MLS Weekend Preview: Decision Day promises clarity

Decision Day draws the MLS regular season to a close with simultaneous matches at 5:00p.m. ET (Eastern Conference) and 7:00p.m. ET (Western Conference, plus Chicago Fire - New York Red Bulls) on Sunday.

Danny Wild/Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Red Bulls set their sights on the Shield

The only piece of silverware handed out on Deadline Day is en route to Toyota Park. New York Red Bulls (57 pts., +18 GD) enter the final match of the regular season tied on points with FC Dallas (57 pts., +12 GD) for the Supporters Shield. If the Red Bulls claim a victory at Chicago or match FCD’s result against San Jose, then they will secure a second Shield in three years. It is no certain feat — Chicago boasts a fine home record against the Red Bulls — but the Red Bulls are in position to celebrate in Bridgeview if the evening proceeds according to plan.  

Earthquakes hold the key to Western Conference drama

All of the other moving parts out West hinge on the Earthquakes’ ability to disrupt FCD’s Shield challenge. San Jose (47 pts., +3 GD) needs at least one point in Frisco to keep hope alive. A draw brings Sporting Kansas City (48 pts, +2 GD) back within sight on tiebreakers depending on the result at StubHub Center, while a victory sucks Portland (50 pts., -1 GD) and Seattle (48 pts., +6 GD) back into mix. But those permutations — intriguing and potentially crazy as they are — require the Earthquakes to frustrate FCD and snatch a result. It is a task within their means given the defiance and the organization employed from week to week, but it is a difficult assignment nevertheless.

Sporting Kansas City must produce after midweek flop

Crew SC host D.C. United … with one eye on Montréal

Columbus (50 pts., 0 GD) moved into position to leapfrog D.C. United at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday (live, 7:00p.m. ET, FS1, FOX Sports GO) with a critical victory at Toronto FC last weekend. The triumph at BMO Field slid Crew SC into third place heading into Decision Day, but it also stripped away Federico Higuain and Kei Kamara (ending his quest to overtake Sebastian Giovinco for the Golden Boot in the process) for this affair due to caution accumulation. If Crew SC cannot compensate for the missing stars, then Toronto FC (49 pts., +1 GD) or Montréal Impact (48 pts., +3 GD) stand to benefit at Stade Saputo.  

Orlando City must score and hope in Philadelphia

MLS veers away from predictable outcomes week after week, but Orlando City (44 pts., -9 GD) requires something truly unforeseeable to sneak into the playoffs. The expansion side must defeat Philadelphia by a large margin at PPL Park and hope New England (47 pts., -1 GD) tumbles to a heavy defeat at New York City FC. Orlando City needs a win, a Revolution loss and an eight-goal swing on goal difference to tip the scales. Adrian Heath and his players are in the midst of a stirring five-match winning streak, but they must produce their best to somehow pull off this feat by the time Decision Day winds to a close.