are jockeying for seeding, with three points separating the teams in second place down to fifth. It's a similar story out West, where three points also separate teams in second through fifth (and first through fourth, for that matter), but there is one seat on the road to MLS Cup unspoken for, and that'll come down to three contenders.
Between that and more, here's what's at stake on Decision Day:
Only one remains up for grabs, and it's the final spot in the Western Conference. Currently, that place is held by the San Jose Earthquakes, and it will continue to be if the club can beat Minnesota United. A loss or draw, though, and it opens the door for FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake to pounce.
San Jose has been solid at home this season (9-2-5), while Minnesota has struggled on the road (3-11-2), but FCD and RSL will be hopeful of a change in trend. Dallas, which has won just once in its last 14 games, hosts the LA Galaxy and has the inside track, while RSL hosts Sporting Kansas City needing a double dose of help. The Galaxy have nothing to play for as they conclude a lost season, but SKC can still secure a bye and shouldn't be holding back.
Only Toronto FC is assured of a bye entering the final weekend. TFC wrapped up the Supporters' Shield and a chance to host MLS Cup for a second straight year by securing the league's top points total. Four teams in the East and five in the West could join the Reds and receive some much-needed rest and time off ahead of the playoff gauntlet.
NYCFC's "home" match at Citi Field (thanks to the New York Yankees' MLB playoff success) against the very-distracted Columbus Crew will surely play a massive role in determining the East's second bye, while Atlanta (vs. Toronto) and Chicago (at Houston) will be hoping for a Columbus win or a draw that opens up the road to the second seed.
Out West, Vancouver sits in first, and its head-to-head clash with the Portland Timbers will decided who ends atop the conference and is the other must-see match in addition to NYCFC-Columbus. Reigning MLS Cup champ Seattle hosts Colorado with a chance to earn the other bye with a win.
For the teams who don't secure byes, finishing in third or fourth matters, given they come with the right to host next week's one-off wildcard playoff games.
TFC does have something to play for: a new MLS standard. The club is currently tied with the 1998 LA Galaxy for the most points in a season with 68, and a win or draw vs. Atlanta United would set a new mark. Sure, LA did its damage in two fewer games, but a 69- or 71-point haul would be quite a statement from TFC coming off a disappointing runner-up finish in MLS Cup a season ago.
TFC already has the Canadian Championship and Supporters' Shield in tow, and it can begin its quest for the third piece of the treble in record-setting style.
It's Nemanja Nikolic's to lose. The Chicago Fire forward netted a hat trick last week to separate himself from the pack (24 goals), but a scoreless finale coupled with a Diego Valeri hat trick would tilt the scales in favor of the Portland Timbers maestro due to his greater assist total. David Villa lingers one behind Valeri with 20 goals and would need a finale of epic proportions to claim the crown.
D.C. United will play in front of a packed house at RFK Stadium for a final time, as the club bids farewell to its raccoon-infested, crumbling home of 22 seasons before finally moving to the brand new Audi Field next season. That it comes against the rival Red Bulls after a legends game in which a who's-who of D.C. greats will take the field one more time adds up to one special finale in the U.S. capital.