It's being called "The Trilogy."
For the third time in four years, Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders will meet Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. ET on ABC) in the MLS Cup.
This time, the championship will be played in Seattle after the teams split the 2016 and 2017 title games in Toronto. The Sounders won in penalty kicks after a scoreless draw in 2016 and the Reds triumphed 2-0 in 2017.
"I think really it's incredible for two teams, now in the league with 20-plus teams, to find their way back through both conferences three times out of four years," Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. "There's really something special to that."
The Sounders (19-10-8) finished second in the Western Conference in the regular season, then defeated FC Dallas (4-3), Real Salt Lake (2-0) and Los Angeles FC (3-1) in the playoffs to extend their winning streak to five matches.
"Being able to end up second in our conference (in the regular season), being able to win the Western Conference and then have the final here means a lot to us," Sounders midfielder Gustav Svensson said. "It shows that we are a team to reckon with. And I think it shows we have a lot of players who will never give up. It doesn't matter how we play or who we play."
Toronto (16-10-11), the fourth seed in the East, beat D.C. United (5-1), New York City FC (2-1) and Atlanta United (2-1) to reach the final and extend its unbeaten streak to 13 matches (7-0-6).
"It shows the consistency of the clubs in the last four years and what it means to be a top club in this league," Toronto midfielder Jonathan Osorio said of the matchup with the Sounders. "All three times that we've made it to the MLS Cup, we've done it different ways. So it's pretty amazing. I think Seattle has done it different ways as well."
Toronto striker Jozy Altidore, who is second to Alejandro Pozuelo on the team with 11 goals (Pozuelo has 14), is listed as questionab
If Atlanta United FC is to have a shot at repeating as MLS Cup champion, it must get by a Toronto FC side that's also familiar with playing for a league title.
The last two MLS Cup champs meet Wednesday night when Atlanta hosts TFC in the Eastern Conference final.
The No. 2 seed in the East, Atlanta hasn't had an easy journey on its title follow-up season under first-year coach Frank de Boer. However, United is now one game away from a return to the final after outscoring New England and Philadelphia by a combined 3-0 in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
"There's only one option: to win," Atlanta star Josef Martinez, who scored his 28th league goal of 2019 on Thursday in a 2-0 win over the Union, told the official website of MLS.
"Everyone wants to win. (Toronto has) a team with many experienced and talented players, but we have to think of ourselves and playing the final at home."
United has won four straight at home, where it's 14-1-1 since opening 0-1-2 there. Though Atlanta beat Toronto 2-0 at home on May 8, fourth-seeded TFC just knocked off the top seed in the East to get to the conference final.
Minus injured star Jozy Altidore (quad), who is questionable for Wednesday, TFC got a pair of Alejandro Pozuelo goals -- the second on a 90th-minute penalty kick -- to upset host New York City FC 2-1 on Oct. 23. Pozuelo (14 goals, 13 assists overall in 2019) has been the most consistent presence for Toronto, which won its only MLS Cup in 2017 and also reached the league final in 2016.
Though TFC won the most recent meeting with United, 3-2 at home on June 26, it's 0-1-2 all-time at Atlanta. However, that doesn't mean Toronto, amid a 6-0-6 overall stretch, won't be up to the challenge.
"It's going to be tough. For sure, it's going to be tough," Toronto defender Justin Morrow told the club's official website. "To be good in this league, you're going to have to bea
For the most part, Major League Soccer's Western Conference playoffs have gone according to form.
That leaves the top-seeded Los Angeles Football Club to play host to the second-seeded Seattle Sounders on Tuesday night, with a berth in MLS Cup on the line.
LAFC set an MLS record by recording 72 points thanks to a 21-4-9 regular-season mark, with Carlos Vela winning the Golden Boot Award with 34 goals. Vela added 15 assists, giving him a league-record 49 points.
The Sounders were 16-10-8 in the regular season, finishing 16 points behind the Black & Gold. However, Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer won't be playing the underdog card in the conference final.
"All coaches will tell you it's easier to be the underdog," said Schmetzer, who guided the Sounders to back-to-back MLS Cup finals in 2016 and 2017, winning the title in the first of those years.
