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NYCFC’s playoff picture explained UPDATED

New York City could miss the 2022 MLS Playoffs...if a bunch of other teams win tons of games and score a ridiculous number of goals.


UPDATED OCTOBER 1, 2022: New York City FC make playoffs for seventh consecutive season with FC Cincinnati’s surprise home loss to Chicago Fire.

After New York City FC’s 2-0 crystal-clear win over the New Jersey Red Bulls on Saturday, the Pigeons are just one point away from securing a seventh-consecutive appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs. What a difference a weekend makes.

Really, it’s that simple: If NYCFC earn at least one point from either the “home” match at Red Bull Arena against Orlando City on Sunday, October 2, or the away game at Atlanta United on Sunday, October 9, then New York City will make the postseason. As always, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

NYCFC could advance before they even take the field if Miami draw or lose to Toronto FC on Friday, September 30, or if Columbus Crew draw or lose to Red Bulls on Saturday, October 1.

Those are just a few of the most direct routes pulled from the many, many paths that could carry NYCFC into the postseason. In fact, because of the tiebreak rule in the Competition Guidelines issued by MLS, there is only one scenario in which NYCFC are knocked out of the playoff picture, and it involves a Byzantine sequence of events that involves five teams getting a specific set of results — and three of them scoring a ridiculous number of goals.

What is the one and only no-playoff scenario for New York City, you ask? Simple:

1. NYCFC must lose to Orlando and Atlanta to finish with 49 points
2. AND Orlando must beat NYCFC, draw Miami, and lose to Columbus to finish with 49 points plus overcome a -20 goal differential with NYCFC
3. AND FC Cincinnati must take at least five points from their final three matches to finish with 51 points or take four points to finish with 49 points plus overcome a -8 goal differential with NYCFC
4. AND Miami must defeat Toronto, draw Orlando, and defeat Montréal to finish with 49 pointsplus score tons of goals to overcome a -25 goal differential with NYCFC
5. AND Columbus must sweep New Jersey, FC Charlotte, and Orlando to finish with 51 points

Seems like a stretch. But let’s remember that Gerhard Struber taught us hubris can be cruel— we aren’t going to make guarantees we can’t keep. NYCFC aren’t in it until they’re in it, and the team could theoretically fall out of the playoffs if the script above is followed to the letter.It’s entirely possible in this universe that New York City lose to Orlando by 10 goals, and Miami win by a 15-goal margin over three games, and a Columbus that haven’t had a victory since August 31 end the season with a three-game winning streak. That’s why we’re going to keep the champagne and Heineken in the back of the fridge for now, and wait until the official results start coming in at the end of next week.