The Eastern Conference table is crowded. New England has the no. 1 conference seed locked up for the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, while Nashville and Philadelphia are looking strong at no. 2 and no. 3. But just below the top three are six teams currently ranked from fourth to ninth place all within five points of each other: Orlando City (42), D.C. United, New York City and Montreal (40), Atlanta (39), and New York (37).
Here’s a look across the table after the international break heading into Week 30:
4-seed Orlando City (11-8-9; 42 points): If the season ended today, Orlando would be the fourth and final team to have home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Orlando gets recently eliminated Cincinnati for its next match on October 16.
5-seed D.C. United (12-12-4; 40 points): D.C. swapped places in the standings with Orlando City after the two teams met on October 2, bumping it from one of the top-four playoff spots. The club has home field advantage for its next match on October 16 when it hosts current no. 2 Nashville.
6-seed New York City (11-10-7; 40 points): New York City has won only once in its last eight matches, a 2-1 victory against Cincinnati on September 18. NYCFC faces the Red Bulls in the only Eastern Conference match on the schedule for Sunday, October 17.
7-seed Montreal (11-10-7; 40 points): The club reached as high as fourth place after beating Atlanta but has since trickled down the standings. In a brief but potentially consequential stretch, it faces Philadelphia on October 16 then Orlando City on October 20.
In the mix:
Atlanta United (10-9-9; 39 points), New York (10-11-7; 37 points), Columbus (9-12-7; 34 points), Inter Miami (9-14-5; 32 points), Chicago (7-16-6; 27 points), Toronto (6-15-7; 25 points).
What’s on the line for Atlanta United this week:
Atlanta travels to Canada for its first matchup since the October international break. The club hasn’t fared well on the road as of late, coming up short in both of its previous road matches (at Subaru Park on September 25 and State Saputo on October 2), but has an opportunity to get its third road win of 2021 against a six-win Toronto team.
Beating Toronto this week would keep Atlanta competitive with contenders in the no. 4-7 conference playoff spots. If Nashville beats D.C. and Philadelphia beats Montreal on Saturday, and if New York City falls to the Red Bulls on Sunday, Atlanta could jump three spots and land as high as fifth place. Currently at no. 8 with 39 points, Atlanta is on the outside looking in for the moment, but three points could lift it higher up the table.