When Philadelphia Union faces off with New York City FC today, they have more than just their final place in the Eastern Conference standings on the line.
As MLS clubs increasingly look to test themselves against international competition, landing in Concacaf Champions League and Leagues Cup has become an important goal.
How Things Can Shake Out
Going into match 34 of the season, the Union are even on points with Atlanta United but have only 16 wins while Atlanta is sitting on 17 victories. That means that if both teams win, Atlanta will remain above Philly in the standings since win count would break the points tie.
However, if Atlanta loses or draws, the Union can leapfrog them into second in the east simply by accumulating more points than the Five Stripes — though remember: If both teams draw, Atlanta will win the tiebreaker and remain in second.
The Supporters’ Shield winners, the US Open Cup winners, and the top team from the Eastern Conference have all locked in spots in the 2020 CCL. The final MLS spot will go to the MLS Cup winners.
That means Philly can qualify by winning MLS Cup. Easy, right?
Even though the Union are among the best in the league this year, taking home the trophy still (likely) means going through LAFC on the road. Yikes.
However, there is another way to qualify.
If the Shield winners (LAFC), the Open Cup winners (Atlanta) or the Eastern Conference champs (NYCFC) win the cup, the next highest team in the overall Supporters’ Shield race — basically, stick every team from both conferences together and see who’s next up after the top three.
Right now, it’s the Union. But Minnesota and Seattle could both sneak ahead if they win and the Union don’t.
If Philly draws and Minnesota wins, the Loons could slip by Philly based on a second tiebreaker: Goal differential. Right now, Minnesota is +10 while the Union are +9. Should Philly draw, they would stick with +9 while a Minny victory would improve their number.
After all CCL berths are locked in, the next four teams in each conference get into the Leagues Cup. Right now, the Union would be one of those teams.
So there is a lot at stake on Sunday both for the playoff picture and 2020!
Make sure you’re out there to support the U as they aim for their highest-ever league finish and set themselves up for some big international games next year.