Nashville SC

How can Nashville finish in the top eight after this weekend?

Photo from file/Courtesy Nashville SC and Major League Soccer

We don’t even know if there’s going to be a US Open Cup to be the carrot at the end of this period, but it’s still worth evaluating – especially because the team looked to be in good position based on schedule – whether Nashville SC can be in the top eight positions in Major League Soccer after this weekend.

If there is a US Open Cup, it would mean the Boys in Gold earn a berth (one of just 16 total, with eight for lower leagues) to that competition. If not, we have a benchmark that the club was open about aiming for, against which to measure the progress.

Where things stand

ClubPointsTo play
LA Galaxy6@ Seattle
Seattle4LA Galaxy
Montréal4Columbus
Atlanta4@ New England
LAFC4@ Houston
Kansas City4@ Real Salt Lake
Vancouver4Colorado
New England4Atlanta
New York City3@ Philadelphia
San Jose3DC United
Salt Lake4.5*Sporting KC
Miami3@ Nashville
Austin3@ Minnesota
Houston3LAFC
Portland3@ Dallas
D.C.3@ San Jose
Nashville2Miami
Orlando2Cincinnati
Columbus1.5*@ Montreal
Philadelphia1NYCFC
Toronto1.5*N/A
Chicago1@ New York Red Bulls
Colorado1@ Vancouver
Dallas1Portland
Cincinnati1@ Orlando
New York Red Bulls0Chicago
Minnesota0Austin
Columbus, Salt Lake, and Toronto only play two games over the first three weeks, so on a PPG basis, they get a x1.5 multiplier for their total.

With one matchdate to play (unless you’re Toronto FC) in this “group stage,” each team can add 0, 1, or 3 points to the total (0, 1.5, or 4.5 for RSL and Columbus).

That means Nashville’s potential point totals are their current 2, a draw against Miami to get to 3, or a win over IMCF to reach 5. As you can see, nine teams have four or greater at this point, which means Nashville can only make the top eight with a win over Miami.

The scenarios

We’ll operate on the assumption that NSC takes victory Sunday – because otherwise the exercise is irrelevant. So what needs to happen for the Boys in Gold to get into that top eight?

For starters: Nashville cannot catch Los Angeles Galaxy. If Nashville beats Miami (again, the only of three potential outcomes that makes this relevant), any team with 0-1 points will finish behind them. That means Philadelphia, Toronto FC (1.5 points, but no chance to accrue more this week), Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Cincinnati, NYRB, and Minnesota are behind Nashville if NSC does enough to give itself a chance to make the top eight, along with the Inter Miami team Nashville would have to beat to get there. Since neither can make it to five points, the Red Bulls-Fire game cannot be relevant to Nashville SC’s chance to make the USOC.

There are a couple games in which Nashville SC will be rooting for a draw, because it leaves both teams stuck behind the Boys in Gold:

  • Orlando v. Cincinnati (a five-point Nashville also finishes ahead of both in the instance of a Cincinnati win)
  • Philly v. NYCFC (a Philly win keeps Nashville ahead of both teams)
  • Dallas v. Portland (A Dallas win keeps both teams behind)
  • Minnesota v. Austin (A Minnesota win keeps Nashville ahead of both teams)
  • San Jose v. DC (a clear winner either way is ahead of Nashville)

The rest of the games have a little more complexity scenario-wise. All told, though, if Nashville is to take care of its business with a win, there’s a very good chance (54,135 of 177,153 relevant scenarios – 46.2% – involve at least getting into a tie for eighth, at which point goal differential this weekend will become relevant) that NSC is either in the 2021 edition of the US Open Cup… or knowing that the berth would have been there in the event the tournament gets fully canceled, rather than its current postponed status.

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