Major League Soccer is gaining popularity at a rapid rate in North America. Despite Team USA failing to qualify for the World Cup, MLS had itself a record-breaking season highlighted by an expansion team finishing among the league’s best. Sunday was the final day of the season, also known as Decision Day. There were a number of teams playing for their playoff lives, and the teams that already punched their tickets also had room for improvement. Nevertheless, Decision Day had quite the impact on the 2017 MLS Playoffs.
Sine our MLS Playoff Preview article a few weeks back, not much has changed in terms of playoff teams. Only one team that was slotted to make the postseason fell out of the running. Real Salt Lake fell to the eighth spot in the West, while the Houston Dynamo finished hot, jumping all the way to the number four seed. On Wednesday, the 3-seeds take on the 6-seeds, as the Chicago Fire will host the New York Red Bulls, and the Vancouver Whitecaps will host the San Jose Earthquakes. On Thursday, the 4-seeds play host to the 5-seeds, as America’s favorite expansion team, Atlanta United take on Columbus Crew SC, and the surprising Houston Dynamo battle against Sporting KC. Waiting for the winners of the Knockout Round are the top two seeds in each conference, consisting of Toronto FC, New York City FC, Portland Timbers, and Seattle Sounders.
The 2017 season was an exciting one for every team that locked in a playoff slot, but none more so than Toronto FC and Atlanta United. Toronto FC was the best team from the get-go. They didn’t hit a slump at any point in the season and ended up finishing with an MLS-record 69 points on the final day of regular season play. On the other hand, Atlanta United is an expansion team, and for anyone that follows professional sports, expansion teams aren’t expected to make a huge splash in their first season of existence. Somebody forgot to tell them that, because the United finished tied for the third highest point total in the league and made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Clearly, Atlanta was ready for some soccer because the team broke the MLS record for average attendance. It was previously held by the Seattle Sounders at 44,247 but was broken by Atlanta’s 48,200 fans per game. They are certainly getting their money’s worth at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.