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The final week of the MLS season is here, and 2022 Decision Day is shaping up to be the most vital final day of the regular season in FC Cincinnati history. 

Before the calendar turns to the all-important day of Sunday, Oct. 9, the only two midweek matchups in MLS this week feature four of the five teams vying for one of the final three open Eastern Conference spots in the 2022 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. FC Cincinnati is the lone club among those five Eastern Conference squads not suiting up Wednesday, so players, coaches and fans alike will be sure to keep a close eye on the proceedings on Oct. 5. 

Philadelphia Union, CF Montréal, New York City FC and New York Red Bulls all have clinched a spot in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Atlanta United FC and the New England Revolution were eliminated over the weekend.

FCCincinnati.com’s Playoff Watch takes a look at how things stand in the Eastern Conference.

Teams in the hunt (standings as of Oct. 3)
Teams in the hunt (standings as of Oct. 3)
Position
Team
Points
Games Played
Record (W-L-D)
Remaining Games
Max. points possible
5th
FC Cincinnati
46
33
11-9-13
at DC
49
6th
Orlando City SC
45
32
13-13-6
at MIA, vs CLB
51
7th
Inter Miami CF
45
32
13-13-6
vs ORL, vs MTL
51
8th
Columbus Crew
45
32
10-7-15
at CLT, at ORL
51
9th
Charlotte FC
41
32
13-17-2
vs CLB, at RBNY
47

Top seven teams in standings qualify for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs (Top four teams host a Round One game). Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF can still reach fourth place with six points combined with a Red Bulls loss vs Charlotte FC on Decision Day.

VITAL WEDNESDAY MATCHUPS

Charlotte FC vs Columbus Crew – Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. ET
The Columbus Crew, currently occupying eighth place in the Eastern Conference, travel to take on ninth place Charlotte FC. Both teams are coming off huge wins on Saturday night, with Columbus scoring twice after the 88th minute to defeat the New York Red Bulls, 2-1 and keep pace with Cincy, Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF. The four clubs are separated by one point.

Charlotte FC’s dream for a playoff berth in their expansion season is the longest shot of anyone left, with CLTFC sitting on 41 points. They need six out of six points, and then likely some help from other teams. But despite the slim shot it’s hard to completely rule out the first-year club after their 4-0 drubbing of Philadelphia Union on Saturday, thus costing the Eastern Conference leaders a shot at the Supporters’ Shield.

Wednesday’s matchup is a makeup game that will resume in the 16th minute with the scoreline at 0-0, after weather forced a postponement on July 30 at Bank of America Stadium. Anything short of three points for Charlotte is catastrophic, while Columbus needs three points as well. The Crew’s 15 draws this season has kept them in the hunt, but their 10 wins are the fewest among the five remaining Eastern Conference sides, and total wins are the first tiebreaker if points are level.

Inter Miami CF vs Orlando City SC – Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. ET
The battle between the league’s two Florida clubs is pivotal, with both sides bringing identical 13-13-6 records into Wednesday’s showdown at DRV PNK Stadium. Both clubs sit on 45 points, one point behind FC Cincinnati, with Orlando edging Miami on goal difference to hold on to sixth place compared to seventh for the Herons.

Orlando already defeated Miami 1-0 earlier this season in Central Florida, but Miami’s .700 home winning percentage, the fifth-best in MLS, has to be accounted for heading into Wednesday. The Herons are winners of three straight games to position themselves in strong form down the stretch.

Wednesday’s game was originally set for Sept. 7 but was moved due to Orlando City’s involvement, and eventual win, in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final. The Lions have lost three of their last four, including Sunday’s 2-1 defeat away to New York City FC.