Atlanta United FC and the New England Revolution could meet in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. First, there is some intrigue surrounding their final regular-season meeting.
Specifically, that's whether reigning MLS MVP Josef Martinez will suit up when Atlanta hosts the Revolution on Decision Day Sunday.
Second-place Atlanta (17-12-4, 55 points) is tied on points with Philadelphia, and currently holds the tiebreaker. New England (11-10-12, 45 points), headed to the postseason for the first time since 2015, owns the East's seventh and final playoff spot, but could end up in sixth place pending results of Sunday's action.
At the moment, these clubs would square off in a playoff opener the weekend of Oct. 19-20, and Atlanta star Martinez (26 goals) should be fit by then from a leg injury suffered Sept. 21. However, United coach Frank de Boer told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week that it's up to Martinez, himself, if he wants to return for this regular-season finale.
"I'll be surprised if he doesn't play (Sunday)," Atlanta defender Michael Parkhurst said via BS The Podcast as posted on the official MLS website.
"(But), maybe they'll wait the extra two weeks and give him time."
After losing at New York City FC and drawing 1-1 at Montreal in the past two games, Atlanta would like to build momentum heading into the postseason. It also has the talent to make up for another game minus Martinez, and it doesn't hurt to be at home, where the team is in the midst of an 11-1-1 stretch.
The Revolution, meanwhile, have been one of the biggest stories of the MLS season. They've overcome a 2-8-2 start and the sacking of coach Brad Friedel on May 9 to earn a playoff spot with the legendary coach Bruce Arena in charge.
"It's a great achievement from the whole group," defender Antonio Delamea told the Revolution's official website. "But, we don't want to stop here."
New England enters this contest amid a 1-0-3 stretch after Teal Bunbury (six goals) and Gustavo Bou (nine goals in 13 MLS games) scored in a 2-0 home win over NYCFC last weekend.
Ezequiel Barco scored twice in Atlanta's 2-0 win at New England on April 13.
--Field Level Media