Playoff Fever

So, the 2015 regular season came down to this: Sunday, October 25, 2015.

After almost eight months of competition, it was time to decide which MLS teams head home and which embark on their playoff journey.

#DecisionDay

Heading into the final day, there was a fairly strong idea of who would make it and who might not, but still with plenty still to determine.

Of course, MLS took the opportunity to create some drama and made the day as big as possible with the aptly branded, #DecisionDay. In amongst other accolades – here is what was up for grabs:

  • who earns an Playoff berth, in general;
  • who gets a Knockout Round playoff bye;
  • who wins the 2015 Supporters’ Shield

How this works

The six teams from each conference who finish the 34-game regular season with the most points qualify for the playoffs to bring the total field to 12 participants fighting it out to be MLS Cup Champion

The top two teams in each conference get byes; third through to sixth place teams in each conference play a first round knockout.

How things panned out on the East

In the Eastern Conference, the race for the playoffs was all but wrapped up.

What was to be determined was the prestigious Supporters’ Shield, awarded to the team with the best regular season record – the highest points tally in the league – across both Conference’s over the course of the season.

Going into the final day, both the Red Bulls of the East and FC Dallas of the Western Conference entered the field with an impressive 57-point haul, but it was NYRB’s who edged it with a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire.

This saw them finish the regular season with 60 pints and a 18-10-6 record and for the second time in three years lift the Supporters’ Shield.

They move onto the playoff semi-finals as No. 1 seed, and with Columbus Crew SC annihilating D.C. United 5-0 they vault into the No. 2 spot and earn a Knockout Round bye into the Playoffs.

The rest of the Eastern places are made up of:

  1. New York Red Bulls
  2. Columbus Crew SC
  3. Montreal Impact
  4. DC. United
  5. New England Revolution
  6. Toronto FC

How things panned out on the West

Over in the Western Conference, it was a little different.

There was the on-going surprise at the decline of both current champions LA Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders.

But also multiple scenarios’s of what could occur on #DecisionDay to take certain teams through – there were three playoff spots up for grabs with five teams jockeying for them.

FC Dallas took the top seed, as expected. They were followed by the Whitecaps, who despite heading into the #DecisionDay decider against the Houston Dynamo winless in their last five MLS matches, managed a 3-0 victory and clinching the all-important bye into the Conference Semifinals.

The Portland Timbers 4-1 victory concluded their season with a three game winning streak to take into the playoffs. While the Seattle Sounders were fighting for their playoff lives and gambled by playing both star players (both not fully fit), Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. The gamble paid off with a 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake.

The LA Galaxy, having won just one of their last seven MLS games – and having slipped from No. 1 in the league to No. 5 in the West – finished the regular season with another loss which saw them miss out on a bye into the conference semi-finals, but still with a shot. Sporting Kansas City made up the numbers, so the Western Conference line up looks like this:

  1. FC Dallas
  2. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
  3. Portland Timbers
  4. Seattle Sounders FC
  5. LA Galaxy
  6. Sporting Kansas City

How do things play out now

The top two teams in each conference automatically qualify to the conference semifinals, and enjoy a week break that serves as a reward for regular-season performance.

Meanwhile, the other four teams in each conference face a quick turnaround for the knockout round, which pits the No. 3 and No. 6 seeds and the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in winner-take-all matches hosted by the higher seed.

So the 2015 playoffs officially kick off today with the following match-ups:

  • DC. United (4) vs. New England Revolution (5)
  • Seattle Sounders FC (4) vs. LA Galaxy (5)
  • Montreal Impact (3) vs. Toronto FC (6)
  • Portland Timbers (3) vs. Sporting KC (6)

The post-season is a new season.

The playoffs are like a season in themselves. This is a time when the preceding eight months holds no merit, and situations when teams like the Galaxy can build an edge on past experience, steeled through three MLS Cup titles in the past four years.

With the final chapter still to go, there is plenty to play for and plenty of drama to be had before determining the 2015 MLS Cup Champion on December 6th.

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