The Herons confirmed their spot in style, beating Florida rivals Orlando City 4-1 thanks to goals by Leonardo Campana, Ariel Lassiter, and a brace from Gonzalo Higuain, who recently announced he’ll retire at the end of the season.
With one week to go, Phil Neville’s side will be fully focused on trying to climb into the home Playoffs spots when they face CF Montreal. A win against the Canadian team coupled with New York Red Bulls failing to beat Charlotte FC would be enough to send Miami into the top four.
Inter Miami take the number of qualified teams to 10 heading into Decision Day. So, who have they joined?
The Black & Gold became the first team to book a spot in the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs, mathematically securing their place Saturday night thanks to other Western Conference results and despite a 2-1 loss at the San Jose Earthquakes snapping their seven-game win streak.
The decisive match was the 1-1 draw between the Colorado Rapids and Houston Dynamo FC, ensuring LAFC can finish no lower than seventh place roughly seven weeks before Decision Day arrives on Oct. 9.
First-year head coach Steve Cherundolo’s team is atop the Supporters’ Shield race through Week 26, a stark turnaround from when they missed the playoffs a year ago under now-Toronto FC head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley.
LAFC made the playoffs every year from 2018-20 upon their expansion launch, including winning the Supporters’ Shield in 2019. They’ve suffered two Round One exits and lost in the Conference Finals once.
With a deep star-studded roster that includes Carlos Vela and summertime signings Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini, LAFC are on pace to break the all-time MLS points record (73) the New England Revolution set during the 2021 campaign. LAFC’s 2019 squad held the previous record at 72.
MLS Cup 2022 is set for Nov. 5, while the playoffs will get underway in October. The timeline takes into consideration the FIFA 2022 World Cup starting Nov. 20 in Qatar, rather than the event’s typical summer months.
It’s been over a month since LAFC became the first team to clinch their Playoffs spot, thanks to the Colorado Rapids and Houston Dynamo drawing 1-1 after the Black and Gold had lost 2-1 to California rivals San Jose Earthquakes. LAFC have since gone on to seal the Supporters’ Shield.
This marks a return to the post-season for LAFC after missing out in 2021. The Black and Gold are armed with arguably the most talented roster in MLS and will look to translate their form into a knockout scenario.
2. Philadelphia Union
The Philadephia Union became the second team to make the Playoffs right at the end of August, joining LAFC and becoming the first team in the East to clinch their spot.
A 4-1 home win over Atlanta United did the trick for Jim Curtin’s men, who have now made the Playoffs in five successive years.
The Union battled hard against LAFC for the Supporters’ Shield, but ultimately fell short.
Still, Philly will be a force to be reckoned with in the Playoffs.
3. CF Montreal
CF Montreal were the third team to make the MLS Cup Playoffs, doing so for just the second time in six seasons – a testament to the job being done by Wilfried Nancy.
Montreal’s late comeback to draw 2-2 at home to the Columbus Crew was the deciding result.
4. New York Red Bulls
The New York Red Bulls were the third team in the Eastern Conference to book their place and they didn’t even have to play in midweek to make it happen.
Incredibly, this is RBNY’s 13th consecutive year in the Playoffs, though they’ve never won MLS Cup and have exited in the first round for three straight seasons.
5. Austin FC
Despite finishing near the foot of the Western Conference, Austin FC showed plenty of promise during their expansion year.
They’ve cashed in on that promise in 2022 with a 3-0 win against RSL securing their Playoffs status, while they’re confirmed as the second seed in the West.
6. FC Dallas
FC Dallas are back in the Playoffs after a one-year absence, vindicating a winter of spending ahead of the 2022 campaign.
The likes of Jesus Ferreira, Alan Velasco, and Paul Arriola are hitting form at just the right time, so nobody will want to face them in a knockout scenario.
It’s rare you see a team defend MLS Cup but at least NYCFC will have the chance with their Playoffs spot confirmed.
That said, the Cityzens head into the post-season on terrible form and could come unstuck, despite a wealth of individual talent.
8. LA Galaxy
The LA Galaxy have finally returned to the Playoffs for the first time since Zlatan Ibrahimovic was on the books.
Incidentally, this will also be Chicharito’s first post-season campaign with the club, who enter the post-season on a much-improved run of form.
They’re by no means favorites, but don’t rule them out.
9. Nashville SC
Despite joining in the shadow of Inter Miami, Nashville have quickly become one of the strongest outfits in Major League Soccer and are yet to miss out on the Playoffs.
This will be the first time they’ve battled through the Western Conference after making the Eastern Conference semi-finals last year.
With MVP frontrunner Hany Mukhtar in red-hot form, nobody will want to face Nashville.
10. Inter Miami
After missing out in 2021 Inter Miami are back in the Playoffs – arguably where they should be every single season given the level of investment they’ve enjoyed.
Even so, Phil Neville deserves huge credit for inspiring a strong second half to the regular season and getting the best out of Higuain, who will be looking to end his career with a bang.