Inter Miami controls its playoff destiny: if the Herons win out, they’re in

With three weeks left in the regular season, seven teams are chasing the eighth and ninth spots in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, including 14th-place Inter Miami. But the Herons have more matches left to play than everyone except Charlotte, giving it more points for the taking.
Inter Miami CF will resume its quest to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs on Saturday against New York City FC in the Empire State.
Inter Miami CF will resume its quest to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs on Saturday against New York City FC in the Empire State. / Stephen Nadler/ISI Photos/GettyImages

If Inter Miami wins its last five matches, it will qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs. If the Herons win out, they’ll finish with 47 points. New York City FC, currently in the ninth and final playoff spot, would finish with no more than 43 points because it has only three matches remaining, one against Miami.

Tomás Avilés, Benjamin Cremaschi
Benjamin Cremaschi sneaks up on Tomas Aviles at training camp and prepares to leap onto his back from behind. / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

D.C. United, with only three matches remaining, can total no more than 45 points. The New York Red Bulls could finish with as many as 46 points. Again, assuming Miami wins out, the Chicago Fire could finish with no better than 43 points (in this scenario they would lose one of their four remaining matches to the Herons).

Charlotte and Inter Miami play their final two matches against one another; if Miami wins out, that’s not a problem, Charlotte could earn no more than 42 points.

Tomás Avilés, Benjamin Cremaschi
Cremaschi and Aviles playing at training Friday. / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

But let’s be realistic, La Rosanegra aren’t likely to finish by winning five straight, especially with Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba hobbled. But they have enough talent to win three, maybe four matches to put themselves in the 41-44 point range, which could be enough. Miami hosts NYCFC, Cincinnati and Charlotte, with away games at Chicago and Charlotte.

Charlotte’s the team to watch, the only other team in the hunt with as many matches remaining as Inter Miami and one more point through 29 games. The playoff race almost certainly will come down to the Herons’ road game at Charlotte on Decision Day, Oct. 21. Inter Miami has a better goal differential, -8 to -12, if it comes to that tie-breaker.

Tomás Avilés, Benjamin Cremaschi
Tomas Aviles gives Benjamin Cremaschi a piggy-back ride. / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

Inter Miami Playoff Chase

Pos., Team

Points, Goal differential

Games remaining

8. Montreal

37, -15


9. NYC

37, -3


10. D.C. United

36, -3


11. Red Bulls NY

34, -7


12. Chicago

34, -13


13. Charlotte

33, -12


14. Miami

32, -8


Key Matches Sept.30/Oct. 1

NYFC at Miami

Chicago at NY Red Bulls

Charlotte at New England

Montreal at Orlando

D.C. United at Vancouver