It’s the biggest game of the MLS regular season: Atlanta United versus New York Red Bulls, #1 versus #2 in the standings with just 4 matches remaining. It has huge implications for the Supporters’ Shield race, playoff seeding, and even history. Here’s what’s at stake for the Five Stripes at Red Bull Arena:
The Supporters’ Shield
This game won’t clinch the Supporters’ Shield for either side, but it has huge implications in the race for the best regular season record. Atlanta United has some breathing room; with a four-point gap over the Red Bulls, the Five Stripes control their own destiny even in a worst-case scenario and a loss in New Jersey. A draw, on the other hand, would keep a comfortable four-point gap with just three matches to play and a win would all but wrap up the Supporters’ Shield race by extending their lead to seven points – including a chance to clinch the title next weekend at home against the New England Revolution.
Concacaf Champions League
There’s one remaining spot open for next year’s Concacaf Champions League, the international competition between the top clubs in North America. That spot goes to the team with the best aggregate record over the past two seasons, and Atlanta United is on the verge of securing their spot. It’s a simple clinch scenario: win and they’re in. They have a few matches remaining to do it, but three points this weekend would clinch their spot for next year’s tournament and would mark a major achievement for the club. It would also mean success in one of the club’s primary goals for this year’s regular season.
Winning the Supporters’ Shield is more than just a regular season achievement: It has implications in the playoffs as well. Winning this match would go a long way toward clinching the #1 overall seed in the playoffs, which would guarantee home-field advantage throughout the postseason – meaning a MLS Cup Final in Mercedes-Benz Stadium if they are to reach that stage.
Regular Season Points Record
Atlanta United currently sit at 63 points on the season so far, with four matches left to play. The all-time regular season record for points in a season was set last season by Toronto FC, who ended the season with 69 points. Two wins and a draw is what the team needs to set a new benchmark for MLS regular season success, and a win in the hardest game left on the schedule would go a long way toward securing it.
While team success comes first, there are a few individual achievements to keep an eye out for this weekend. Another goal for Josef Martinez would be his 50th in MLS. Meanwhile, Miguel Almirón and Julian Gressel each sit one assist off the league lead, so a strong performance this weekend could propel them to the top.
With so much on the line, this is a match you won’t want to miss. Tune in to ESPN at 1:00 p.m. EST on Sunday to follow along, or click here for all the different ways to catch the match.