The battle for New York soccer supremacy might be Major League Soccer’s best storyline heading into the postseason, as the two area franchises are currently the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.
But before any possible postseason confrontation, both need to handle business in their respective season finales, Sunday, with the top-seeded New York Red Bulls (15-9-9, 54 points) at the Philadelphia Union, and second-seeded City (14-10-9, 51 points) hosting the Columbus Crew. Sunday is known as Decision Day, the only day of the season when every team plays at the exact same time, 4:00 p.m. EST. It’s also considered the most intense and dramatic two hours of the MLS season, as teams fight for playoff positioning.
City doesn’t have to worry about clinching a playoff berth, but they will undoubtedly take this match quite seriously. This has been the most successful campaign in NYCFC’s brief two-year history, which makes anything that happens to them hereafter uncharted territory — especially considering they missed the playoffs in its inaugural season. Should the standings remain the same, the Red Bulls will have clinched homefield advantage, but both will have the opportunity of earning first-round byes with wins on Sunday – a perk that is afforded to the conference’s top two seeds.
If City wins this weekend and the Red Bulls lose in Philadelphia, both sides will have the exact same win-loss-draw record, forcing goal difference as the tie breaker. That would swing matters towards a Red Bulls squad that is on a 15-match unbeaten streak and sporting a plus-15, while NYCFC and its seven-game home unbeaten streak is only sitting at a plus-2.
Regardless how Sunday shakes out for both franchises, though, it’ll be an especially emotional day for the Yankee Stadium dwellers, because the fact that City is in such a position in the first place has lifted the squad from top to bottom, and validated all those big-money signings.
Team president Jon Patricof has been especially proud of what his team has accomplished, and praised the faithful for raucously supporting the squad.
“This is a historic moment for our club and we are thrilled to be able to host our first-ever home playoff match,” Patricof said. “Our fans have been tremendous throughout the season and we look forward to another electric atmosphere at Yankee Stadium come playoff time.”
NYCFC will try tocap an impressive regular season with a win, with the hopes of meeting their cross-river nemesis down the line in what would be a tantalizing postseason match. And with a likely win over a Crew squad that is already out of playoff contention, the arrow is pointing up for such a dream playoff matchup -- not to mention with such a star-studded roster playing in the biggest and best market, it would not only please City and its ardent fanbase, but most soccer fans everywhere.
-This Sunday’s match at Yankee Stadium will be Fan Appreciation Day, which will include family-friendly activities such as face and hair painting, FIFA video game play, and free commemorative 2016 season posters.
-City’s leading scorer David Villa has scored 40 goals in his two seasons here – including a team-high 22 this season. That’s one off the league’s lead, currently held by the Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips, as the two are battling for the league’s Golden Boot. Villa, 35, has told outlets that he has started talks with NYCFC about extending his contract beyond its current end date of December 2017. Spain’s all-time leading international goal scorer with 59, Villa has drawn interest from teams in Spain, England, China, Russia, and Turkey, but noted how happy he is living in New York with his family and is thoroughly enjoying his time with City.
-Villa is on a roll, having scored five goals over the last three matches.
-Frank Lampard is second on the team with 12 goals.