June 10, 2019 Kennesaw- Josef Martinez, 7, forward for Atlanta United, kicks and scores off of a penalty kick during stoppage during a match between Atlanta United and Saint Louis FC at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. Atlanta United defeated Saint Louis FC 2-0. Christina Matacotta/Christina.Matacotta@ajc.com
Photo: Christina R. Matacotta/Christina Matacotta
Photo: Christina R. Matacotta/Christina Matacotta

Atlanta United can clinch MLS postseason spot Saturday

Atlanta United will clinch a berth in the MLS playoffs with a victory over Columbus on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Five Stripes’ magic number for a postseason spot is 2. Its magic number to clinch the top seed in the East, which comes with a bye in the first round of the playoffs and home-field advantage throughout the East’s postseason, is 18.

Atlanta United is in third in the East with 48 points through 28 games. It has six games remaining in the regular season, three at home and three on the road.  It can take a maximum of 18 points.

The team leads eighth-place Montreal by 11 points. Montreal can finish with a maximum of 49 points because it has four games remaining, starting with Cincinnati on Saturday.

If Montreal loses and Atlanta United loses on Saturday, the Five Stripes will still clinch a spot in the playoffs because the Impact will have dropped three points.

“Win, just win,” Atlanta United’s Justin Meram said. “It’s important for us to win. Take care of the home games. We are coming off a disappointing loss at Philly. We need to get right back to where we left off, especially at home.”

Atlanta United trails first-place by NYCFC by six points, but has played one less game. 

If Atlanta United wins its remaining games it will finish in first in the East with 66 points. One of those wins would come at NYCFC on Sept. 25, which would mean that the Boys in Blue could also finish with a maximum of 66 points. But Atlanta United would hold the first tiebreaker, which is number of wins, 21-19.  Even if Philadelphia, which is in second with 51 points, were to win its remaining five games and finish with 66 points, it would lose the first tiebreaker because it would finish with 20 wins.

“I’m convinced if we win every game we will be at the top of the table,” said Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer, who noted that magic numbers aren’t a thing in his native Holland. “We have everything in our hands. That is our goal.”

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