New York City FC still playing for first-round playoff bye over final 2 matches

New York City FC has its playoff berth locked up, but the club still has so much to play for.

NYCFC remains in second place, a position it has been in for most of the season and one that comes with a bye to open the postseason. But with two games remaining and a three-point advantage over Atlanta United FC, it’ll be a sprint to the finish.

Virtually every team either has clinched a playoff spot or been eliminated, so it can be a tossup for which team will be playing at full strength in these final matches. NYCFC (16-8-8, 56 points) faces a struggling New England Revolution (11-15-6, 39 points) on Sunday before closing against the playoff-bound Columbus Crew.

Atlanta could face a tougher road. The expansion club on Sunday will visit the New York Red Bulls, who have clinched the last spot in the Eastern Conference, before wrapping up against Supporters’ Shield winner Toronto FC. If NYCFC and Atlanta finish with the same record, City likely would lose the goal differential tiebreaker (currently 30-14 Atlanta).

According to current postseason seeding, the Blues would await the highest seed to advance from No. 3 Atlanta playing the No. 6 Red Bulls and the No. 4 Chicago Fire playing No. 5 Columbus. NYCFC can feel confident against any team from that group. Out of a combined eight MLS matches against those clubs, NYCFC has only lost once — to Atlanta. They have outscored those opponents, 16-11, although it’s not a huge margin considering the 5-1-2 record.

If the Blues fell to No. 3, an intriguing first-round matchup would ensue with the Red Bulls. Given the excitement and adrenaline that matchup would stir for fans and players alike, it’s in the team’s best interest to put these next two games away and secure a moment of relaxation before chasing the MLS Cup.