This is it.
The annual day in Major League Soccer where every team in MLS plays their final match of the regular season. Well, except for this season because we have an odd-numbered league, but Charlotte FC will fix that in a few months from now.
Some teams’ playoff dreams will be realized, while others’ hopes will be crushed. It is the culmination of the long and grueling MLS season where the high-stakes games are a taste of what is to come in the playoffs.
In the 2021 edition of Decision Day, there will be a whopping 11 teams with a chance to claim the six remaining playoff places. Simply qualifying for the playoffs won’t be the only thing at stake on Decision Day, though; seeding and crucial home field advantage will also be on the line.
To say the pressure is on would be an understatement.
Decision Day will be this Sunday, November 7th with all the Eastern Conference games starting at 3:30 pm ET and the Western Conference games following at 6 pm ET.
New England smashed this conference all year long, so the No.1 seed in the East is old news. But beneath them, this conference is pure chaos going into Decision Day.
Philadelphia, Nashville, and New York City join New England in having already clinched their spots in the playoffs, but they will all spend Decision Day jostling for a higher seed and home field advantage.
Below them, only three spots remain for six clubs to scratch and claw their way into.
Atlanta, Orlando, New York, Montréal, D.C. United and Columbus are all in the hunt, but some have easier routes than others.
Columbus and D.C. must win their games and hope that other – significant – results go in their favor to make playoffs. Orlando will be going to Montréal in what is essentially a first-round playoff game; the winner will qualify at the expense of the other, but Orlando holds the advantage in needing only a draw.
The Red Bulls will need to at least tie against second-place Nashville, who are never fun to play against. Atlanta also needs to tie in order to advance, but theoretically have an easier matchup against 3-time back-to-back-to-back Wooden Spoon champs, Cincinnati. If you’re new here, that’s the informal trophy for last place in the league.
Over in the West, none of the top three seeds seem to want to clinch that first round-bye, as Seattle, Kansas City, and Colorado pass around the No. 1 seed like it’s a game of hot potato.
Seattle holds a slim, one-point advantage over their two rivals, but have to go on the road against one of the league’s hottest teams, the Vancouver Whitecaps. Kansas City and Colorado will play host to two teams with their backs against the wall: Real Salt Lake and LAFC, respectively.
Speaking of teams fighting for their seasons, five teams are battling for the remaining three playoff spots. Minnesota, Vancouver, LA Galaxy, Salt Lake, and LAFC are all in the mix with their fates hanging in the balance on Decision Day.
After poor starts to their seasons, both Minnesota and Vancouver are just a draw away from making playoffs. However, for the LA Galaxy, it is must-win game against Minnesota to control their own fate. With a tie, they will have to rely on other results to make the playoffs.
For the other Los Angeles team, however, it is strictly a must-win game along with needing help elsewhere to advance.
Real Salt Lake missed their chance to clinch their spot with their home loss to the Timbers on Wednesday. Now, they have to win away at Sporting Kansas City and, well, that’s not a situation any team in the league wants to be in.
By the way, the Portland Timbers can put their feet up on Sunday. They are locked into the #4 seed regardless of any Decision Day results.
MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi
Another story to keep an eye on is the tight MLS Golden Boot race. The following are the top four goal scorers in contention:
Taty Castellanos (NYCFC) – 18 Goals
Ola Kamara (DC United) – 17 Goals
Raúl Ruidíaz (Seattle) – 17 Goals
Dániel Sallói (Kansas City) – 16 Goals
Adam Buksa of New England (16 goals) has a foot injury that will keep him out of their season finale.
There are also four players who are tied at 15 goals but, let’s be honest, the odds of any of them topping the list are slim to none. So, let's just focus on the top four.
If there is a tie, then the winner would be determined by number of assists. Of the top four, both Castellanos and Salloi lead the way comfortably in that category with eight assists each.
These four players’ teams all have a lot to play for on Sunday, so their goals could be crucial in securing playoff positioning along with the Golden Boot award.
Castellanos, given his one goal lead and significant assist advantage over Kamara and Ruidiaz, seems the safest bet to take home the award.
MLS prides itself on being the epitome of “anything can happen” and Decision Day is the definition of that. Tune in on Sunday, because things are about to get crazy.