D.C. United can complete a remarkable second-half turnaround from Eastern Conference last-place team to potentially hosting a Knockout Round match with a MLS Decision Day victory against the Chicago Fire on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.
D.C. United (14-11-8, 50 points), who sealed a MLS Playoff Cup berth with a 3-1 victory over New York City FC last weekend, enter the contest in fifth place in the standings but, depending on what happens Sunday, could finish anywhere from fourth to sixth place.
Fourth place would mean hosting a playoff game midweek against the fifth seed while any finish lower would mean traveling for the elimination game.
The big contest that will interest D.C. fans will take place at Yankee Stadium, where third-place NYC FC hosts the fourth-place Philadelphia Union. A win over the Fire, coupled with a NYC FC win or draw against the Union, would guarantee D.C. hosting a Knockout Round match.
And a home game would figure to be a huge advantage for D.C. United, who are 12-2-2 since moving into Audi Field on July 14 with a 3-1 victory over Vancouver that featured two assists from Wayne Rooney in his MLS debut.
D.C. United were just 2-7-5 with 11 points before Rooney's arrival from Everton and have gone a remarkable 12-4-3 (39 points) since the longtime English International and Manchester United star moved stateside. Rooney has scored 12 goals to go with seven assists in 19 games. However, D.C. is winless in four road games (0-2-2) since Rooney's arrival.
"I haven't put a lot of thought into it, but on the surface, a home game is a big deal, especially for a knockout game," D.C. United coach Ben Olsen told MSsoccer.com.
Chicago (8-18-7, 31), which was eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago, figures to undergo a major rebuilding job in the offseason, which could include the departure of star midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, the fourth highest-paid player in the MLS at $6.1 million per season.
"I don't know. That's a question for the general manager or the owner," Schweinsteiger told the Chicago Tribune when asked about his potential return next season. "I still enjoy playing soccer. If they want me back, I'm enjoying living here. My wife and my family are also happy in Chicago, but when the moment comes, I'll make my decision and we'll see what happens."
The 34-year-old Schweinsteiger has just four goals and six assists in 30 games this season.