As summer ends and the calendar flips to September, time is running out for teams to make a move in the playoff race. With each club having somewhere between six and nine games remaining, it's now or never for playoff berths and seedings. On Saturday night, in each conference, one game in particular will have a huge say in the final table.
Crew SC vs NYCFC | 8pm ET
Both teams are mortal, if not yet mathematical, playoff locks. But the current No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in the Eastern Conference would each like to improve their standings heading into the playoffs.
NYCFC have fallen six points adrift from the first-round bye granted to the top two finishers in each conference, and seven points off the New York Red Bulls for the Supporters' Shield. Barring an incredible dip in form from both RBNY and Atlanta United, and a phenomenal run through City's last eight games, the Shield isn't a realistic goal. But they can still put pressure on a first-round bye, should either Atlanta or New York stumble a bit.
For Crew SC, Saturday night is about fending off the surging Philadelphia Union, who are now just one point behind Columbus after beating D.C. Unitedon Wednesday night. Level on games played, the race for a home knockout game will be vicious for the rest of the season. The two teams will meet head to head when Crew SC host the Union at the end of September.
Real Salt Lake vs LA Galaxy | 10pm ET
Winners of two straight, RSL have jumped to fourth place in the Western Conference, though they are sixth in points per game (PPG). Albert Rusnak has been awesome and Jefferson Savarino has two goals and four assists in his last four games. RSL can create further distance between themselves and the playoff line on Saturday night.
The Galaxy, meanwhile, are falling. Without a win in their last five games, it truly is do-or-die for LA in Utah. If RSL topple the Galaxy, they'd fall six points back of Salt Lake. We just had a World Cup without Zlatan Ibrahimovic; will we have a 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs without him, too?
Let's see if he conjures up some magic for the big occasion.