Nashville SC

Nashville SC playoff scenarios and rooting guide: the Penultimate Peril

There is just one Nashville SC game left – and nine total involving Eastern Conference teams. Where will Nashville SC finish in the table? Who should NSC fans be rooting for?

The scenarios

FC Cincinnati did Nashville no favors by losing to Philadelphia Union Saturday evening. That means the Union is level with Nashville SC on points, and ahead on tiebreakers. Nashville can still finish second by outdoing Philly’s result on Decision Day, but can also finish fifth if a nightmare scenario (that looks frighteningly realistic) comes to fruition. But first, the options:

Result v. NYRB2nd3rd4th5th
Win.667.333
Draw.333.667
Loss.593.370.037

There are four games left that can affect Nashville SC’s seeding, and thus 81 permutations (3^4). Given that we’re controlling for the result against Red Bulls, there are 27 permutations possible in the other three games combined. With a win or draw, the only one that remains relevant is Philly v. NYC. With a loss, getting passed by NYC and Atlanta is a possibility.

But the only way to finish fifth is for Atlanta to win Wednesday and Saturday, NYC to beat Philly on Decision Day, and after losing to NYRB, Nashville finishing at the bottom of a four-way tie for second. Assuming all results are equally likely (whereas in reality, Atlanta>Cincy is basically a layup, while the other three games may be even battles).

The Rooting Guide

What should NSC fans want in the midweek?

New York Red Bulls >= Atlanta United • 6:30 p.m. Wednesday

A Red Bulls win here is ideal: it seals New York in the playoff field (maybe reducing a bit of motivation/urgency for Decision Day?), and also prevents Atlanta United from staying in striking distance of Nashville. A draw accomplishes the latter, but doesn’t seal the former unles…

CF Montreal =< Houston Dynamo • 6:30 p.m. Wednesday

A draw is probably the move here, because it keeps the Eastern Conference looking good (particularly a team that Nashville went 1-0-2 against), but only if Red Bulls match the result to stay ahead of Montreal – and on tiebreakers, unable to be caught by the Impact.

FC Cincinnati >= Atlanta United • 2:30 p.m. Sunday

LOL never mind. At least there’s a chance Red Bulls make it not matter?

NYCFC >= Philadelphia Union • 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Any help from the Pigeons and Nashville SC has the opportunity to finish No. 2 in the table. That means two home playoff games (barring upsets), which would be, to me, “neat.”

The upside for Nashville is that all teams the Boys in Gold will be pulling for are at home (aside from Houston at Montreal, a game with only limited relevance). As for homefield advantage in a trip to MLS Cup – which would almost certainly require an upset at New England Revolution, so we’re dealing in heavy hypotheticals here – there is a very small group of Western Conference teams in play: Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps(!). If Nashville wins on Sunday, neither can catch the Boys in Gold. But on 49 and 48 points, respectively, and with a game in-hand apiece, those guys dropping points would be nice:

LAFC >= Vancouver Whitecaps • 9:30 p.m. Tuesday

Any dropped points for Vancouver end the hope of catching Nashville.

Real Salt Lake > Portland Timbers • 9:30 p.m. Wednesday

A draw wouldn’t be the worst here (it would then require a Nashville loss and a Portland win on Decision Day for Nashville to drop a spot), but getting this taken care of midweek would be nice. Plus, an RSL home win reflects positively on Nashville, which earned a draw in Rio Tinto. Also, you want it over midweek because…

Portland Timbers =< Austin FC • 5 p.m. Sunday

Austin bad. Hoping for Austin win scary.

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