It is all happening this Sunday when MLS brings us
1) Decision Day 2015
Taking its cues from the English Premier League Major League Soccer will give us a final day extravaganza of soccer to close out the regular season.
With 10 games taking place, all 20 MLS teams will play on the final day of the season and all of Sunday’s games are conference matchups. The Eastern Conference games are set to begin at 5pm ET while the West gets underway two hours later.
The simultaneous kickoffs are meant to prevent any skullduggery while also providing an extra dollop of drama. MLS made a late schedule change, moving the N.Y. Red Bulls match at Chicago to a 7pm start to keep it in line with Supporters Shield rival FC Dallas vs. San Jose.
2) Meaningless Games? Nope
In a stroke of good fortune for the league, none of the six clubs already eliminated from playoff contention will play one another on Sunday, meaning that every one of the 10 games on Sunday will have postseason implications.
3) On the Bubble?
In the east Orlando are looking to become a rare expansion team to make the playoffs in year one. Facing huge odds the Lions travel to Chester, Pennsylvania to face the already eliminated Union. Orlando will need to win big while hoping that New England continue its late-season swoon with a loss to non-contenders NYCFC, a big loss.
A seven-goal edge in goal difference will ultimately sink Orlando, but the Lions have done well as newcomers to make it to the last day still alive.
Out west seventh place San Jose have compiled 47 points and sit just one back of both Sporting Kansas City and the Seattle Sounders. A point further up the charts sit Portland and Vancouver, although the Whitecaps have qualified for the second season along with L.A. and first place FC Dallas.
The Earthquakes will travel to Frisco to take on FCD, no easy task, while Sporting are home to the defending MLS champion Galaxy. The Sounders play host to no hopers Real Salt Lake and the Timbers welcome last place Colorado while trying to lock down a playoff spot.
4) Who’s Number 1?
The New York Red Bulls lead the equally surprising FC Dallas in the race for the Supporters Shield and the prize of home field advantage that goes with it.
Jesse Marsch (N.Y.) and Oscar Pareja (Dallas) have each done remarkable work to top their respective conferences, and with 57 points each, one of the two will lift the Shield on Sunday.
New York earned the silverware two years ago under Marsch’s predecessor Mike Petke, but the two MLS veterans are well aware that the real prize is the MLS Cup.
Both sides have tricky matchups on Sunday with New York traveling to the Second City to face Chicago, who always give them fits, while Dallas stay home to play playoff chasing San Jose.
5) Playoff Format
This year’s MLS postseason will feature 12 teams, up from 10 last year. The addition of two new clubs, Orlando SC and NYC FC brought about the change, so let’s take a look at this year’s format.
The top two teams in each conference receive a bye while the remaining playoff qualifiers play once off games to move on. 3 plays six while 4 goes against 5 to advance to the Conference semifinals.
The semis are played in a two game home and home set with the higher seed getting the second home match. The 1st seed goes against the lowest surviving seed while the higher ranked team goes against the conference runners up.
The Conference Final will be played on the same basis and then it is on the MLS Cup Sunday, December 6 at the home of the highest remaining seed.