With less than two months to go in the MLS regular season, there’s a number of teams battling it out for a playoff spot. If they want to feature in the postseason, then the final push towards the end of the league starts now.
It’s been an extremely exciting and entertaining 2021 season in the MLS, and now it’s heading into the final stages before the playoffs! The majority of franchises have now played 24 matches in the league (at the time of writing), meaning that there’s only 10 games left for them to make the most of.
There’s been battles on the pitch all season in both conferences, and we’re expecting this to continue as we enter the final 10 matches for each team. Here, we’re rounding up how each conference looks heading into the last matches.
The New England Revolution are running away with the lead in the Eastern Conference, 15 points ahead of second-placed Nashville SC. Nashville have two games in hand to close the gap, but even if they were to win both, New England would still have a nine point lead at the top.
Below the top two, there’s just seven points between New York City FC in third, and the 2020 MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew. With not much separating eight teams in the conference, there’s still plenty to play for. Some do have a game in hand on others, so all of this could change in the very next matchday. However, watching this battle in the east for playoff places will be very interesting.
For four of the teams in the East, an appearance in the 2021 playoffs is unlikely. New York Red Bulls are considered the only franchise that could make a last-gasp push for the playoffs, but would rely heavily on other results going their way. For Chicago Fire, FC Cincinnati and bottom of the conference Toronto FC, a disappointing season will be over shortly, so they can look to next year.
In the West, there’s a battle at the top of the conference for first place, with Sporting KC currently top. However, both rivals also challenging for the No.1 spot have a game in hand on the leaders. The Seattle Sounders are just one point behind, whilst the Colorado Rapids are two points, but both could go above KC with a win in their game advantage.
Then, in a similar fashion to the Eastern Conference, the west also has a number of teams fighting to fill one of the remaining playoff spots. LA Galaxy are currently leading the pack in this fight, but only eight points separate them and 10th-placed San Jose Earthquakes. Everything could change between now and the end of the regular season, and that goes for all of the teams involved.
It’s been a disappointing season for all of the franchises based in Texas, as all are bottom of the Western Conference. FC Dallas are one point ahead of state rivals Houston Dynamo, whilst new MLS franchise Austin FC are bottom on 19 points. For Austin, however, they won’t be too disheartened as a brand new team, so are in the process of building their team to challenge in the future.
On Tuesday, it was also announced that in a partnership with Liga MX – the top soccer division in Mexico – a newly-formatted Leagues Cup will start in the 2023 season. All 47 teams, 29 from the MLS and 18 from Liga MX, will take part in a World Cup style tournament partway through the regular season.
The full details have not yet been disclosed, but the competition will work in a similar fashion to the World Cup/UEFA Champions League, with group-stages followed by a knockout process to determine the winner. Known as the Leagues Cup, soccer fans across North America can expect to see an exciting new tournament starting in 2023 – watch this space.
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