Charlotte FC is on a good run of form with a 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs berth on the line. They have cruised through their last two matches, a 3-0 home victory over Toronto and a 2-0 away victory against Chicago.
Now, just two matches remain: away at Inter Miami CF on Wednesday, October 18th and home against the same Miami side for Decision Day on Saturday, October 21st.
CLTFC are in control of the race. Two wins from those two matches would take the team to 8th place without any need for other results to fall their way, giving the Club a home Wild Card playoff match at Bank of America Stadium.
Match: Inter Miami CF vs Charlotte FC
When: Wednesday, October 18
Where: DRV PNK Stadium
Kickoff: 8:00pm ET
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Charlotte FC 2 – 0 Chicago Fire FC (Major League Soccer | October 7)
Inter Miami CF 0 – 1 FC Cincinnati (Major League Soccer | October 7)
Eastern Conference Table: For the full live table, click here.
8. CF Montreal – 41 points, 33 GP
9. D.C. United – 40 points, 34 GP (eliminated)
---------- Playoff Line ----------
10. New York Red Bulls – 40 points, 33 GP
11. Chicago Fire FC – 40 points, 33 GP
12. Charlotte FC – 39 points, 33 GP
13. NYCFC – 38 points, 33 GP
14. Inter Miami CF – 33 points, 32 GP (eliminated)
Charlotte FC play their long-awaited game in hand tonight against Inter Miami in Fort Lauderdale, before matching up with Miami again in Charlotte on Saturday’s Decision Day. Three points in the first match tonight would vault The Crown all the way to 8th place.
With those two matches remaining, CLTFC are in the driver’s seat. They completely control their own destiny in the playoff race.
Thus, the clearest scenario is this: win both matches and Charlotte FC clinch playoffs as the #8 seed, earning the right to host the Wild Card match. This is, quite obviously, the preferred path, giving the fans a deserved home playoff game.
One win paired with one loss/draw could also do the trick, but CLTFC would need some (feasible) help from other results on the final day of the season.
That’s the simple explanation. If looking for something more complex, dive into this one that breaks down every possible playoff scenario facing CLTFC over the final week of the season.
Injuries and International Duty
Charlotte FC entered the final four matches of the season needing all four wins to qualify for playoffs without any help. They rolled through the first two (3-0 at home vs. Toronto and 2-0 away at Chicago) before facing Inter Miami twice in one week to finish.
However, that four-game stretch was broken up in the middle by a FIFA International Window. This means that both Charlotte and Miami had players making trips to Europe and South America for key qualifying matches, putting their availability for Wednesday into doubt.
Add into the equation the many injury woes plaguing Miami, plus the lack of clarity around their squad selection (given they are already eliminated from playoffs), the picture of who will and will not play is very muddled.
On the CLTFC side of things, Karol Swiderski, Jere Uronen, and Bill Tuiloma all represented their respective national teams. Uronen and Tuiloma both played in matches on Tuesday, putting their status for Wednesday into serious doubt.
Swiderski, though, played 90 minutes for Poland in a key UEFA Euros Qualifier on Sunday and so can make the trip back to the United States in time. The Polish striker has four goals in his last three games for Charlotte FC and scored for Poland in their Sunday match versus Moldova, so his availability is of particular importance.
“He took part in our video session [on Tuesday],” said Head Coach Christian Lattanzio on Tuesday. “I think he will take part in the game, but I don’t know how, yet. We will decide that together.”
On an injury front, the Club will be without Vinicius Mello and Ben Bender. Derrick Jones misses out due to receiving his 11th yellow card of the season, triggering a yellow card accumulation suspension.
For Inter Miami, they will most likely miss Lionel Messi, who played in Argentina’s match against Peru just last night.
However, they have also received quite a few players back from the injury report, including midfielders Jean Mota and Gregore, who have both missed almost the entire season with major injuries. Leonardo Campana and Diego Gomez are also available for selection after injury spells, as well as left back Jordi Alba.
Still, it remains to be seen how many minutes any of these players can play.
Charlotte FC previously lost to Inter Miami 4-0 in the Leagues Cup Quarterfinals. That was, however, a very different Charlotte team from the one that has caught plenty of momentum since Leagues Cup.
“We’re confident even when people had written us off weeks ago,” said CLTFC captain Ashley Westwood after the team’s latest victory over Chicago.
Now, the team needs to take a look at the lessons from their last match against Miami – whose lineup could look very different this time around – as well as how Miami have played tactically as of late.
Caleb Adams took a stab at his own film study in this week’s Ingredients of the Match.
The Season So Far
Charlotte FC’s second season got off to a tough start, with one win, three draws, and five losses in the opening eight matches. However, The Crown were able to stabilize in an extremely congested April and May, rattling off five straight wins at home in the league and the U.S. Open Cup. Over the course of the summer, wins were hard to come by, but the team kept themselves in touching distance of the playoffs with five draws in their last six games before the Leagues Cup break.
Leagues Cup served as a great reset for Charlotte FC. One penalty shootout win and one outright win put them through to the knockout stage as group winners, where CLTFC won two straight road games before falling to eventual champions Inter Miami in the quarterfinals.
Head Coach Christian Lattanzio’s side have been carrying that tournament momentum over to the last third of the MLS regular season but were generally unable to turn draws into key victories. However, they still found themselves in a good position to control their own destiny down the stretch.
A crucial, dominant home victory over Toronto FC got that needed winning streak underway and a clutch win on the road against Chicago continued it.
Now, two matches remain against Inter Miami, and two more wins would be Charlotte FC’s ticket to hosting the Wild Card playoff match.