Time to pop champagne and break out the beer: New York City FC are going to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.
The team clinched last night without taking the field after FC Cincinnati’s surprise loss at home to an insurgent Chicago Fire guaranteed a playoff berth for New York City.
Seven and counting
NYCFC’s seven-year streak is the third longest in MLS, trailing only New Jersey Red Bulls (13) and Seattle Sounders (13), although Seattle currently sit in 11th place, and are in danger of missing the playoffs this year for the first time in club history. In fact, New York City’s seven-year streak is the seventh-longest in MLS history, matching runs put up by Dallas Burn (1996-2002), and Real Salt Lake (2008-2014).
NYCFC’s accomplishment is all the more impressive when you put it in the context of other MLS teams that have joined the league in the last 10 years. Orlando City (2015) are in contention to make the playoffs for the third straight year, but they didn’t qualify in their first five seasons. High-performing Atlanta United were eliminated this weekend, and also failed to qualify in 2020. LAFC won the Supporters’ Shield in their second year of existence, and could clinch a second shield with a win today, but they didn’t qualify last year when they finished in 9th place.
NYCFC were all but guaranteed to make the postseason this year after defeating the New Jersey Red Bulls two weeks ago – there was only a single, fantastical scenario that would have knocked New York City out, and it involved Orlando City overcoming a -20 goal differential – but the club must be pleased with how yesterday’s MLS upsets are shaping the playoff picture, and putting pressure on other teams.
The day started with New England Revolution knocking Atlanta United out of playoffs by scoring an 85th-minute winner just four minutes after Josef Martínez’s overhead golazo gave his team hope. That was followed by Charlotte FC’s 4-0 upset of Philadelphia Union, dealing the winners of the Eastern Conference their worse loss of the season. While the game has no direct effect on NYCFC’s playoff picture, it could undo Philadelphia’s hold on the Supporters’ Shield while keeping Charlotte’s hope alive to make the postseason.
Then came Columbus Crew’s stoppage-time win over New Jersey, stalling the Red Bulls at 50 points — and putting third place in play for NYCFC. Finally, there was the Cincinnati implosion at home that clinched a playoff spot for NYCFC.
Really, the day couldn’t have gone better for NYCFC if it had been scripted by interim head coach Nick Cushing. Other teams at the top of the Eastern Conference not only lost their games, they lost their cool: Philadelphia ace defender Kai Wagner received a red card, as did Cincinnati’s Sérgio Santos.
When NYCFC face Orlando City later today at a rainy Red Bull Arena, it’s crystal clear the Pigeons will be playing to secure home-field advantage. A win will guarantee a home game in the first round of the playoffs and lift the team into third place heading into the Decision Day.