"You can just say, 'Oh, nobody expects you to win. The media expects you to lose,' and all that hoopla, and, 'Let's play the underdog role.' That's easy to coach. But in these situations, that's kind of old and tired. You need to come up with something else. The guys will already feel, 'OK, let's go.' For us, we'll take it as, 'OK, yeah, there might be some people that anointed LAFC, but that'll be the extent of it.' There's no chip on our shoulder. We think we can hang with them."
LAFC beat Seattle by 1-0 scores twice last year in its expansion season. The teams met twice this April. Los Angeles won 4-1 at home, and the teams played to a 1-1 draw in Seattle despite the Sounders being short-handed for most of the match after midfielder Cristian Roldan received a red card in the 18th minute.
"Seattle is always a good team, and it's been a long time since we played them," LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. "I think as the season progressed, they got stronger. You see their confidence. They are always a well-organized, solid team. So at this point
After amassing an MLS-record 72 points in just their second year of existence, there seems to be no reward for Los Angeles FC, who opens their playoff run Thursday against the team that has given them the most trouble.
The Los Angeles Galaxy will make the 13-mile drive north Thursday to face LAFC in the rivalry dubbed "El Trafico." The Western Conference semifinal game comes four days after the Galaxy's convincing 2-1 playoff victory at Minnesota United FC.
LAFC (21-4-9) spent the recent international break and their first-round playoff bye working on finding the form that served them so well this season. Actually, it served them well against everybody except the Galaxy (16-15-3, 51 points), who finished in fifth place.
Led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has made more MLS highlights against LAFC than any other team, the Galaxy earned a 3-2 home victory on July 19 and then forged a 3-3 tie on the road Aug. 25. LAFC have never defeated the Galaxy.
Yet LAFC insist they wouldn't want things any other way for a playoff opener.
"When we talk about what we wanted to be from the start -- what kind of team, our football, being successful, everything that's happened in two years -- yeah, it had to be the Galaxy," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley, who was named MLS Coach of the Year this week. "To get where we want to be now, winning big games on big stages and doing it with the kind of football we've been able to do a lot of the course of the last two years, that's spot on. I think it creates a big game and everybody here is excited."
Big game indeed. LAFC have Golden Boot winner Carlos Vela leading the way after a 34-goal season and a sure anointing as the MLS MVP. The Galaxy have Ibrahimovic, who scored 30 times, second most in the league, and continue to insist that he is the best player MLS has ever seen.
"We have to play against everybody if we want to win it," Ibrahimovic said about f
The Philadelphia Union hope to ride the momentum of wild comeback win in the first round of the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference playoffs into the next round against host Atlanta United on Thursday night.
It figures to be a difficult task to win on the road inside raucous Mercedes-Benz Stadium against the defending MLS Cup champions. But the Union are confident after erasing a pair of two-goal deficits and scoring the game winner in extra time last Sunday against the New York Red Bulls.
"We know this stadium is fantastic and full, and the support is good," Marco Fabian, who scored the Union's winning goal against New York, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "For myself, it's also good when you have a lot of people against you ... it's a motivation for you. So we are focused on our job, and we know we can win."
In its 10th season of existence, Philadelphia hopes to build on its first-ever postseason win after three previous losses. But fatigue and short rest between games could be a factor. The Union played Sunday, and their game lasted 120-plus minutes, while Atlanta defeated the New England Revolution 1-0 in regulation time last Saturday.
Atlanta United have been to the postseason in each of their three seasons of existence, with one championship already in their trophy case.
The Five Stripes are led by Josef Martinez, who scored 27 goals in the regular season on the heels of a then-record 31 in 2018. Martinez will be a focal point of the Union's defensive plan.
Fifty-two of Martinez's 81 goals in an Atlanta uniform, including postseason games, have come at home.
