When the San Jose Earthquakes defeated Los Angeles Football Club on Wednesday night, they punched their ticket to the postseason for the first time in three years.
The Quakes have had a rocky history with Decision Day, falling just short of the playoffs in 2013, 2015, and 2019. The one exception, 2017, came down to the wire with a stoppage-time winner by Marco Ureña sending San Jose through.
In 2020, the Earthquakes earned a playoff spot prior to Decision Day for the first time since the magical Supporters’ Shield run of 2012. While it takes some of the drama away from the season finale, not that anyone will mind, there is still something to play for on Sunday.
Let’s answer a few of the most common questions:
What’s on the line in Sunday’s match vs. Seattle?
The Quakes are currently in eighth, and can go no lower than eighth, but can move as high as sixth. In order to move up, San Jose would need to win and would jump either LAFC or the Colorado Rapids should either (or both) lose. The biggest advantage in moving up would be the potential to host a playoff game. If the Quakes finish in sixth, they would host in the second round if both they and the seventh-place team earn first-round upset victories.
Who do the Quakes play in the first round of the playoffs?
If San Jose remains in eighth place, which is the most likely scenario, they would play the top seed in the Western Conference. As of right now, it’s Sporting KC but could also end up being Seattle Sounders FC or the Portland Timbers. Should San Jose climb out of eighth place, FC Dallas would also in play, as they can finish as high as second.
What’s best case scenario for San Jose?
Best case scenarios are often subjective, and Sunday is no different. As mentioned before, the Quakes are most likely to finish in eighth place one way or another. San Jose is in the midst of a 12-match winless streak against Seattle and will also be without two key starters due to suspension: Andy Rios (yellow card accumulation) and Jackson Yueill (red card).
While head coach Matias Almeyda is known for his aggressiveness and constant desire to win, it wouldn’t be unfathomable to see several lineup changes to give players an opportunity to prove themselves as well as keep the usual starting XI as injury free as possible heading into the playoffs.
What other matches should we watch for?
As crazy as it sounds, every single Western Conference matchup, except LA Galaxy at Vancouver, has implications on the playoff standings. Two matches – Sporting KC at RSL and Portland at LAFC – are particularly intriguing as they relate to San Jose.
San Jose Earthquakes (8) at Seattle Sounders FC (3)
Colorado Rapids (7) at Houston Dynamo (12)
Portland Timbers (2) at Los Angeles Football Club (6)
FC Dallas (4) at Minnesota United FC (5)
Sporting KC (1) at Real Salt Lake (11)
LA Galaxy (10) at Vancouver Whitecaps FC (9)
All Western Conference matches begin simultaneously at 3:30 p.m. The Quakes’ match will air on NBC Sports California, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF.