MLS Cup playoffs: Who's in, who's out and the matchups if the postseason began today

Major League Soccer fans will be in for a treat. Decision Day is here. Eastern Conference clubs kick off Sunday at 3:30 ET, while Western Conference teams take the field at 6 ET (stream the games LIVE on ESPN+). There are still 12 teams competing for the final six spots in the MLS Cup playoffs. This includes the eight already qualified.
The 14 postseason participants are made up of the top seven conference winners -- the first round bye is for the top seed from each conference. We'll keep you updated on who qualified and who was eliminated as berths have been clinched.

We'll also take a look at possible matchups for Round 1 based on current standings. And we'll breakdown the highly contested race to win the Golden Boot. The MLS Cup playoffs will begin on November 20.

How teams can clinch

Who's in and who's not?

Place clinched in the playoffs:

Eastern Conference: New England Revolution in Nashville SC, Philadelphia Union in New York City FC

Western Conference: Sporting Kansas City, Seattle Sounders FC, Colorado Rapids, Portland Timbers

Eliminated from the postseason contention

Eastern Conference: FC Cincinnati FC, Toronto FC. Chicago Fire FC. Inter Miami CF.

Western Conference: Houston Dynamo FC, Austin FC, FC Dallas, San Jose Earthquakes

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MLS Table - Complete

How teams can book their playoff spots

Atlanta United: Atlanta has it easy. They'll win the postseason if they beat or tie Cincinnati's worst team. The Five Stripes will need help from the Red Bulls (vs. Nashville), or Montreal (vs. Orlando), if they lose to the Ohio team. If all the games go in their favor, Atlanta could still secure a top-four spot and a home win.

Columbus Crew: The Crew needs to win a lot of games to make it into the playoffs. To drop points to Montreal or D.C., they must beat Chicago (and score goals), and Nashville to beat Orlando and Red Bulls. It's a lot, but the Crew still has the MLS Cup from last year.

D.C. United will make it to the playoffs with a win over Toronto and Red Bulls losses to Nashville and Montreal.

CF Montreal: Win, and they're in. The playoffs are guaranteed if they beat Orlando, another postseason-seeker. The Canadian team was surprising regardless of the outcome, with Wilfried Nancy doing a remarkable job as coach.

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New York Red Bulls - RBNY has been strong in the final part of the season, and is on the verge of making it to the playoffs. They're in if they beat Nashville or draw. There is still hope for the Red Bulls if they lose. Montreal must lose to Orlando and D.C., while Columbus and Toronto can tie or lose to Chicago. You can also achieve a top-four finish depending on your results and your goal differential.

Orlando City: This is going to be a stinging decision. Orlando had seemed to have secured a playoff spot, but a controversial referee ruling saw them settle for a draw against Nashville. They have two options: beat Montreal or tie it with them, or they can hope that the Red Bulls can beat Nashville. Based on the goal differential, Orlando could be in Orlando if Cincinnati beats Atlanta. A top-four spot is possible, just like the Eastern Conference side.

LA Galaxy: After being among the West's top four all season, the Galaxy have been skating on thin Ice lately. Beat Minnesota, and they're in. It's murky if they draw with the Loons. Seattle must beat Vancouver. Salt Lake will drop points to Kansas City, or LAFC will drop points to Colorado. If Salt Lake or LAFC lose points, the Galaxy could still be in.

LAFC: California must defeat Colorado first. They will need to win if they can do that. Vancouver must lose to Salt Lake or Seattle.

Minnesota United: To be in, the Loons need to beat the Galaxy. They lose and then there are a few scenarios. Vancouver loses to Seattle, and Salt Lake drops points towards Kansas City or LAFC drops to Colorado. Minnesota will be admitted if Salt Lake and LAFC both drop points.

Atlanta United will make an incredible turnaround in order to reach the MLS Cup playoffs. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake: Utah could have won this week, but Portland dominated. A win over Kansas City this week will be enough. K.C. is still trying to win the No. 1 spot in the West, even though they are still reeling from their loss to Austin. 1. seed. It should be a good one.

