Because of a weather delay in Columbus, Ohio, the Crew knew by halftime it had clinched the last playoff berth in the Eastern Conference on the final day of the MLS regular season Sunday.
But Gyasi Zardes' three goals gave the Crew a 3-2 victory over Minnesota United at Mapfre Stadium, meaning the Crew (14-11-9, 51 points) finished fifth and will play a knockout game at fourth-place D.C. United midweek.
The Crew and D.C. are equal in points and wins but D.C. owns the second tiebreaker with a plus-10 goal difference compared to the Crew's minus-2.
If the Crew had not won they would have played the single-elimination match at third-place New York City FC.
Montreal could have overtaken the Crew with a win and a Columbus loss or tie, but the Impact lost 1-0 to New England earlier in the day.
Scores by Zardes in the 11th and 49th minutes gave the Crew a 2-0 lead before Francisco Calvo rallied Minnesota with goals in the 68th and 77th minutes.
Zardes responded in the 83rd minute by putting in a cross from Niko Hansen for his first career hat trick. He has 19 goals this season, 17 at home, to top his previous best by two.
Minnesota (11-20-3, 36 points) ended its second MLS with four straight losses.
All 11 MLS games started at the same time Sunday but a storm in the 10th minute forced a 68-minute delay at Mapfre Stadium.
A minute after play resumed, Zardes scored on a header from a Milton Valenzuela service despite being surrounded by three defenders.
Zardes made it 2-0 when Minnesota goalkeeper Matt Lampson, a Columbus native and former Crew, spilled the rebound of a Federico Higuain free kick and Zardes was there to put it away.