The Five Stripes are in search of their first trophy this weekend.
The regular season concludes for all 23 MLS teams Sunday at 4:30. The biggest storylines of the season have been Zlatan mania, Wayne Rooney and the brilliance of Atlanta United. But quietly New York Red Bulls have put together an amazing season and stand in the way of Atlanta’s plans.
Multiple things are up for grabs Sunday including the number one seed, Supporter’s Shield and the MLS all-time points record.
Atlanta United really need to leave BMO Field with all three points with New York Red Bulls sitting just one point behind. We surely can’t hope for them to drop points since they are facing Orlando at home.
Win at Toronto Sunday and all three items are secured. Lose or Draw and things get really spicy. Lets take a look.
The Set Up
Atlanta sits at 69 points on a 21-6-6 (W-L-D) record with a +29 Goal Differential and 69 Goals Scored but is 0-2-0 head to head this season with NYRB.
New York sits at 68 points on a 21-7-5 record with +28 Goal Differential and 61 Goals Scored.
Simply put, if Atlanta wins everything works in our favor.
Supporters Shield, Points Record, Number One Seed clinched. Will not matter what NYRB does.
Draw and NYRB Loss/Draw:
Atlanta 70 points. NYRB 68/69 points. Supporters Shield, Points Record, Number One Seed clinched.
Loss/Draw and NYRB Win:
Atlanta 69/70 points. NYRB 71 points. Number Two Seed and NYRB get Supporter’s Shield and Points Record.
Loses and NYRB Loss:
Atlanta 69 points. NYRB 68 points. Supporters Shield, Points Record, Number One Seed clinched.
Loss and NYRB Draw:
Here’s where it could get interesting. Both teams would be at 69 points. In this scenario Atlanta could actually get the nod over NYRB due to some weird MLS Tiebreaker scenarios despite dropping both matches head to head this season. The first tiebreaker is Total Wins. Both clubs would sit at 21. The next is Goal Differential which Atlanta leads by one. If Atlanta loses by more than one New York would surge ahead in GD and win the Supporters Shield and Number One Seed. Both teams would tie for most points in MLS history at 70. If Atlanta lost by one with Reb Bulls getting the draw we would go on to the next tiebreaker which is Goals Scored. Atlanta leads that comfortably 69-61 and would win the Shield and clinch the Number One Seed.
Hopefully we take advantage of a Toronto club who has had a miserable season just a year after setting the MLS Points record at 69. Expect the Reds to be amped up for this final match. They won’t want to see their record fall on their very own field. Also, can we really count on Mickey Mouse SC to grab points in New York? I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Looking Ahead to the Playoffs
Before heading off to coach Mexico or Argentina (or maybe even the US), manager Tata Martino will look to guide the Five Stripes to a MLS Cup trophy. The setup of the MLS Cup Playoffs is similar to that of the NFL.
Miguel Almiron could possibly be ready to return for Atlanta’s opener which will take place on the road November 4th. Atlanta will host the 2nd leg of the 2nd round Sunday November 11th. Some tickets remain but they are going fast.
Six teams from each conference qualify with the top two teams in each receiving a first round bye. The first round is a winner take all knockout round with the higher seed hosting. If the two sides are tied after 90 minutes, two 15 minute periods are played then a penalty shootout if necessary. Yes, that’s where we lost last year.
After the knockout round the remaining teams are re-seeded with the lowest remaining seed taking on the number one seed and the higher taking on the two seed. The format is a two game home and home series on aggregate. The first leg takes place at the lower seed’s stadium with the second leg coming at the higher seed. The second leg picks up with the score of the first leg. For example if Atlanta beat DC in leg one by a score of 3-1, the second leg picks up at the score of 3-1. If the two sides are tied after 180 minutes, two 15 minute periods will be played followed by a penalty shootout if necessary.
The Conference Finals are of similar setup.
The MLS Cup Final is a winner take all match with the better team hosting. If Atlanta United were to make it to the MLS Cup it would take place at the Benz on Saturday December 8th at 7:30.
No matter what happens Sunday, Atlanta will be either the one or two seed and will likely be the odds on favorite to win the league. In my personal opinion however, New York Red Bulls and DC United really scare me and pose a threat. Those two teams have been a thorn in our sides since our inception last year.
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Phil Veasley | @_ATLPhil Twitter/IG | @ATLSportsHQ Twitter/IG
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