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What do the Chicago Fire need to do to make the playoffs?

Looking at the remaining matches, the path is clear

Sporting Kansas City v Chicago Fire FC Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Let’s start with the good news. After Djordje Mihailovic rescued a point with his goal in the dying seconds of Saturday’s match against Sporting Kansas City, the Chicago Fire still control their own playoff destiny. They sit in 10th, with the top ten teams in the MLS Eastern Conference receiving playoff berths.

The bad news? All of the Fire’s remaining opponents are playoff teams, at the moment. That means nothing will be easy, but it also means any results will matter that much more in the standings.

Here’s how the East is looking right now. I’m writing this before Sunday’s matches, meaning some of this will soon change:

  • 7. NYRB 18 GP 24 PTS 1.33 PPG
  • 8. MTL 19 GP 23 PTS 1.21 PPG
  • 9. NASH 17 GP 21 PTS 1.23 PPG
  • 10. CHI 18 GP 20 PTS 1.11 PPG
  • 11. ATL 18 GP 19 PTS 1.05 PPG
  • 12. MIA 19 GP 18 PTS 0.95 PPG
  • 13. CIN 18 GP 16 PTS 0.88 PPG
  • 14. DC 18 GP 12 PTS 0.67 PPG

Like the Fire, several teams have had matches postponed because of positive COVID tests, and we don’t know for sure that all of them will be made up. That means points-per-game are important here.

I’d say an average PPG of 1.3 should safely put the Fire in the playoffs. If the Minnesota match is rescheduled, the Fire have five matches remaining. To hit that number of 1.3 ppg, they’ll need to pick up roughly 10 points. If the Loons match is scrapped, it’s roughly 8.6 more points.

Here’s the remainder of Chicago’s schedule:

Things could change, but the away match at Nashville on Halloween will be absolutely massive for the Fire. It’s a “six pointer,” meaning a win not only gives the Fire three points, but it would deprive Nashville of gaining three. “El Daxico,” as Tyler Terens once called it, will be huge.

The NYRB match on Saturday is also crucial. The Red Bulls sit in 7th, four points ahead of the Fire, so it’s effectively a six pointer as well. Philly away seems daunting, especially since the Fire haven’t won a road match all season. But, Jim Curtin’s men have already qualified for the playoffs, so they may back off the gas, a little. The same will probably be true for NYCFC. The Cityzens should be already qualified before prior to Decision Day, meaning the Fire could be facing a rotated side at home.

The Minnesota match is a big question mark. Will it be rescheduled? Remember, Minnesota actually has two matches to reschedule at the point, and the league will likely view the FC Dallas match as more important, since it’s not a cross-conference game. But, MLS will still probably find a way.

So, of the four games we know for sure Chicago has left, three wins should safely get them in the playoffs. Two wins and a draw will probably do it, too. Less that that? Maybe, but letting other results decide your fate is always a bad idea. Bottom line: if the Fire win their home matches, and they grab at least a draw away at Nashville, they should be fine.

And once you’re in, anything can happen.