New England has the no. 1 seed in the East locked up for the 2021 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, and with 48 points no. 2 Nashville has created slight separation. No. 4 Orlando City’s 1-0 win against Cincinnati brought it within one point of no. 3 Philadelphia.
Just below the top four, five teams currently ranked from fifth to ninth place are all within two points of each other: Atlanta (42), D.C. United, Montreal (41), New York City and New York (40). With three of these teams playing two matches this week, there’s potential for some movement in the standings.
Here’s a look across the table heading into Week 31:
5-seed Atlanta (11-9-9; 42 points): Atlanta had a massive victory on Saturday with a 2-0 victory on the road against Toronto. The result vaulted the club three spots from eighth to fifth place and into playoff position. The 5-Stripes return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for three straight games at home. Up first, NYCFC on Wednesday.
6-seed D.C. United (12-12-5; 41 points): D.C. is in the middle of a challenging stretch with back-to-back meetings against the no. 1 and no. 2 teams in the conference. A tie with Nashville in Week 30 dropped it one spot. D.C. hosts New England on Wednesday before traveling to take on NYCFC on Oct. 23.
7-seed Montreal (11-10-8; 41 points): A draw with Philadelphia allowed Montreal to hang on to the final playoff spot. Montreal has two away matches this week. First, it travels to face Orlando City on Wednesday, then returns to Canada to take on Toronto on Oct. 23.
New York City (11-11-7; 40 points): New York City dropped out of a playoff spot after a 1-0 loss to the Red Bulls. It faces Atlanta next on Wednesday before returning home to take on D.C. United at Yankee Stadium on Saturday.
New York (11-11-7; 40 points): Arguably one of the hottest teams in the conference, the Red Bulls climbed up the table with a significant 1-0 victory against its in-state opponent NYCFC. It has one match this week against Columbus on Saturday, Oct. 23.
In the mix:
Columbus (10-12-7; 37 points), Inter Miami (9-15-5; 32 points).
What Atlanta United can do this week:
The club returns to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the place where it’s played its best soccer, for three straight games. Over the next 10 days, Atlanta hosts NYCFC (Oct. 20), Inter Miami (Oct. 27) and Toronto (Oct. 30). Atlanta won its last meetings against Inter Miami and Toronto. It lost to NYCFC on June 23.
Three clubs in the no. 5-9 spots play two matches this week (Atlanta is not one of them), so there’s potential for a shake-up in the standings. If Atlanta wins on Wednesday and Montreal beats Orlando City, then Atlanta would move as high as fourth place heading into the weekend. (In that situation, Atlanta and Orlando City would be tied in points and wins, but Atlanta has the advantage in goal differential.) With two games next week for the 5-Stripes, starting the three-game homestand with a win is vital for maintaining momentum in the season’s final stretch.