Last night, the New York Yankees clinched a spot in the MLB Postseason with a satisfying 10-inning 5-4 home win over the Boston Red Sox. Nicely done.
The Yankees have yet to clinch the American League East, but they’re a comfortable 7.5 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, which puts them in the driver’s seat when it comes to the new-look six-team playoff format. If the season ended today, the Yankees would skip the Wild Card round and jump straight into the Division Series, a best-of-five run of games that starts on October 11.
While New York City FC haven’t officially secured a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs, the club is one scoreline away from advancing to the postseason for the seventh consecutive year. If the current table holds, NYCFC will finish in fourth place and host the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs on October 15, 16, or 17.
Do you see where this is going?
Let’s get into specifics. If the current standings remain unchanged in the American League, which seems likely, the Yankees will host Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS on October 11 and 13, play Games 3 and 4 away on October 15 and 16, and host Game 5 (if necessary) on October 17.
Actually, it’s not a bad scenario. That timetable should give NYCFC just enough of a window to host a game at Yankee Soccer Stadium on October 15 at noon or 3 pm ET, and not disrupt the playoff flow of the Yankees. An MLS Cup Playoff game on the 15th will give the grounds crew a 36-hour window before, and a 48-hour window after, to get the
field pitch into shape.
They’ll certainly need to do a better job than what went down earlier this week, when the Yankees were roaming an outfield with visible penalty area lines and a center circle — and lots of scuffed grass inside the box. It was not a good look, something the baseball fat cats certainly won’t allow on a nationally-broadcast game that will fill the coffers at MLB.
The availability of Citi Field is tricker. The New York Mets clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday and lead the National League East by just 1.5 games. Still, they have the second-best record in the National League by a wide margin, and if they keep their spot they will also likely go straight into the Division Series. Based on current standings in the National League, the Mets would host Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS on October 11 and 12, play Games 3 and 4 away on October 14 and 15, and host Game 5 (if necessary) on October 16. NYCFC could play there on October 15 or 17, but if the series goes to five games that gives the grounds crew fewer than 24 hours to get the grass MLB Playoffs-ready.
If the Mets are overtaken by the Atlanta Braves in the regular season, they will play in a best-of-three Wild Card matchup on October 7, 8, and 9. Should they win and advance, they will play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS, and play at home on October 14 and 15 (if necessary). In that case, NYCFC could play at Citi Field on October 17, but there are a lot of what-ifs in that scenario.
The long and the short of it: Yankee Stadium is the stronger choice.
Should we speculate about the MLS Conference Semifinal, to be held on October 20 or 23, and the MLB League Championship Series, to be held from October 18 to 26? Why not.
The American League Championship games will be hosted by the higher seed on October 19 and 20, by the lower seed on October 22, 23, and 24, and again by the higher seed (if necessary) on October 25 and 26.
The MLS Cup Conference Semifinals will be played on October 20 and 23. Should NYCFC advance and maintain home-field advantage, they could play at the Stadium on October 20 or 23 to work around the Yankees, should they advance to the ALCS.
Once again, Citi Field is trickier. The National League Championship Series will be hosted by the higher seed on October 18 and 19, by the lower seed on October 21, 22, and 23, and again by the higher seed (if necessary) on October 24 and 25. And once again, Yankee Stadium works better with the MLS Cup Playoffs schedule.
We won’t bother gaming out the scenarios involving the MLS Conference Finals on October 30, and the World Series, which starts on October 28. Too much can happen between now and then.
But we will note that the MLS Cup Final will be held on November 5, the same day as Game 7 of the World Series. Theoretically, the Yankees could be playing the Dodgers or the Mets in a marquee matchup that would dominate headlines, devour television ratings, and suck in all of the sporting energy in this country like an online betting-powered black hole.
Earlier this year, we reported how the MLB lockout could disrupt NYCFC’s season — it turns out the only direct consequence was moving next week’s game against Orlando City from Citi Field to Red Bull Arena. But maybe a scheduling conflict on November 5 will be the lockout’s real legacy here in Soccerland.
As they say in comedy, it’s all in the timing.
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