Atlanta United is in the seventh and final playoff spot in the East. Here is the table:
1. New England, 70
2. Philadelphia, 49
3. Nashville, 49
4. Orlando, 47
5. NYCFC, 44
6. Red Bulls, 43
7. Atlanta United, 43
8. Montreal, 43
9. D.C. United, 41
10. Inter Miami, 38
11. Columbus, 38
Atlanta has four games remaining, a sequence that starts on Wednesday against Miami at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. With the exception of Red Bulls, which Atlanta United will play next week, eight of the other nine teams have three games remaining. New England has two games remaining but it can’t be caught by anyone.
The teams that finish Nos 2, 3 and 4 will get to host at least one playoff game.
To get to fourth, Atlanta United must make up those four points on the Lions, and hope that NYCFC, Red Bulls and Montreal don’t go on winning streaks.
A look at the remaining schedules in the competition for the fourth spot:
Atlanta United (43): vs. Miami, vs Toronto, at Red Bulls, at Cincinnati.
Montreal (43): at Red Bulls, vs. Houston, vs Orlando.
Red Bulls (43): vs. Montreal, vs. Atlanta United, at Nashville.
NYCFC (44): vs. Chicago, at Inter Miami, vs. Philadelphia.
Orlando (47): at Columbus, vs. Nashville, at Montreal.
Atlanta United’s toughest remaining game is at Red Bulls. It should take nine of a possible 12 points from its four games. It would finish with 52 points.
If the team finishes with that total, for Atlanta United to finish in fourth, the Lions would need to win no more than four of its12 remaining points to avoid tie-breakers, which I’m not going to attempt to break down.
The rest of the math is easy:
NYCFC needs to win no more than seven points from its remaining games.
Red Bulls need to win no more than eight points, and that includes the three that I think they will take from Atlanta United.
Montreal needs to drop only one of its remaining nine points.
Other than its own games, I think the most important match for Atlanta United’s fate will be on Decision Day when Montreal hosts Orlando. The Lions are the team that Atlanta United is trying to catch, therefore its points/dropped points are the most pertinent in the presumed scenario. Orlando’s next two games are tough. Columbus is technically still alive in the playoff chase. Dropping points against Orlando would end that.
The next most important match will happen Saturday when Red Bulls host Montreal. A draw would be the best result for the Five Stripes. If that happens, the Red Bulls can’t win more than eight points and Montreal would have dropped two points. Both would be eliminated from the presumed scenario.
The third would be NYCFC hosting Philadelphia, also on Decision Day. NYCFC should win its next two games.
Should Atlanta United finish with 52 points, it could still catch either Philadelphia or Nashville for second or third, but that would require those teams taking no more than three points from their remaining games. The teams could finish tied but, again, I’m not going to go into that rabbit hole just yet.