Vancouver Whitecaps: This is another turnaround team that can make a strong finish to the postseason. You must win against your rivals, and the (at this moment) top-seeded Seattle. The 'Caps will lose and need to be supported. The Galaxy must lose against Minnesota. If Salt Lake drops points to Kansas City, or LAFC drops points towards Colorado, then the Galaxy will be out. Vancouver is also eligible if Salt Lake or LAFC lose points in their matchups.

Gold rush

Valentin Castellanos is the one to lose when it comes to the Golden Boot heading into Decision Day. He is the leader of MLS with 18 goals and is three ahead of his closest competitor when it comes to xG. He is also on a roll, with five goals in each of his last three appearances and one against Philadelphia.

To confirm the piece of silverware, he'll have to continue his excellent run of form. Ola Kamara, Raul Ruidiaz, Adam Buksa, Daniel Salloi, and a quintet consisting of Gustavo Bou and Javier Hernandez, Damir Kreilach and Hany Mukhtar can all draw level with a hat-trick.

Kamara, Ruidiaz, and Buksa are all part of the chasing pack. They have all scored against their opponents (Toronto and Vancouver respectively), and Ruidiaz has done it twice. If anyone wants to stop NYCFC's talisman winning the league's top scorer award, they can look to these three.

Round 1 byes

New England Revolution: The Revs will be on Sunday against Miami after an 11-day break since they set the MLS record for the most points in a single year. You wouldn't put your money on Bruce Arena & Co. extending the historic points total to 76, when they face a Miami team with the third-worst goal differential.

Seattle Sounders: The Sounders are currently winless in five games heading into Decision Day. This is not the kind of form one would expect from a team that has a chance to get a bye in the first round. But, the Sounders remain -- partly due to Kansas City's three losses in its five previous games. Seattle's last win was a 4-1 victory over Vancouver. Brian Schmetzer's team will be traveling on Sunday.

Returning home

Inter Miami CF: Miami was unable to take advantage of the larger postseason field for the 2020 season. This made 2021 a difficult year for them to secure a playoff spot. The Herons saw improvement under Phil Neville's new management, however, as they increased their points per match from 1.04 to 1.15 last term. Incremental gains.

Matchmaking at the Eastern Conference

2. Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls. These two sides met twice this season, both at Red Bull Arena. Each time, the contest ended 1-1. Although there would be a winner in this postseason matchup it is difficult to predict if there will be more goals. Union and Red Bulls have the worst and the third-worst goals for totals of any Eastern Conference team in a playoff position.

3. Nashville SC vs. 6. Orlando City SC: This is another contest between two teams that have faced off this season, but without any wins: In three matches (once in Tennessee and once in Florida), Nashville, Orlando, and 2-2 were victorious. These contests were dominated by MVP contender Hany Mokhtar, who scored two goals and assisted.

4. New York City FC vs. 5. Atlanta United: The teams met Oct. 20. It ended in a 1-1 draw. However, NYCFC won a 1-0 victory when they played in June. This was less than a month after Atlanta manager Gabriel Heinze was dismissed. They have won nine out of fourteen games since Gonzalo Pineda was appointed to manage the Five Stripes. They've lost just three times during that time. This team is no one's in the postseason, including an NYCFC outfit that lost six of its last six games.

Matchmaking at the Western Conference

2. Sporting Kansas City vs. LA Galaxy: With only two wins in 14 games, the Galaxy are now seventh. We're glad pencils have erasers. Sporting KC has beaten them twice this year. They lost two of their 14 games, losing by 2-0. Johnny Russell scored three of those goals. Russell and Daniel Salloi will be excited to welcome Greg Vanney to Kansas City, as only three of the teams in the playoff race conceded more goals than LA.

3. Colorado Rapids vs. 6. Vancouver Whitecaps. The Rapids are the most effective defense in the Western Conference. However, they have only scored more than two goals per game three times this season. In addition, the Whitecaps have been outscored every playoff-contending player except for Minnesota, Columbus, and Red Bulls. Maxime Creapeau and William Yarbrough are unlikely to be called on too often in this one.

4. Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United: Portland Timbers vs. 5. Given the presence of Emanuel Reynoso, and the serviceable attacking trio around him, it's not surprising that Minnesota has scored the least goals of any playoff team. Perhaps a matchup against the team with the worst defense in the playoffs will spark them to make another run for the postseason.