Atlanta's defensive depth could be tested without a pair of central defenders, Michael Parkhurst and Miles Robinson. Both are out due to injury.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan recorded 14 regular-season shutouts to tie for the MLS lead in the regular season. He has started in goal in every one of Atlanta Unite
New York City FC will have waited 17 days to begin their MLS playoff run. Toronto FC were extended to 120 minutes before defeating D.C. United 5-1 in the first round on Saturday.
How much of a factor will rest be when NYCFC host Toronto in an Eastern Conference semifinal at Citi Field on Wednesday night?
"There's one school of thought that we've now felt the playoff intensity, we've been there," Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. "There's another -- you take bumps and bruises after 120 minutes, and you've got to turn around and go again. I don't know which will play out in whose favor in the end."
New York City, the East's No. 1 seed, last played in the regular-season finale at Philadelphia on Oct. 6, winning 2-1.
NYCFC coach Dome Torrent took the unusual step of taking his team to Chicago and having a closed-door scrimmage against the Fire on Oct. 17.
"The most important thing for me is to play with the best form, and the best form is about rhythm," Torrent said. "With 17 days, you never know what will happen in the first game."
The match was moved from Yankee Stadium, where NYCFC went 11-1-5 this season, to the home of the New York Mets when it appeared the Yankees might make the World Series.
The tighter-than-normal field dimensions of Yankee Stadium will be replicated.
"I don't care in what stadium we play as long as our home fans are there, because New York fans have a good feeling when the team is in trouble and needs a push," NYCFC midfielder Alex Ring said. "They've helped us a lot this year."
Toronto, 5-0-6 in its past 11 games, might be without forward Jozy Altidore (quad) and defender Omar Gonzalez (hamstring), who both missed the win over D.C. New York City forward Heber (undisclosed) is questionable.
The winner advances to the conference final against second-seeded Atlanta or third-seeded Philadelphia on Oct. 30. New York City w
The first MLS playoff game in Minnesota United FC history will also be the first postseason game in the league for star Los Angeles Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Sunday night's clash in St. Paul, Minn., is the final match of the opening weekend of the playoffs, but it may not be as pressure-packed for Minnesota as it seems. While the Loons are new to the MLS playoffs' win-or-go-home format, they are very familiar with the concept from earlier this season.
Minnesota faced an elimination game five times in this summer's U.S. Open Cup tournament and made it all the way to the final against Atlanta United FC, the eventual winners.
The Loons are coming off a 1-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders in the regular-season finale that dropped them to a No. 4 playoff seed. Now they are looking to extend a noteworthy season marked by the opening of their new stadium.
The teams played to a 0-0 tie on April 24 in the third-ever MLS game at Allianz Field. The Galaxy defeated Minnesota United 3-2 at Los Angeles on March 16.
"Our experienced players are going to have to show up," Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath said to mlssoccer.com. "Our back four is going to have to show up. They have (Uriel) Antuna on one side, (Cristian) Pavon on the other side and Zlatan through the middle. There's a lot of goals there."
The matchup to watch will be Loons defender Ike Opara, the MLS defender of the year, against Ibrahimovic, the runner-up for the league's Golden Boot with 30 goals scored.
"I don't focus on defenders like (Opara), I try to help my teammates, I try to help my team win, create chances for myself, create chances for my teammates and that's how you win the game," Ibrahimovic said. "It's not a battle of one against one. It's a collective thing."
The Galaxy could also see the return of midfielder Romain Alessandrini, who has been out since April 13 with a knee injury.
The Philadelphia Union will try for their first-ever postseason victory Sunday afternoon when they host the New York Red Bulls in the opening round of the MLS playoffs.
In 10 seasons of existence, the Union have been to the postseason three other times, losing all three games. But they come into Sunday's match as the higher seed, No. 3 in the Eastern Conference, against No. 6 New York.
The winner will play at No. 2 seed Atlanta United in a conference semifinal Thursday. Atlanta eliminated the visiting New England Revolution 1-0 on Saturday.
The Union expect to have leading scorer Kacper Przybylko available after he missed the regular-season finale on Oct. 6 with an ankle injury suffered in pregame warmups.
Przybylko scored 15 goals in 26 MLS games this season, and team captain Alejandro Bedoya is also expected to play after sitting out the season finale.
