Just a few matches remain in the 2022 MLS season, and after a midweek slate of games, the playoff picture -- along with the Golden Boot and MVP races -- is starting to become clearer.
Here's a look at what's at stake from a playoff perspective in this weekend's matchups.
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Saturday, Sept. 17
New York City FC vs. New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls clinched a playoff spot this week and look destined to settle in at third place in the Eastern Conference. Things are slightly trickier for NYCFC in fourth place. They hold a four-point lead over Orlando City SC in the standings, but the boys in purple have a game in hand and will square off with NYCFC in Week 33. NYCFC beat Atlas on Wednesday night in the Campeones Cup, so fatigue could be a factor for the hosts in this derby.
Atlanta United vs. Philadelphia Union
The Union lead the Supporters' Shield race with 63 points and are showing no signs of slowing down. Atlanta United got a massive midweek win in Orlando and suddenly are back in the mix for a playoff spot, just two points off seventh, but are chasing teams who all have a game in hand. It's a must-win for the home side against arguably the league's best team.
New England Revolution vs. CF Montreal
There is still some sand left in the Revs' hourglass, but it is starting to thin out. Sitting 10th in the East with 38 points, three out of the playoff places, New England must be desperate for a win, but judging by the Revs' dismal display in Houston on Tuesday in a 3-1 loss, it's easy for fans to feel pessimistic. Montreal have clinched a playoff spot and have all but sewn up second place in the Eastern Conference.
Orlando City SC vs. Toronto FC
Orlando City are fifth with 42 points and can still run down NYCFC for fourth place and a home playoff game in Round 1. Three points can be there for the taking against a Toronto FC side in 13th and requiring a miracle to reach the postseason.
Chicago Fire FC vs. Charlotte FC
Technically both are still alive, in 11th and 12th in the East, and Charlotte FC still have four games to play rather than just three, but with each sitting on 35 points (six back of seventh) it's hard envisioning either winning out and leapfrogging the teams in front of them.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United
It's too little, too late for Sporting Kansas City, who have won two in a row but are still nine points back for the last spot in the West. Minnesota can't clinch with a win, but a victory could push the Loons into fourth and a home playoff game should Nashville stumble.
Speaking of... Nashville are fourth and just one point ahead of Minnesota in the West, and they now take on an Austin FC side who clinched a playoff spot on Wednesday and are comfortably second in the conference. In this battle of America's two music cities, there is also an MVP and Golden Boot battle between Nashville's Hany Mukhtar and Austin's Sebastian Driussi. Mukhtar leads the scoring race with 22 goals to Driussi's 20, but there is a sense that whoever can score and emerge victorious here will be able to seal MVP honors.
Real Salt Lake vs. FC Cincinnati
This is the ultimate "hanging on" game. RSL are seventh in the West with 43 points and trying to fend off a Galaxy team three points behind but with a game in hand. Cincinnati are sixth out east with 42 points but within striking range of eighth-place Atlanta United and ninth-place Inter Miami. For both teams, a win would go a long way toward securing a playoff spot; a loss would be damaging.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders FC
Vancouver's playoff hopes are slim at best sitting six points back with three to go, but the Sounders are suddenly within four points of a playoff spot with four games to play. Their 2016 Houdini act that saw them go from the cellar to MLS Cup champions was impressive, but if they can reach the postseason this year, it would be jaw-dropping. A win in Vancouver would edge them closer to it.
The Galaxy were abysmal midweek in a 3-0 loss in Vancouver and lost the chance to equal seventh-place RSL in the table. Three points out of the playoff zone, but with a game in hand, there has to be urgency in Los Angeles. The Rapids are 10th with 39 points, four back of seventh and with two teams in front of them who have a game in hand. Postseason hopes look grim.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas
FC Dallas can make a return to the playoffs with a win against already-eliminated San Jose and dropped points from Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy. The Texans are on track to host in first round.
Sunday, Sept. 18
Columbus Crew vs. Portland Timbers
A long weather delay in Miami on Tuesday night ended in a loss for Columbus, leaving the Crew seventh with 41 points, just two above Inter in eighth. It doesn't get easier on Sunday against the Timbers, who could easily leap into the top four out west with a win or could be feeling the heat of missing the playoffs with a loss. It's a pivotal game for both.
D.C. United vs. Inter Miami CF
It's been a yo-yo season for Inter Miami, but a win at last-place-and-eliminated D.C. United could see Phil Neville's bunch end the night in a playoff place should Columbus slip up vs. Portland. This has to be three points for the visitors against Wayne Rooney's side.
LAFC have just four points from their past six games, but the leaders in the West are still in the Supporters' Shield race with 61 points, two behind Philly, and have all but clinched top spot in the conference. Going up against eliminated Houston is the perfect opportunity to right the ship.