What you need to know

"Messi Meets America" comes to Apple TV+ on October 11

The first three episodes of "Messi Meets America,” the highly-anticipated documentary about Lionel Messi joining Inter Miami CF, will premiere Oct. 11 on Apple TV+. Additional episodes of the six-part series will be viewable later in the season.

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Sorting through the race for the top four in the East

The West has been such a hellscape of teams desperately trying to not win soccer games the last few weeks that we’ve almost forgotten the East has its own issues to sort out. We know Cincy have the top spot locked up, but the last four matchdays of the season will tell us which of the six teams below them earn a top-four spot. In a conference with as many MLS Cup-caliber teams in one year as I can remember, you’re going to want as many home games as possible.

What makes the race for the top four particularly interesting is the fact MLS schedule makers really outdid themselves. Each team is going to play multiple games against the teams they’re competing directly against. Here’s what the top-four picture looks like for each candidate:

  • Points: 54
  • Remaining games: at Nashville, vs. New England, at Toronto

The Lions should feel very comfortable at this point. Nashville can’t catch up at this point, the Revs are potentially the weakest team of the group and Orlando get to face Toronto to close the year. They have a four-point advantage on the fifth-place Crew and can pretty much sit back and watch as the teams below them scrap it out. They’d essentially have to lose out to miss out on the top four. Even then, they might be ok. But this team is too good to lose out. And they get to play Toronto.

Likely outcome: Top four, probably second place

  • Points: 52
  • Remaining games: vs. Columbus, at Orlando, at Nashville, vs. Philadelphia

The Revs have the benefit of holding a game in hand on the teams chasing them. They’ll play four more games instead of three. The problem is, it’s hard to envision a more difficult four-game stretch.

Maybe in the end we’ll see this as an iron-sharpening iron moment for New England as they come into the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs as battle-tested as any team and make a run. But there’s also a chance we see this as the stretch that dropped the Revs out of the top four and exploited a few of their fatal flaws. Both scenarios feel plausible.

Honestly, New England are the most interesting group of this entire bunch. Over the chaos of the last month or so, they’ve been blessed with what was probably the weakest schedule in MLS. Since Leagues Cup, they’ve faced exactly one team currently above the playoff line: Ninth-place CF Montréal. They took nine points from those seven games. We’re about to find out a lot about the Revs and it’s fair to worry we might not like what we see.

Likely outcome: Probably top four thanks to getting Columbus and Philadelphia at home, plus an extra game to add points (but I wouldn’t put money down on it)

  • Points: 51
  • Remaining games: vs. Atlanta, vs. Nashville, at New England

The Union have been in a weird place lately. They’ve looked like a Union team that’s just going through the motions of doing the kinds of typical Union things we’ve come to expect. The intensity hasn’t been at the level we’ve come to expect. That means they’ve merely been good. Not great. Just good.

Since Leagues Cup, they’ve won twice while earning draws over the course of their last five games. Somewhere in all that, they managed to lose to Toronto. Like I said, it’s been weird.

Draws won’t get the job done the rest of the way. It feels like we keep saying it, but it’s time for Philly to step on the gas. I’m increasingly worried they may have forgotten where the pedal is. Then again, every time I start to worry about the Union, they remind me why that’s a dumb idea in the first place. No idea where we end up here.

Likely outcome: Seriously, no idea. But it seems like there’s a good chance experience, plus two home games gets them over the line?

  • Points: 50
  • Remaining games: at New England, at Atlanta, vs. Montréal

The Crew are excellent, the most fun team in the league, etc., etc. They also have two road games over their last three matches. Sometimes you just have to defer to the laws of MLS. It’s hard to see them pulling this out.

That being said, we’ve already talked about our concerns with the Revs. Philadelphia aren’t piling up wins lately. And they get CF Montréal at home on Decision Day.

Likely outcome: Probably missing out because road games, but then again…

  • Points: 49
  • Remaining games: at Philadelphia, vs. Columbus, at Cincinnati

Atlanta caught a couple of breaks here. Philadelphia and Columbus wasted their game in hand by drawing with each other. Then, Cincy went ahead and clinched the Supporters’ Shield. If they get wins over Philadelphia and Columbus, they’ll be feeling very, very good about their chances heading into Cincy on Decision Day on Oct. 21. Honestly, just winning those first two games might make Decision Day irrelevant depending on how things fall. Considering how hot Atlanta have been, it’s certainly plausible.

At the same time, it’s not all that likely. Subaru Park has rarely been kind to the Five Stripes and the Crew are more than prepared to handle a track meet in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And even a rotated and resting Cincy team won’t be easy points.

Likely outcome: It might all depend on whether they beat Philadelphia, but the best bet is they come up just short

  • Points: 45
  • Remaining games: vs. Orlando, at Philadelphia, vs. New England, vs. Red Bulls

It looks like a pretty big gap between Nashville and the rest of the bunch, but the Coyotes have an extra game in hand and three home games to close the year. Plus, they get six-pointers against Philadelphia and New England. If they can grab a win at GEODIS Park tomorrow against Orlando, they’re very much in this. If not, well, that’s probably that for their top-four hopes.

Would anyone be surprised if they pulled this off though?

Likely outcome: Short in the end. That’s a tough stretch and they probably have to jump too many teams. Please don’t blast this out on social media when they win four straight games, though.

Other things

San Diego MLS makes historic announcement for training facility, youth academy: San Diego's forthcoming MLS club has made several key steps before their 2025 debut season, announcing Sunday the location of a new state-of-the-art training facility that will include a Right to Dream residential youth academy. The Right to Dream Academy will accommodate students ages 11-18 spanning grades 6 through 12. Housing and classroom facilities for academy members will be provided through renovations of the existing Singing Hills Hotel. Facilities will be made available to students, professional players and staff working on campus.

St. Louis CITY's Klauss named Player of the Matchday: João Klauss helped St. Louis CITY SC make history in Matchday 35, and now he’s been recognized as the Player of the Matchday presented by Continental Tire. The Brazilian striker scored twice in a 4-1 rivalry victory over Sporting Kansas City at CITYPARK, a result that made CITY SC the first expansion club to record 17 wins in their inaugural season (excluding the shootout era). After other results, the club also clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and a spot in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup.

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Good luck out there. Go ahead and wrap things up.