"I'm fully confident that we'll have all of our players available for selection for the Red Bull game," Union head coach Jim Curtin said.
Philadelphia is on a two-game losing streak while the Red Bulls are winless in their past two games and haven't scored a goal since a 2-0 win over the Union at Red Bull Arena on Sept. 22.
The teams split two regular-season meetings.
The Red Bulls were a charter member of MLS when it began play in 1996 but have yet to win an MLS Cup. New York fell to the Columbus Crew in the Cup final in 2008, the closest the Red Bulls have come to a league title.
Daniel Royer is New York's leading scorer with 11 goals on the season.
New York has 14 regular-season wins all time against the Union, the most losses for Philadelphia against any club in MLS.
This will be the first time they have met in a playoff game.
"I think this team can make a run and can do something special this year," Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles said on MLS.com. "But may
Nick Rimando got his wish to play one more home game.
Now Real Salt Lake's goalkeeper will look to extend his career when his team hosts the Portland Timbers on Saturday night in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. The match will be played in Sandy, Utah.
Rimando, 40, said in March that his 20th season in MLS would be his last, bringing to an end a career that includes two MLS Cup championships.
The last 13 seasons have been with Real Salt Lake, which only began play in the league two years before he was acquired in a trade from the New York Red Bulls in 2007.
Rimando played his last regular-season game at Rio Tinto Stadium on Sept. 29, with Real Salt Lake finishing third in the Western Conference and earning the right to host sixth-seeded Portland.
"It's awesome to get another home game," Rimando said. "We have to handle business Saturday, and maybe (get) another home one after that. But to be in front of our fans and where we're most comfortable playing, it's huge for us."
Real Salt Lake faces a Portland team that stumbled its way into the postseason, going winless over five games before earning a 3-1 win over San Jose in its season finale to secure its playoff spot and eliminate the Earthquakes.
The Timbers also enter the postseason without forward Brian Fernandez, who is tied for the team lead with 11 goals in 19 games since he was signed in May. The Argentine entered the league's substance abuse program the day after the end of the regular season. Jeremy Ebobisse (11 goals, 34 appearances) is expected to start at forward in Fernandez's place.
Portland, which won both meetings against Real Salt Lake during the regular season, is also back in the playoffs a year after catching fire late and making a run all the way to MLS Cup.
"I feel the same as last year," coach Giovanni Savarese said. "The group is mentally strong, united, pract
Toronto FC secured the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference with a win on Decision Day. That win, however, came at a cost as striker Jozy Altidore sustained an injury that clouds his status for Saturday's opening-round playoff match against visiting D.C. United.
Toronto FC president Bill Manning told TSN Radio 1050 Toronto that it likely will be a game-day decision on the 29-year-old Altidore, who was absent from practice on Thursday.
"A little bit of a thigh strain. He was running (Wednesday). You're cautious, right? You want to make sure that if he can go, he can go. He's chomping at the bit, but we'll see," Manning said of Altidore, who scored 11 goals in 23 appearances across all competitions this season.
Alejandro Pozuelo netted his team-leading 12th goal after converting a free kick in the 58th minute as Toronto FC (13-10-11) ran its unbeaten streak to 10 matches (4-0-6) with a 1-0 victory over Columbus on Oct. 6.
That win, coupled with D.C. United's scoreless draw versus expansion FC Cincinnati, allowed Toronto FC to gain home-field advantage for Saturday's playoff game. The winner of that contest faces New York City FC in the conference semifinals on Wednesday.
Toronto FC and D.C. United (13-10-11) battled to a scoreless draw at BMO Field on May 15 and a 1-1 stalemate at Audi Field on June 29.
Wayne Rooney, who leads D.C. United with 11 goals, provided his club with a point in the more recent encounter after scoring on a penalty kick.
Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney addressed the notion of D.C. United having extra incentive in the playoffs with the former Manchester United legend departing the MLS club following this season.
