MLS Cup playoffs – Who can clinch, who has work and what’s at stake in Week 32

With just a few games left in the 2022 MLS season, and after a string of midweek games, the picture of the playoffs — along with the Golden Boot and MVP races — is starting to become clearer.

Here’s a look at what’s at stake in this weekend’s matchups from a playoff perspective.

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Saturday 17 September

New York City FC vs. New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls secured a playoff berth this week and look set to sit third in the Eastern Conference. It looks a little trickier for NYCFC in fourth place. They have a four-point lead over Orlando City SC in the standings, but the boys in purple have a game in hand and will face NYCFC in Week 33. NYCFC defeated Atlas in the Campeones Cup on Wednesday night, so fatigue could be a factor for the hosts in this derby.

Atlanta United vs Philadelphia Union

Union leads the Supporters’ Shield race by 63 points and shows no signs of slowing down. Atlanta United clinched a massive win midweek in Orlando and are suddenly back in contention for a playoff spot, just two points off seventh, but chasing teams all with a game in hand. It’s a must for the home team against arguably the best team in the league.

New England Revolution vs. CF Montreal

There’s still some sand in the Revs’ hourglass, but it’s starting to thin out. With 38 points in 10th place in the East, three from the playoff spots, New England are desperate for a win, but judging by the Revs’ dismal performance in Houston on Tuesday in a 3-1 loss, it is easy for fans to feel pessimistic. Montreal secured a place in the playoffs and secured second place in the Eastern Conference.

Orlando City SC vs. Toronto FC

Orlando City is fifth on 42 points and has yet to beat NYCFC for fourth place and a home playoff game in round one. Three points can go against a 13th place Toronto FC side and it takes a miracle to reach the postseason.

Chicago Fire FC vs. Charlotte FC

Technically both are still alive, 11th and 12th in the East, and Charlotte FC have four games left instead of just three, but with 35 points each (six adrift of seventh) it’s hard to see one of the two wins and skips teams before it.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United

It’s too little, too late for Sporting Kansas City, who have won back-to-back but are still nine points adrift of last-place West. Minnesota can’t win by a win, but a win could put the Loons in fourth place and a home playoff game should Nashville stumble.

Austin FC vs. Nashville SC

Speaking of which, Nashville is fourth and just a point ahead of Minnesota in the West and now faces a side from Austin FC, who secured a playoff berth on Wednesday and are comfortably second in the conference. In this clash of America’s two music cities, there is also an MVP and Golden Boot fight between Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar and Austin’s Sebastian Driussi. Mukhtar leads the scoring race with 22 goals to Driussi’s 20, but there’s a feeling that anyone who scores here and emerges victorious can seal the MVP honor.

Real Salt Lake vs Cincinnati FC

This is the ultimate hanging on game. Seventh in the West on 43 points, RSL are looking to fend off a Galaxy team three points down but with a game in hand. Cincinnati sits sixth in the East with 42 points, but is within reach of eighth-place Atlanta United and ninth-place Inter Miami. For either team, a win would go a long way towards earning a place in the playoffs. a loss would be harmful.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders FC

Vancouver’s playoff hopes are slim at best, being six points behind and three to play, but the Sounders are suddenly four points from a playoff spot with four games to go. Their 2016 Houdini act that took them from basement to MLS Cup champions was impressive, but if they could make the postseason this year, it would be stunning. A win in Vancouver would bring them closer to that.

LA Galaxy vs. Colorado Rapids

The Galaxy were miserable in a 3-0 defeat in Vancouver midweek and missed a chance to reach RSL’s seventh place in the table. Three points from the playoff zone but with a game in hand it must be urgent in Los Angeles. The Rapids are 10th with 39 points, four behind in seventh and with two teams ahead with a game in hand. Hopes for the postseason look bleak.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas

FC Dallas can return to the playoffs with a win against already eliminated San Jose and points lost by Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy. The Texans are on track to host in the first round.

Sunday 18 September

Columbus Crew vs. Portland Timbers

A long weather delay in Miami on Tuesday night ended in defeat for Columbus, leaving the crew in seventh place on 41 points, just two ahead of Inter in eighth. Sunday isn’t going to get any easier against the Timbers, who could easily jump into the Top 4 in the West with a win or feel the heat of missing the playoffs with a loss. It’s a crucial game for both of them.

DC United vs. Inter Miami CF

It’s been a yo-yo season for Inter Miami but a win at last-placed and eliminated DC United could see Phil Neville’s group end the night in a playoff spot should Columbus slip against Portland. This must be three points for the visitors against Wayne Rooney’s team.

LAFC vs. Houston Dynamo FC

LAFC have just four points from their last 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 secured themselves first place in the conference. Going up against the eliminated Houston is the perfect opportunity to put the ship back on track. MLS Cup playoffs – Who can clinch, who has work and what’s at stake in Week 32

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