MLS Set for Wild Finish: Every Playoff Scenario Explained

John D. Halloran@JohnDHalloranContributor IIOctober 21, 2013

Major League Soccer has had one of its most exciting seasons ever and as the regular season comes to a close, an amazing seven teams are still alive in the playoff race heading into the final weekend.

Here are the playoff scenarios for each of the seven teams that still have a chance.


While Montreal are currently third in the Eastern Conference heading into their final game, the playoff race is so close that four teams could still leapfrog them, leaving them out of the playoffs entirely.

Oct 19, 2013; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Impact forward Marco Di Vaio (9) celebrates with teammate Felipe Martins (7) after scoring a goal against the Philadelphia Union during the second half at Stade Saputo. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY S
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal have 49 points and are away to Toronto on the final day of the season. If they win, they’re in. If they tie, Houston, Chicago and New England could all jump ahead of them with wins, but all three would need to win for Montreal to be left out.

Montreal can get into the playoffs even if they lose, if New England or Houston loses. If Montreal ties and New England or Houston tie, it doesn’t matter because the Impact have more wins—the first tiebreaker. Montreal can also get in with a loss if Chicago ties, but scores less than five goals.


Chicago is tied with Montreal on points (49) and have two teams chasing them with Houston and New England in striking range (Philadelphia can catch the Fire on points, but not wins—the first tiebreaker).

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Oct 4, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Chicago Fire forward Quincy Amarikwa (left) celebrates with Chicago Fire forward Mike Magee (right) after scoring a goal against the D.C. United during the second half at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial. Mandatory Credit: Paul
Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sport

Chicago is away to New York on Sunday. The Red Bulls have already secured a playoff spot, but can win the Supporters’ Shield in front of their own fans with a win (A tie would also work for the Red Bulls assuming Sporting KC doesn’t win. New York could also win the Supporters’ Shield with a loss if Sporting KC loses or if Sporting ties and scores less than eight goals. Portland is technically still in the Supporters’ Shield race, but need to win and have both Sporting and New York lose. Real Salt Lake could also win if they beat Chivas, New York loses, Sporting KC loses and the Timbers don't win).

Chicago will make the playoffs with a win. They can get in with a tie if Houston or New England loses. If they tie, but New England and Houston both win, Chicago would need Montreal to lose. They could also advance with a tie, New England and Houston wins and a Montreal draw, if the Fire can score at least five more goals in their tie than the Impact does in theirs.

Chicago can also get in with a loss if either Houston or New England loses, or in one final bizarre scenario. If Chicago and Montreal lose, Houston and New England win, but Chicago scores at least six more goals in their loss than Montreal scores in theirs, Chicago would advance.

New England

New England has 48 points, tied with Houston. Philadelphia, with 46 points, could still catch New England as well.

Sep 21, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution midfielder Diego Fagundez (14) kisses the crowd while being hugged by midfielder Kelyn Rowe (11) after scoring a goal against D.C. United during the second half at Gillette Stadium.  The New Englan
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

New England play at Columbus on the final day of the season. New England can get in with a win and a loss from either Montreal, Chicago or Houston. However, if Montreal, Chicago and Houston all win and Houston scores 10 more goals than New England does on the final day, New England would be eliminated, even if they win their final game.

New England is in with a tie if Houston and Philadelphia both lose. They can also advance with a tie if Houston ties, but fails to score at least 10 goals, assuming Philadelphia loses or ties. Finally, New England can advance with a tie if Houston ties, but fails to score at least 10 goals and Philadelphia wins, but fails to score at least eight goals.

With a loss, New England can advance only if both Houston and Philadelphia lose as well.


Sep 21, 2013; Houston, TX, USA;  Houston Dynamo forward Will Bruin (12) celebrates his goal in the second half against the Chivas USA at BBVA Compass Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Houston has 48 points and plays at Eastern Conference bottom-dweller D.C. United in their final game. Houston can advance with a win, but need some help. If Montreal, Chicago and New England all win, Houston would need to win and score at least 11 goals. If one of those three teams loses, Houston advances with a win.

If Houston ties, they can advance with a New England loss and a Philadelphia loss or tie. Houston can also advance with a tie if Philadelphia loses or ties and New England ties, assuming the Dynamo score at least 10 goals.

With a loss, they’re out.


Philadelphia have 46 points and play Sporting KC in their final game. Sporting still have a shot at the Supporters’ Shield, so even though KC is already in the playoffs, they will be looking to win.

Jun 23, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union forward Jack McInerney (9) reacts during the second half against the New York Red Bulls  at PPL Park. The Union defeated the Red Bulls, 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Union need a win and a lot of help. With a win, Philadelphia advances with New England and Houston both losing. They can also advance with a win, a New England loss and a Houston tie, assuming Houston doesn’t score at least two more goals than the Union. Finally, they can advance with a win, a Houston loss and a New England draw, assuming Philadelphia can score at least eight goals.

Colorado or San Jose

Aug 17, 2013; Commerce City, CO, USA; Colorado Rapids forward Deshorn Brown (26) reacts after his goal in the first half against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor

In the West, things are much simpler. Due to San Jose’s draw on Sunday night to the LA Galaxy, Colorado should be in.

Colorado advances with a win or a tie.

They can also advance with a loss, assuming San Jose ties or loses. Finally, Colorado can advance with a loss, even if San Jose wins, assuming that the Earthquakes don’t score 13 goals.

Follow me on Twitter @JohnDHalloran

Follow me on Twitter www.facebook.com/AmericanTouchline

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!