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How New York City makes the MLS playoffs

It's going to be tough, but we've known that all along.

For the last three weeks, New York City's been teetering on the edge of playoff elimination. Winning three straight games obviously helps. It's also true that, in order to make the playoffs as an expansion team -- the first since Seattle in 2009 -- the Blues need help, and lots of it.

What hasn't been as clear are the specific scenarios whereby New York City is either eliminated from the playoffs or makes the playoffs. Simply put, there have been way too many variables at play. That made the playoff qualifying picture highly unclear.

After this weekend, things are a lot clearer. Let's take a look.

New York City will be on the road this Friday and the next. They play a reeling DC United, then they square off against Orlando City. The Blues close the regular season at home on October 25 against the New England Revolution. Whether or not that game -- or the previous one against Orlando -- has any meaning beyond the sentimental is entirely dependent on results this weekend.

On Friday, New York City has to win against DC. No other result will do, realistically. A draw or a loss against DC essentially ends New York City's playoff hopes. Let's say the Blues defeat DC. That puts New York City on 40 points. What then?

Toronto plays Philadelphia at home at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The Blues need Philadelphia to beat Toronto. A Union win would leave Toronto FC on 43 points, with three games left in their season. A draw gives TFC 44 points, and while it's not disastrous, it makes things a lot more difficult for New York City. However, if Toronto wins, things are essentially over, as Toronto will have 46 points. The most New York City can get is 46 points, remember.

Orlando hosts Montréal at 7:30 p.m on Saturday. The Impact haven't lost a game since signing Didier Drogba, who's a one-man wrecking crew in MLS. An Impact win wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for New York City. The Blues can survive Montreal winning against Orlando, as long as they beat D.C. United, and Toronto draws or loses.

Here's the thing: a Toronto draw and a Montréal victory over Orlando eliminates the Lions. It would leave them on 38 points, with a maximum possible of 44 points. If New York City beats DC, they'll vault ahead of Orlando, as they'll have 40 points.

So what's the best set of results for New York City this weekend? It's probably this: a victory against DC, followed by a draw between Toronto and Philadelphia and a Montréal victory over Orlando. A Toronto loss would make things a little bit easier, but leave Orlando still alive. Presumably, if Orlando are eliminated, they won't have much to play for when New York City faces them the following Friday, besides the spoilage factor.

That would leave the standings looking like this:

  • Montréal 45 points
  • Toronto 44 points
  • New York City 40 points
  • Orlando City 38 points (eliminated)

The worst? Clearly, a loss against DC, followed by a Montréal victory, as that would eliminate New York City. A draw or loss against DC, combined with a Toronto win or draw, and a Montréal win, also eliminates the Blues.

With that in mind, let's see if New York City can keep the good times rolling.