FC Cincinnati’s win over Atlanta United FC last Thursday wasn’t just big for morale. It could be the driving force of the team advancing in the MLS is Back Tournament.
The Orange and Blue sit third in the Group E standings behind Columbus Crew SC and the New York Red Bulls. The latter is who FCC face on Wednesday night, of course.
With the second-place team – and the four best third-place teams – guaranteed to qualify for knockout stage, that sets up Wednesday’s match as the biggest matchup of Group E.
Here are some scenarios you need to know ahead of kickoff:
If FC Cincinnati win…
That means they’ll leapfrog over New York and finish second in the group. There’s a chance the Orange and Blue can win the group, but that would mean FCC pummel the Red Bulls and Columbus loses by a hefty margin.
With goal difference being the first tiebreaker to advance, the derby result all but solidifies Crew SC finishes first in Group E in this scenario.
If FC Cincinnati draw…
It would take four teams picking up points in their respective matches for FCC to not advance with a point against the Red Bulls.
Sporting Kansas City (3 points) and the Chicago Fire (3 pts.) must win or draw their matches, while D.C. United (2 pts.) and the Houston Dynamo (1 pt.) must win to deny Cincinnati a spot in the knockout round.
That’s possible, but it’s unlikely.
If FC Cincinnati lose…
Things start to get more complicated with a loss. In order to still advance, Cincinnati would still need:
- Atlanta to not beat Columbus
- A draw between Houston and the LA Galaxy
- Real Salt Lake would need to beat SKC by four goals more than New York beat Cincinnati
- Colorado to not beat Minnesota United
A positive result should lead the Orange and Blue to the next round. A win ensures it. If FCC lose to Red Bulls, then things start getting trickier.
The good news is Cincinnati should have a better understanding of its fate following the next three games in the tournament:
Atlanta vs. Columbus (8 p.m.)
Montreal vs. D.C. United. (10:30 p.m.)
RSL vs. SKC (9 a.m.)