It all comes down to this. Decision Day. A full day of MLS action to determine, once and for all, the teams who will get to continue their season, and play for the ultimate prize, the MLS Cup. After a draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps, and a favorable result elsewhere on Wednesday, LAFC will not only need to win on Sunday to advance, but will need to keep an eye on the scoreboard, as they need help from around the league.
**CAUTION: Mathematics Ahead**
First, the simple part. LAFC have to win. Not draw, definitely not a loss, but need the entire three points on the road, against the Colorado Rapids. Anything short of a win makes the rest of the scenarios a moot point. The last time these two teams met was way back in May, when LAFC came away with a 2-1 victory at home. Plenty has changed since then. The Rapids have found incredible form, and a mid-season move is being heralded as the reason for the team’s boost that now has them in third place, fighting for top spot in the Western Conference. That move, was for former LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, who some LAFC fans had soured over during his final few months with the black and gold. Many on Colorado’s side view his arrival as the catalyst for their incredible run this season.
Before we continue, let’s clear up the tie breakers, if teams are equal on points at the end of the season. The first tiebreaker, wins. The team with more wins advances. If the win total is equal, the next tiebreaker goes to Goal Differential. Luckily, those are the only two LAFC will need to worry about. A win would put them at 48 points total for the season. Real Salt Lake, who suffered a 3-1 loss on Wednesday, is one of the teams LAFC need to keep an eye on. An RSL win puts them at 48 points, but gives them 14 wins to LAFC’s 13, meaning they would advance. So, we need RSL to either lose or draw in their match.
In addition, LAFC would like either one of, or both, Minnesota United and Vancouver Whitecaps to lose, as it would keep them both at 48 points, with LAFC maintaining the tiebreakers over both teams. The drama isn't just at the bottom of the Conference standings though, as the opponent, should LAFC make the playoffs, has yet to be decided.
The aforementioned fight for the top spot in the conference is a 3-team battle, but for the purpose of this example, should LAFC get into the postseason, it would mean the Rapids have lost out on the chance at winning the conference, leaving just Sporting KC and Seattle Sounders as potential first-round opponents for the black and gold.
WHEW. Take a breath. While the scenarios are anything but, one thing is very clear, this Decision Day is one of the better ones MLS has seen in quite some time. The only job the team have for Sunday, the only thing they can control, is getting a win. Everything else will have to fall into place, and when the dust settles, hopefully LAFC have one more chance, at MLS Cup glory.
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