It's been an incredible second season for Atlanta United, sitting atop the Supporters' Shield standings for the majority of the year, but it all comes down to the final 90 minutes – Decision Day. On Sunday, ATL UTD will travel to Toronto – home of last year's record-setting and cup-lifting team – to seal their 2018 fate with the hope of raising the first trophy in team history. But there's more than just hardware on the line: history, playoff implications and much more lie on the table for Atlanta. See below for everything you need to know.
The Supporters’ Shield
The past few weeks have sparked a lot of discussion about the Supporters' Shield including various scenarios how Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls could separate themselves from one another at the top of the table. But after 33 grueling weeks, the regular season's most coveted award will come down to the final day. Atlanta United sits one point ahead of the Red Bulls, so the Five Stripes control their own destiny – Win in Toronto = Win the Supporters' Shield. But it's not always that simple, so below are all the scenarios for Atlanta United to clinch the Shield on the final day:
1. Atlanta win against Toronto FC
2. Atlanta draw against Toronto FC AND New York Red Bulls draw against Orlando City
3. New York Red Bulls loss
4. New York Red Bulls tie with less than 8 goals scored AND Atlanta loss by only 1 goal
(In this scenario, Atlanta would beat Red Bulls based on the third tiebreaker – goals scored).
Winning the Supporters’ Shield is more than just a regular season achievement: it has implications in the playoffs as well. Clinching the Shield means Atlanta would lock up the #1 overall seed in the playoffs, which would guarantee home-field advantage throughout the postseason – meaning hosting the second leg of both the conference semifinal and final matchups as well as hosting an MLS Cup Final in Mercedes-Benz Stadium if they are to advance to each round.
Regular Season Points Record
Atlanta United currently sit at 69 points on the season so far, equaling the league's all-time record set by Toronto just last season. So a win (72) or a draw (70) would be enough to set a new benchmark for MLS success, however New York is just behind at 68 points and could also reach that record with a win themselves – so Atlanta will have nothing but three points on their minds. It's set up to be quite the poetic ending to the regular season with Atlanta having the opportunity to both win the Supporters' Shield in the home of its former champion and break the points record held by that same team.
One of the stories of the 2018 season has been Josef Martinez's unprecedented scoring run, currently at 30 goals with one more match to play. The Venezuelan forward cracked the single-season scoring record earlier this season, and while people have been talking about him capturing the Golden Boot for weeks now because of the lead on his competitors, at the final whistle Sunday he will finally be able to claim the award. He will look to add to his historic scoring tally by chipping in on their Decision Day matchup against Toronto an hopefully finishing the season with both the Shield and the Boot. *His next goal will also mark his 50th in MLS in just two seasons in the league
Break the Deadlock
In addition to the awards and the history at stake this weekend, Atlanta United and Toronto FC still have an important unspoken point to prove against each other. In all three meetings in the history of the two teams, they've resulted in an undecided 2-2 draw. A win this weekend would mark the first time one of the teams have an upper hand in the matchup. So while it may not make the headlines among the others this weekend, pride and bragging rights can never be overlooked – particularly among the fanbases.