"I've thought about that," Vanney said, per the Toronto Sun. "I don't think it will change their approach because of something like that. I think it's a talking point more than it is a tactical point. It's one of those things that maybe g
CenturyLink Field hasn't been kind to FC Dallas, which owns a 1-11-3 record at the home of the Seattle Sounders -- including 0-2-1 in the MLS postseason.
A scoreless draw last month has given FC Dallas some hope of for upset when the teams play Saturday afternoon in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
"I know it's away and it's in a tough environment, Seattle, but we were just there and we're not afraid. We're not going to be afraid," Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez told reporters this week. "We obviously know they have some great tools, they have a great environment, but we're going to go there and try to change the history of this club over there."
Zdenek Ondrasek scored twice as Dallas (13-12-9) clinched the West's seventh and final playoff berth with a 6-0 victory against Sporting Kansas City in the final game of the regular season on Oct. 6.
The Sounders (16-10-8) broke a tie with Minnesota for the West's No. 2 seed by defeating the Loons 1-0 on Decision Day. Defender Roman Torres scored the lone goal in the first half.
Torres is one of six Sounders regulars who were with the team when it won the 2016 MLS Cup. Forward Jordan Morris, midfielders Nicolas Lodeiro and Cristian Roldan, defender/midfielder Joevin Jones and goalkeeper Stefan Frei are the others.
"(What) we have going for us is that we're tried and true. This is a battle-tested team," Sounders president and general manager Garth Lagerwey told KJR's Sounders Weekly radio show. "We have absolutely been there and done that. We're in a position -- fully and healthy -- to bring our experience to bear in knockout games and I think that's a forum where we're going to hold up pretty well."
Dallas will be without forwards Dominique Badji (quad strain) and Cristian Colman (calf strain). Badji was tied for third on the team with six regular-season goals, behind only Jesus Ferreira (eight) and Ondrasek (seven).
Atlanta United begins defense of its MLS Cup by hosting the New England Revolution at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday in an Eastern Conference first-round knockout match.
Even though No. 2 seed Atlanta (18-12-4, 58 points in the regular season) is a third-year franchise, it has also won the 2019 U.S. Open and Campeones cups, the latter by defeating the Mexican league champion.
All three tournament finals were played at home.
"Ultimately, what it comes back to is we've been in this situation and we've played important games at home," midfielder Julian Gressel said. "We've made the run before as where other teams have not. I hope that experience will pay off a little bit and we have that edge going into this."
New England (11-11-12, 45 points) is making its first postseason appearance since 2015 but does have Bruce Arena, who replaced Bred Friedel as coach in May.
Arena is the league's all-time leader in playoff wins (32) and MLS Cup titles (five - two with D.C. United, three with the Los Angeles Galaxy).
More importantly from a Revolution standpoint, they were 3-2-6 in their final 11 away matches with Arena after starting 0-4-2 on the road under Friedel.
Defender Jalil Anibaba said New England, the No. 7 seed, is ready.
"We don't really see it as too much of an issue because we've done relatively well on the road this year," he said. "I think that's something that we've really improved on, so as far as games being on the road in the playoffs, it is what it is for us."
The Revolution are led by 2019 MLS Newcomer of the Year, midfielder Carles Gil (10 goals, 14 assists).
Atlanta will be without defender Miles Robinson (hamstring), who was injured while training with the U.S. men's national team.
The winner faces either the Philadelphia Union or New York Red Bulls in a conference semifinal on Thursday. As the higher seed, Atlan
The New York Red Bulls are in the postseason but just need to solidify the location of their opening-round game.
The Red Bulls are still in contention to host a playoff game and getting a win out of their visit to the Montreal Impact on Sunday would significantly help matters.
New York (14-13-6, 48 points) enters the final game one point behind the fourth-place D.C. United and one ahead of sixth-place Toronto. A win coupled with United losing to FC Cincinnati would give the Red Bulls a home game.
"We've battled before in playoff matches, and now it becomes a playoff-type of match for us and a must-win in our minds," Red Bulls coach Chris Armas told reporters. "I think it becomes, quite honestly, more about us. We have a lot to play for."
