Should you pull for a playoff-clinching set of results tonight? Or is it time to dream big and hope that Nashville SC can finish as high as third in the Eastern Conference? Your rootin’ guide for a near-full slate of Eastern Conference action.
New York Red Bulls > New England Revolution
OR New York Red Bulls = New England Revolution
6:00 p.m. • Harrison, N.J.
Your interest here depends upon whether you want Nashville chasing a point total (NYRB and New England tied at 29 if the Red Bulls win, a point ahead of Nashville), or teams (Nashville behind New England by two points, but ahead of Red Bulls if the teams draw). In the big picture, dropping a spot temporarily in the table gives NSC more opportunity to move up when they complete the game in-hand.
Sporting Kansas City > FC Cincinnati
6:30 p.m. • Cincinnati, in a comically empty Nippert Stadium
Before the season, I jokingly asked how many games it would take for Nashville SC to catch FC Cincinnati in all-time points. If NSC wins out and FCC loses out, the Boys in Gold can equal FC Attendance very soon: after the first gameweek of 2021. Dare to dream.
Atlanta United > Orlando City SC
OR Atlanta United = Orlando City SC
6:30 p.m. • Orlando
This one has similar vibes to the NYvNE game: short-term gains or long-term upside? An Atlanta win would mean Nashville doesn’t yet officially clinch a playoff berth. However, an Orlando loss suddenly makes them seem catchable for Nashville SC – thanks to the six-pointer on Decision Day. It’s still a somewhat slim chance, so I wouldn’t fault you cheering for the sure thing. An Orlando win would almost certainly end any chance of catching the Lions.
Philadelphia Union > Chicago Fire
6:30 p.m. • Chester, Pa.
A Philadelphia win keeps the Supporters’ Shield race tight (and thus provides motivation for both Philly and TFC to help Nashville out the rest of the week). A Fire loss essentially seals Chicago behind Nashville. There would be some positive to a Chicago win – a Fire team that’s closer to locking down a playoff spot might not be as motivated come Saturday in Nissan Stadium – but the alternative is preferred.
Toronto FC > NYCFC
6:30 p.m. • East Hartford, Conn.
One of the easy calls of the night: if TFC can get the win, New York City is just two points ahead of Nashville, and the Boys in Gold have a game in-hand. A chance to earn the first-round bye would beckon, bigtime. Meanwhile, NSC can’t statistically catch Toronto FC, so the Supporters’ Shield argument that applies to Philly also applies to them.
DC United > Columbus Crew
7:00 p.m. • Washington, D.C.
Nashville has already sealed a finish ahead of DC United. Columbus is pretty much out of range, but NSC has every reason to root against the Crew until they officially can’t be caught. THERE IS A SCENARIO that shall be discussed below.
FC Dallas > Inter Miami CF
7:30 p.m. • Frisco, Texas
This game is important for ensuring Nashville makes the playoffs (if you have any slight worry about that at this point). A Dallas win also makes Luchi Gonzalez’s squad relatively safe when it comes to a playoff berth, which takes some of the stakes off their midweek trip to Nashville next week.
There is a possibility that Nashville SC could finish as high as third in the Eastern Conference. It requires basically perfect results from here on out – unlikely! – but here goes:
- Nashville beats Chicago, Dallas, Orlando. Finishes with 37 points.
- Columbus loses to DC, Philadelphia, and Atlanta, and draws Orlando*. Finishes with 36 points.
- Orlando loses to Atlanta, Montreal, and Nashville, and draws Columbus*. Finishes with 33 points.
- New York City loses any of its three remaining games (Toronto, Red Bulls, Chicago), draws two of them, or does anything worse than that. Finishes with 30-36 points
- New England loses or draws any of its three remaining games (Red Bulls, DC, Philadelphia), or does anything worse than that. Finishes with 29-37 points (Nashville holds tiebreaker).
* Nashville would also finish ahead of both Columbus and Orlando if Orlando wins the head-to-head between the clubs.
That would see Nashville finish third in the East. A perfect finish for the Boys in Gold is absolutely necessary. The likelihood that all of this comes to fruition is very unlikely – good luck DC and Atlanta when it comes to staying within two goals of Columbus, much less winning – but hey, it’s fun to dream, right?
Most likely, Nashville is competing to finish fourth at-best, with fifth the most likely ceiling in the standings. We should know a lot more after this evening’s games.
Header photo of Randall Leal encouraging Red Bulls, SKC, Atlanta, Philly, Toronto, DC, and Dallas courtesy Major League Soccer.