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What you need to know

Leagues Cup Showcase continues

A couple of showcase games for you tonight. Two of the three of this week. FC Cincinnati host Chivas at 7:06 pm ET on ESPN, UniMas and TUDN. And Nashville welcome Club America to GEODIS Park at 9 pm ET on ESPN, UniMas and TUDN. Check out the full schedule here.

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The Five Most Critical Games Remaining in the 2022 Season

The international break is already boring. I’m sorry, it just is. I know y’all are hellbent on figuring out who the USMNT’s sixth-string left back will be, but I’m ready to have MLS again. So I figured we’d do some looking ahead and maybe that could tide me over for a bit. There aren’t all that many games left, so here are five to look forward to that may just end up as some of the most important of the season.

Seattle Sounders vs. FC Cincinnati

  • WHEN: Tuesday, Sept. 27; 10 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+

This is our last truly great cross-conference matchup of the year until, well, MLS Cup. In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s our last cross-conference game period. And it comes in a delightfully weird 10 pm ET on Tuesday time slot. A perfect setting for some sickos mode MLS.

We may just see the final breath of Seattle’s 2022 season here. They’re currently 10th in the West after their loss to Vancouver over the weekend. They have a game in hand on everyone above them but the seventh-place Galaxy, who are four points better right now. Seattle almost have to win out or get extremely lucky.

There’s good news though. Cincy are by far their toughest opponent left. After this, Seattle face Sporting KC and San Jose, and as good as SKC have been as of late, that’s still a winnable game. Although, just saying, there is definitely a world where SKC finishes higher in the standings than Seattle. Which…wow. There’s just a two-point gap between them right now.

A Seattle loss would clear a path for the rest of the West to move forward comfortably without Brian Schmetzer and the Playoff Sounders lurking in the shadows for the first time in 14 years. It would also provide a massive boost for FC Cincinnati, who probably need at least one more win to secure their first-ever playoff spot and who are still fighting for the chance to host a playoff game in the first round.

The Knifey Lions are just four points back of NYCFC with a game in hand. If they can get three points against Seattle, they close the year with Chicago and D.C. United.

LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake

  • WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 1; 10:30 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+

RSL just so happen to be the key to mostly everything in the Western Conference playoff race. They’re not only fighting for their own lives, but each of their final two results will have major ramifications for the rest of the West. They’ll enter this one in eighth place and, depending on how the Galaxy handle a Cali Classico on Sept. 24, they’ll be equal on points and games with LA or three points behind. They’ll desperately need a win either way. 

An RSL win over a Galaxy team stuck on 43 points would be huge for the rest of the teams chasing them as well. Vancouver, Seattle and even Colorado will be keeping a very close eye on this one. As will Portland, Minnesota and even Nashville, who still aren’t out of the woods yet. A Galaxy win in the Cali Classico and an RSL win here would put both teams on 46 points, one point ahead of Minnesota and Portland’s current spot in the standings.

Portland Timbers vs. LAFC

  • WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 2; 3 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: ABC, ESPN Deportes

Did I mention Portland have a lot of work to do still? They close the year with LAFC and our final game on this list. All it would take for them to miss the playoffs is back-to-back losses. That’s it. There’s nothing particularly convoluted here. If they lose their final two games, it’s very, very likely they will not make the playoffs. The postseason is starting early for the Timbers. 

They couldn’t even get the benefit of facing an LAFC team that already has the Supporters’ Shield locked in. LAFC face Portland and Nashville to close the season while Philadelphia will go up against Charlotte and Toronto. The degree of difficulty is much higher for LAFC and they’ll need to be at their best over the next two games. Any dropped points probably hands the Shield to Philly for the second time in three years.

Inter Miami CF vs. Orlando City SC

  • WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 5; 8 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+

We’ve been so focused on the West that we almost forgot the East is still kind of a mess too. Three points separate fifth-place Orlando from eighth-place Columbus, and seventh-place Inter Miami. This game was moved because of Orlando's Open Cup run and you have to be impressed by the universe’s sense of drama. Especially considering Columbus will begin playing Charlotte in Charlotte just an hour earlier. We’ve got ourselves a little mini-Decision Day here with a rivalry match turned six-pointer turned possible elimination game for the Herons.

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Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers

  • WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 9; 5 pm ET
  • MLS LIVE on ESPN+

Seriously, RSL are the key to all this. Their schedule has set up to allow them to either play spoiler, save themselves in style, or give massive boosts to the teams above them. Right now, it’s hard to imagine any other game on Decision Day carrying quite as much weight. Even if RSL lose to LA and the Timbers beat LAFC, we’re still talking about a game that will at least help decide who plays a home playoff game in Round One and who doesn’t.

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Good luck out there. Try your best against impossible odds.