The Red Bulls would prefer to hold home-field based on their splits as they are 5-0-5 in the last 10 home matches against likely first-round opponent D.C. United. The Red Bulls kept their home unbeaten streak alive with last Sunday's 0-0 draw against United in a game where only three of its 15 shots were on target.
The Red Bulls left three points on the table May 8 when they gave up goals 15 minutes apart in a 2-1 loss to the Impact.
At the time, the Impact were 6-4-2 and were in a three-way tie for first place in the Eastern Conference. Since then Montreal (11-17-5, 38 points) is 5-13-3 in its last 21 contests.
The Impact are winless in their last four contests (0-3-1) and 1-6-2 in their last nine games since getting a 4-0 home win over Philadelphia on July 27.
Montreal was officially eliminated from the playoff race last Sunday when it played a 1-1 tie at home against the Atlanta United. Bojan Krkic scored the tying goal in the 81st minute while Clement Diop made five saves in his MLS debut after Evan Bush did not start for the first time in 67 MLS matches.
"What we have to take care of is the fans and the situation
The Colorado Rapids will take the field at Los Angeles FC on Sunday looking to extend the storied career of goalkeeper Tim Howard for at least one more game.
On the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff race, the Rapids (12-15-6, 42 points) are a long shot to become playoff eligible, but they do have a chance. The scenarios are daunting, but Colorado needs to defeat LAFC on Decision Day, with Dallas and San Jose losing their season finales.
The Rapids also can live to see another day if Dallas loses, San Jose ties and they can defeat LAFC by two goals.
Howard, 40, already announced this would be his last season. He is in his second stint in MLS, having played for the New York MetroStars from 1998-2003 and then starting his current run with the Rapids in 2016.
Howard also played 399 Premier League matches with Everton and Manchester United, with 121 appearances for the U.S. Men's National team.
He has seen it all in a lengthy career, but even he is amazed that after a rough start, when the Rapids were winless over their opening 11 games (0-9-2), they still have a slim chance to make the playoffs.
"This season has been crazy. It's up and down," Howard said, according to the Denver Post. "By the grace of God and some resiliency we've ended up in the conversation. I don't know how, but we are there somehow."
Even after clinching a playoff spot long ago and already wrapping up the 2019 Supporters' Shield, LAFC (20-4-9, 69 points) remain motivated. A victory would leave the second-year club with an MLS-record 72 points, one better than the mark the New York Red Bulls set last season.
And forward Carlos Vela needs one more goal to break the tie with Atlanta United's Josef Martinez for most goals scored in a single season. Vela is currently at 31 in 30 games played.
"There is still much to fight for," Vela said, according to the Los Angeles Tim
The Los Angeles Galaxy will head to Colorado on Wednesday night looking for revenge and fighting for playoff survival, while the host Rapids will try to continue to move forward under their new head coach.
After sitting toward the top of the Western Conference standings much of the season, Los Angeles (13-12-3, 42 points) is now in eighth place, one spot below the playoff line. A 1-0 loss to Colorado in May -- the Rapids' first victory of the season in their 12th game -- looms large now.
For Colorado (9-14-6, 33 points), the playoffs are not likely, but the future suddenly looks bright with consecutive shutout victories in the first two games under new head coach Robin Fraser.
"We have a spirit about this team that we were always a gritty team and we worked hard, but now we're putting football into it," Rapids forward Jonathan Lewis said. "We're going to be a hard team to beat going forward."
The Galaxy can expect to see a pressing defense from the Rapids, who have always tried to take advantage of the altitude of the Denver area, doing it to perfection under Fraser in Saturday's 2-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders.
The Galaxy are 0-1-2 their last three games, but scoring goals has not been a problem. They have hit the back of the net eight times in that stretch. Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has five of those goals and seven over his past five games.
Three teams are one point ahead of the Galaxy in the standings, while Los Angeles is just four points out of second place. A victory is key, but it will have to come without midfielders Jonathan Dos Santos (Mexico) and Sebastian Lletget (U.S.), who are with their national teams.
