Gonzalo Higuain - Inter Miami - running upfield
USA Today Sports Images

MLS Cup Playoffs chase: Six Eastern Conference teams vying for two spots

The Eastern Conference field for the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs is largely set after Wednesday night’s games, with eight teams now securing their spots.

But there are six clubs beneath that contingent who head into the final stretch not knowing what their future holds. They’re vying for two spots with the East’s playoff field expanded to 10 clubs this season.

While some face better mathematical odds than others, here’s a synopsis of how things stand for each of the six clubs that are still chasing postseason glory.

Before diving in, here are the eight Eastern Conference teams that have already qualified as sorted by points (highest to lowest): Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC, Columbus Crew SC, Orlando City SC, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution and Nashville SC.

Current holders

9) Montreal Impact

23 points, 2 matches to play: vs. ORL (11/1), at DC (11/8)

The Impact have lost four of their past five games, yet have a two-point cushion for ninth place. Given D.C.’s overall rise in recent weeks, their Decision Day encounter against the capital crew on Nov. 8 could prove particularly decisive. Either way, Thierry Henry’s side will need to find some consistency and really buckle down.

10) Inter Miami CF

21 points, 2 matches to play: at TOR (11/1), vs. CIN (11/8)

Inter Miami will hope to become the seventh expansion side to qualify for the playoffs, and it’d have to be considered a failure if they don’t. When you spend big on Blaise Matuidi, Gonzalo Higuain and Rodolfo Pizarro, the results are expected to follow. Their year-end schedule is surprisingly favorable, too, since Toronto are dealing with a laundry list of injuries.

The chasers

11) Chicago Fire FC

21 points, 3 matches to play: at NSH (10/31), at MIN (11/4), vs. NYC (11/8)

With a game in hand, Chicago have an ace up their sleeve that other East playoff chasers don’t. But that also could work against them, since they’ll play what are essentially three do-or-die games over a nine-day span, starting with a three-day turnaround against a surging Nashville SC side. It doesn’t get any easier from there, with Minnesota and NYCFC both well above them in the overall league table.

12) D.C. United

21 points, 2 matches to play: at NE (11/1), vs. MTL (11/8)

A tiebreaker (total wins) has D.C. United narrowly outside the playoff picture, a fact that few envisioned when interim head coach Chad Ashton took over from longtime manager Ben Olsen in early October. Yet the Black-and-Red have won three straight and carry serious momentum in two year-end games they’ll consider to be winnable. Stranger things have happened in 2020, right?

13) Atlanta United

19 points, 2 matches to play: vs. CIN (11/1), at CLB (11/8)

The Five Stripes are now winless in six (0W-4L-2D) and have lost three straight. They’ll need to leapfrog a few teams to sneak in, though current form and overall vibes suggest Atlanta very well could miss the playoffs for the first time since entering MLS in 2017. For a club that has so profoundly shaped the league, as highlighted by an MLS Cup victory in 2018, it’d mark a serious fall from grace.

14) FC Cincinnati

16 points, 2 matches to play: at ATL (11/1), at MIA (11/8)

While not officially out, FC Cincinnati face extremely long odds to make the playoffs. They’ll need to win out and have several tiebreakers fall their way, so it’s increasingly likely that their first two MLS seasons will end without playoff soccer. When you’ve barely scored 0.5 goals per game (11 times in 21 matches), it’s unsurprising to see them bottom of the East.