It’s here. It’s finally here. #DecisionDay is upon us. On Sunday, the 2015 Major League Soccer season comes to a dramatic close with 10 games played over the course of four hours. Up for grabs still are four playoff spots, two knockout round byes and one shiny piece of hardware.
So, if you’re to watch just four MLS games on Sunday — who am I to tell you to watch only four? — might I suggest the following four:
Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls (7 p.m. ET, MLS Live/ESPN3)
What’s on the line: For the Fire, avoiding injury so as to best enjoy a beach vacation beginning Monday morning; for the Red Bulls, the Supporters’ Shield.
The Red Bulls have never won at Toyota Park (0W-9L-4D), which makes the fact they need three points to win the Shield a bit daunting. That said, they’ve been the most consistent team all season long — Jesse Marsch’s side was the last to lose a game in 2015, and no team has fewer losses than the Red Bulls’ 10 (two others have lost 10).
Prediction: Fire 1-1 Red Bulls
FC Dallas vs. San Jose Earthquakes (7 p.m. ET, MLS Live/ESPN3)
What’s on the line: For FCD, a chance pounce on the Supporters’ Shield; for the ‘Quakes, a chance to pounce on a playoff place in the Western Conference.
Speaking of uber-consistent teams with just 10 losses in 2015, may I present to you FC Dallas, who are very legitimate contenders to win MLS Cup. If the Red Bulls falter and drop points, Oscar Pareja’s bunch will be ready to pounce. With home-field advantage already secured throughout the West playoffs, first dibs on hosting MLS Cup comes along with the Shield. The ‘Quakes, however, need the three points and a loss by any one of Seattle, Portland or Kansas City to keep their season alive.
Prediction: FCD 2-1 Quakes
Sporting Kansas City vs. LA Galaxy (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
What’s on the line: For Sporting KC, a playoff berth first and foremost; for the Galaxy, the second seed and a bye in the knockout round.
Here’s the thing about the West: it’s crazy. While Sporting are still fighting for their playoff lives, they’re also still in with a tiny shout to finish second in the West. In their first meeting of the season, all the way back in April, LA topped Sporting on a 93rd-minute winner scored by Omar Gonzalez. Sporting turned in perhaps their worst performance of the season Wednesday night with a chance to clinch a playoff berth before facing the defending Cup winners on Sunday. The Galaxy, meanwhile, have won just once in their last six league games, meaning momentum is with neither side and truly anything could happen at Sporting Park.
Prediction: Sporting KC 1-1 Galaxy
[ MORE: Update on Jason Kreis’s future at NYCFC ]
Columbus Crew SC vs. D.C. United (5 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
What’s on the line: For Crew SC, the second seed and a bye in the knockout round; for United, the second seed and a bye in the knockout round.
The winner at MAPFRE Stadium finishes second in the East and avoids having to play in the knockout round next week. That’s huge, especially for a veteran-laden United side that faltered down the stretch and went six games without a win (five losses) before their current two-game return to form. With Kei Kamara suspended (yellow card accumulation), goals could be hard to come by for Crew SC. This one feels like a scoreless stalemate for 60 or 70 minutes, followed by a late hijacking of all three points by United. Crew SC could fall as far as fifth in the East, while United could drop to fourth.
Prediction: Crew SC 0-1 United