"Right now we are in the eighth position, but if we beat Colorado, maybe we get (up to) third position," Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. "Everything is very close to each other, and we need to be ready to win. This moment of the season i
Atlanta United FC and the New England Revolution could meet in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. First, there is some intrigue surrounding their final regular-season meeting.
Specifically, that's whether reigning MLS MVP Josef Martinez will suit up when Atlanta hosts the Revolution on Decision Day Sunday.
Second-place Atlanta (17-12-4, 55 points) is tied on points with Philadelphia, and currently holds the tiebreaker. New England (11-10-12, 45 points), headed to the postseason for the first time since 2015, owns the East's seventh and final playoff spot, but could end up in sixth place pending results of Sunday's action.
At the moment, these clubs would square off in a playoff opener the weekend of Oct. 19-20, and Atlanta star Martinez (26 goals) should be fit by then from a leg injury suffered Sept. 21. However, United coach Frank de Boer told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week that it's up to Martinez, himself, if he wants to return for this regular-season finale.
"I'll be surprised if he doesn't play (Sunday)," Atlanta defender Michael Parkhurst said via BS The Podcast as posted on the official MLS website.
"(But), maybe they'll wait the extra two weeks and give him time."
After losing at New York City FC and drawing 1-1 at Montreal in the past two games, Atlanta would like to build momentum heading into the postseason. It also has the talent to make up for another game minus Martinez, and it doesn't hurt to be at home, where the team is in the midst of an 11-1-1 stretch.
The Revolution, meanwhile, have been one of the biggest stories of the MLS season. They've overcome a 2-8-2 start and the sacking of coach Brad Friedel on May 9 to earn a playoff spot with the legendary coach Bruce Arena in charge.
"It's a great achievement from the whole group," defender Antonio Delamea told the Revolution's official website. "But, we don't want to s
A team can't ask for much more than to be in control of its own destiny when it comes to earning an MLS home playoff game.
Such is the case for D.C. United Sunday as it hosts FC Cincinnati on the final day of the MLS regular season.
Game time is 4 p.m. ET.
D.C. (13-10-10, 49 points) sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and holds the final spot to host a home playoff game. The lead is a perilous one as the New York Red Bulls are one point back at 48, with Toronto FC another point behind at 47.
"One last game here and the goal is to win, as it is most home games," said D.C. coach Ben Olsen. "This one has a little bit more weight to it because of what's at stake the week after, and we certainly want to reward our fans with another home game after this weekend. We don't want this to be the last time we play at Audi Field."
FC Cincinnati (6-22-5, 23 points) has the worst record in the league, and in last week's 1-1 draw against Orlando City, the team set the single-season MLS record for goals allowed with 75.
"We have to try to show one more time that we are capable of getting points and maybe even beat an opponent," said Cincinnati coach Ron Jans, whose team lost to D.C. United 4-1 on July 18.
Despite looking like a walkover for D.C., the team will be without Wayne Rooney, who is serving a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.
The team has played without Rooney before because of a suspension, and Olsen said he knows his team just needs to rise up in this final regular-season game.
"It's in our control," Olsen said. "We've done a great deal to get to this point, and we don't want to spoil it. The foot is still on the gas, and it needs to be that way for the rest of the season."
--Field Level Media
Holding onto the final playoff spot in the MLS Western Conference, FC Dallas closes the regular season by hosting Sporting Kansas City Sunday afternoon and will clinch a spot in the postseason with a win.
While Dallas could advance without a win -- and backing into the playoffs would be better than not qualifying at all -- Dallas players aren't looking anywhere else for help.
"Our season could be over, so this is a playoff game for us," midfielder Brandon Servania said. "We need three points. We can't go into the game thinking any other way."
Dallas (12-12-9, 45 points) still could make the playoffs with a draw if San Jose loses or draws at Portland. Even with a loss, Dallas would get in if San Jose loses at Portland and Colorado loses or draws at Los Angeles FC.
There's no scenario that can get Sporting KC (10-15-8, 38 points) into the MLS playoffs, thanks to a five-match winless streak (0-4-1). They'll be on the outside looking in for the first time since 2010.
There's not much to play for, except building for the future for individual players.
