If the season ended today New York City FC would finish in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and host Orlando City in the first round of the playoffs. Not a bad way to begin the postseason.
But the season isn’t going to end today, which is why we pulled out our abacus to figure out what NYCFC need to do to make the playoffs. The simplest answer? New York City have to get four points out of their final three games to guarantee that they will appear in the postseason for the seventh consecutive year.
To be honest, it’s amazing that NYCFC’s recent nosedive in form hasn’t tanked their postseason chances. Even after notching just one win in their last 10 league matches New York City currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 46 points after 31 games, behind New Jersey Red Bulls (50 points, 31 games), and ahead of Orlando City (42 points, 30 games). The 50-point total is the postseason cutoff right now – climb above it, and you’re in – and the number-crunchers at FiveThirtyEight give NYCFC a greater than 99% chance of making it to the postseason.
The playoff picture becomes more muddied if NYCFC get fewer than four points from their final three games. Inter Miami (39 points, 30 games), Atlanta United (39 points, 31 games), New England Revolution (38 points, 31 games), and even Charlotte FC (35 points, 30 games), could conceivably go on a tear and knock NYCFC down to eighth place — and out of the playoffs.
Miami and Atlanta United pose the greatest threats. Even though both teams have put up inconsistent performances in recent games, with Miami posting a 2-0-3 record and Atlanta United going 3-0-2, either team could enjoy a magical run and push NYCFC down the table with three wins and poor performances by New York City.
The battle for home-field advantage in the Eastern Conference is just as tightly contested. Only Philadelphia and CF Montréal are guaranteed home games in the first round, while Red Bulls, NYCFC, Orlando, Cincinnati, and Columbus are all in play for third and fourth place. Even Miami and Atlanta could leap-frog their way up the table.
Once again, NYCFC control their fate. Should New York City win all three games and end the season with 55 points they are guaranteed at least fourth place, and could climb to third place if New Jersey drop points. Even if NYCFC win two of their final three games they stand a strong chance of finishing the season in fourth place.
Thick around the middle
The real fun in the East is found in the middle of the table — only four points separate fifth and ninth place. Orlando, Cincinnati, Columbus, Miami, Atlanta, and New England all have a legit shot of making the playoffs, while Charlotte, Chicago FC, and even 13th-place Toronto FC could conceivably get into the postseason.
The long and the short of it: NYCFC need at least one win and a draw to lock in a playoff spot, two wins to keep a grip on home-field advantage, and three wins to guarantee a home game in the first round. If New York City play like they did on Wednesday against Atlas FC in the Campeones Cup, they have to like their chances.
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