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The Homestretch: The Chicago Fire control their own playoff destiny, but it won’t be easy

With five teams fighting for two unclaimed playoff spots in the MLS Eastern Conference, we look at the remaining schedule for every team

MLS: Chicago Fire at Philadelphia Union
Bobby Shuttleworth
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Soccer announced Thursday that the final league standings will be determined on points per game, not total points. The league made the move because it’s become clear that not all teams will play a total of 23 games due to COVID cancelations.

So what does this mean for the Chicago Fire? Not much. In the short term, it means the Fire jump ahead of Inter Miami into the 10th and final playoff position, because Chicago has a game in hand. But, since all teams in the East appear on track to play 23 games (barring another COVID outbreak), this will even out, and it shouldn’t matter. In the West, it’s a very different story.

With the New England Revolution, Nashville SC, and the New York Red Bulls all qualified, there are five teams (sorry, FC Cincinnati) fighting for the final two spots in the East. With three games left, the Fire control their own destiny. But with two on the road, it won’t be easy.

Here’s a look at the rest of the teams in the race, and their remaining schedules:

9. Montreal Impact (23 pts, 1.1 ppg)

10. Chicago Fire FC (21 pts, 1.05 ppg)

  • Saturday, Oct. 31 at Nashville SC (7:30 p.m. CT, WGN & ESPN+)
  • Wednesday, Nov. 4 at Minnesota United (7 p.m. CT, WGN & ESPN+)
  • Sunday, Nov. 8 vs. New York City FC (2:30 p.m. CT, WGN & ESPN+)

11. Inter Miami (21 pts, 1 ppg)

  • Sunday, Nov. 1 at Toronto FC (in East Hartford, CT)
  • Sunday, Nov. 8 vs. FC Cincinnati

12. D.C. United (21 pts, 1 ppg)

13. Atlanta United (19 pts, 0.9 ppg)

  • Sunday, Nov. 1 vs. FC Cincinnati
  • Sunday, Nov. 8 at Columbus Crew

The Fire can’t qualify with a win Saturday against Nashville, but it would go a long way.

So who’s got the easiest schedule? Tough to say, but with a points cushion, Montreal probably has the easiest path. Atlanta United and Inter Miami both get to host FC Cincinnati, but this is MLS, so nothing’s a guaranteed win.

The picture will be a lot clearer after Sunday’s matches.