MLS Playoff Preview: Which home side is safest?

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Thirty-four match seasons have led to Wednesday and Thursday’s Major League Soccer playoff games, which will see four teams go one-and-done into the offseason.

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The league’s parity means fine margins separate seeds, but single elimination in a league driven by home field advantage usually provides a significant edge to hosts.

Where does each match rate in terms of chances for an upset?

Look out: Philadelphia at NYCFC — Let’s start with two sides who met in the same venue just a few days ago. That’s where the playoffs begin, with Philadelphia visiting NYCFC on the postage-stamp pitch at Yankee Stadium.

NYCFC beat Philly 3-1 on Decision Day to seal a home match for the first round, and Columbus’ win over Minnesota sent Philly into sixth. The Union beat New York City at home in the summer, and are one of the better away teams in MLS. Sunday’s loss was their first road loss in five outings.

Doesn’t feel in the cards: Columbus at DC United — The Crew limped into the playoffs and have been pretty poor away from MAPFRE Stadium, not winning since a quality 3-2 defeat at Red Bulls in late July. But Wayne Rooney and DC have not lost since the calendar turned to September, and are 13-2-2 at home this season.

Difficult to account for the unknown: Real Salt Lake at LAFCBob Bradley‘s got plenty of experience, and his players aren’t newbies either, but how will LAFC’s first ever playoff match go? That’s about the only thing keeping us from putting this in the win column for a black and gold side which lost just once, with seven draws, in 17 home matches this season. LA also beat RSL home and away this season. Mike Petke is a savvy manager, so Real Salt Lake has a puncher’s chance despite taking just 12 of 51 away points this season.

Almost a toss up: Portland Timbers at FC Dallas — Once hopeful for the top seed out West, Oscar Pareja’s FCD heads into the postseason with losses in three-straight. The two sides drew home and away this season, and it would not be a surprise to see Portland win. In fact, the venue is the only thing tilting this toward Texas.

Wednesday
New York City FC (3) vs. Philadelphia Union (6) — 7 p.m. ET
FC Dallas (4) vs. Portland Timbers (5) — 9:30 p.m. ET

Thursday
DC United (4) vs. Columbus Crew (5) — 8 p.m. ET
LAFC (3) vs. Real Salt Lake (6) — 10:30 p.m. ET