Nashville SC is on the cusp of the playoffs. The Boys in Gold still control their own destiny when it comes to making the postseason, but there’s no shame in looking for a little help, either.
Nashville can technically still finish as high as fourth – but could also end up as low at 13th in the Eastern Conference. Here’s a look at this week’s games of note (and the results from last week), as well as some scenarios for playoff possibilities.
Charleston Battery 1, Toronto FC 2 – this kept fourth place on the table for Nashville (NSC runs the table, Charleston loses out, Indy and NCFC both drop points in at least one game).
Ottawa Fury 0, Bethlehem Steel 0 – Nashville controls its own destiny for passing either of these teams. Nashville has one game in hand on Bethlehem and two on Ottawa, and they’re both within two points on the table.
North Carolina FC 3, Richmond Kickers 2 – this kept NCFC ahead of Nashville on tiebreakers. NSC needs a better record in the final three games than North Carolina gets in order to pass them.
Atlanta United 1, Louisville City 4
Charlotte Independence 2, Pittsburgh Riverhounds 2
Penn FC v. Charlotte Independence
5:30 p.m. Wednesday • Follow/stream
You don’t have a strong rooting interest in this one: Charlotte is six points behind Nashville and Penn is nine back. All three of those teams have three games left to play. Theoretically, the winner of this one could catch (or if it’s Charlotte, pass) Nashville in the stretch run. A draw or Penn win here muddies up the bottom of the table… in a way that makes it unlikely either can challenge for a playoff spot.
Atlanta United 2 v. Tampa Bay Rowdies
6:00 p.m. Wednesday • Follow/stream
Tampa made a late surge after a bunch of signings close to the roster deadline. However, their loss to Indy over the weekend made it very tough for them to really make it into the playoffs without a clean sweep to the end. You want Atlanta to win, helping that dream die (at the hands of a Baby Five Stripes team that’s already eliminated from playoff contention).
Toronto FC II v. Louisville City FC
7:00 p.m. Friday • Follow/stream
These teams’ playoff positions are settled: Toronto was the first team eliminated from the postseason, whereas LCFC is basically locked into hosting a first-round game (though they haven’t quite clinched it). With TFCII playing Nashville in the midweek, it comes down to the motivation factor: if they beat LCFC, they have a chance to not finish bottom of the table with a win over NSC (pending Nashville’s result against Richmond Saturday), and taking that option off the board might see them mail it in a little more next Wednesday. Louisville is your choice here.
Indy Eleven v. Bethlehem Steel
6:00 p.m. Saturday • Follow/stream
Both these teams are ahead of Nashville, but in reachable distance (they each give up a game in-hand to NSC) if things go well to close the year. With Indy on 48 points and Bethlehem on 46, you either want the Steel to win, or the teams to split points to avoid either of them opening up a bigger lead on Nashville.
North Carolina FC v. New York Red Bulls II
6:00 p.m. Saturday • Follow/stream
This game is being played right in Nashville’s neighborhood – not geographically so much as on the table. All three teams have 31 games played, with North Carolina and Nashville both on 44 points (North Carolina is ahead on tiebreakers, with 12 wins to Nashville’s 11), and New York on 43 points: the margins are razor-thin here. It’s tough to root for either team, and if they split points, Nashville controls its own destiny to finish ahead of both with a win in Richmond. Otherwise, a North Carolina win means that Nashville controls its destiny to finish ahead of the Red Bulls (which would mean “in the playoffs” in the vast majority of scenarios) thanks to holding a tiebreaker in the standings right now.
Tampa Bay Rowdies v. Charlotte Independence
6:30 p.m. Saturday • Follow/stream
Tampa is four points behind Nashville right now, while Charlotte is six back. Each also has a midweek game, so the rooting interest here depends upon those results this evening. A draw makes it tough for either of them to catch up, but it’s totally possible that one or both is already eliminated by the time this one rolls around. If one wins tonight while the other loses, root for the opposite result when they square off against each other.
This part of the post got really long and I’m going to represent it graphically instead of what I was originally planning to do (it’ll be hopefully easy to understand that way). Hoping to get it out tonight before the end of the games, but otherwise it’ll just be a bit simpler still.