"My expectation is that we'll continue to perform at a high level," Sporting coach Peter Vermes said. "A guy can play really well and it wouldn't do much for his cause. But a guy who does poorly in these games could have a negative effect."
FC Dallas has lost at home just once all year and just eight times over the past five seasons. However, the club is winless in four matches since defeating FC Cincinnati on Aug. 31. Last Sunday's 3-0 loss at Colorado kept the Rapids' playoff aspirations alive and represented a missed opportunity to clinch a postseason berth with a game to spare.
Sporting holds a narrow 25-24-12 edge in an all-time regular season series that dates back to the inaugural 1996 MLS campaign. Dallas won the most recent meeting on July 20 at Children's Mercy Park. The last time these teams met at Toyota Stadi
New York City FC have already secured the top spot in the Eastern Conference for the upcoming MLS playoffs. The Philadelphia Union, meanwhile, still have their sights on a possible second-place finish.
That leaves something potentially on the line in this Decision Day matchup Sunday, when the Union host NYCFC at Chester, Pa.
New York City (17-6-10, 61 points) had its 7-0-2 stretch end with a 2-0 loss at New England last Sunday. However, by virtue of Philadelphia's mesmerizing 2-0 loss at Columbus the same day, NYCFC will finish first in the East.
"(In) preseason, we always talk about goals as a team," defender Sebastien Ibeagha told NYCFC's official website. "Our goal was to get a better seeding (than third in 2018) going into the playoffs, and that was one thing.
"I think as a team, we always knew what we were capable of, and what we still are capable of."
Third-place Philadelphia (16-10-7, 55 points) is six points back of City and tied in points with Atlanta United, which owns the tiebreaker. So, the Union need a result here and help from New England, which faces Atlanta, to move up to second.
The Union are coming off a 1-2-0 road stretch, but are 10-2-4 at home, where they have not lost since late May. Coach Jim Curtin also feels his side is poised to rebound from that seemingly lackluster effort at Columbus.
"I know this group, and I know they will respond well," Curtin told the Union's official website.
"It's a great season still, (but) we have work to do against New York City in the final game to hopefully move up."
With the No. 1 seed sewn up, it's uncertain what type of starting XI NYCFC coach Domenec Torrent will feature. Or if stars Heber (15 goals), Maxi Moralez (seven goals, 20 assists), who just signed a new two-year Designated Player deal, and Valentin Castellanos (11 goals) will see much action.
Moralez had two goals with t
Decision Day has no playoff implications for the Chicago Fire and Orlando City SC when they meet Sunday afternoon in Orlando, Fla.
Both the eighth-place Fire (9-12-12, 39 points) and the 11th-place Lions (9-14-10, 37) had their playoff hopes dashed with draws last week while the New England Revolution clinched the final playoff spot with a 2-0 home upset of Eastern Conference champion New York City FC.
So, the best both Chicago and Orlando City can do now is finish in eighth place in a four-team race that includes the Montreal Impact and Columbus Crew, who both enter Sunday with 38 points.
"I think we want to finish the season on a positive note and to win the game," Orlando City coach James O'Connor said. "I think that's important to for everyone."
A season-ending win would definitely lessen the pain for the Lions, who enter the contest winless in their last seven matches (0-3-4) and needed a Benji Michel goal in stoppage time last week to garner a 1-1 draw at last place FC Cincinnati.
"It's trying to manage the frustration," O'Connor told the Orlando Sentinel. "We're all feeling, I mean the coaching staff - I don't want to use too strong of a word, but we're frustrated. For us, it's trying to make sure you manage that in a productive way."
Some of the positives for the Lions has been the play of Portuguese International and former Manchester United star Nani, who is the first player in franchise history to register double digits in both goals (12) and assists (10) in a season while the City defense has tightened up to allow just 47 goals, nine fewer than the team record set in 2015.
"We can point to a number of things and go that's better, that's better, that's better," O'Connor said. "But equally, when you don't make the playoffs, we're really irritated and really frustrated, all of us."
Chicago comes in off a 2-2 draw with Toronto FC in its final game