Nashville SC was never far off from MLS Cup playoff contention. Not statistically. Now, the 2020 expansion team has become just the sixth club to secure its spot in the postseason during its first campaign.
After going four matches unbeaten since Oct. 11, plus Atlanta United falling 4-1 to Orlando City and Inter Miami succumbing to FC Dallas on Wednesday, Nashville has guaranteed at least a play-in round spot (seeds No. 7-10) in the Eastern Conference bracket. Nashville has three matches remaining in the regular season and can clinch home-field in the process.
The Chicago Fire, now-defunct Miami Fusion, Seattle Sounders, Atlanta United and Los Angeles Football Club are the only teams to qualify for MLS playoffs in their first seasons.
Nashville defeated the Montreal Impact, 1-0, on the road Tuesday to begin the clinching process. It needed Atlanta to lose or draw with Orlando and for Miami to lose on the road to Dallas. Orlando City defeated Atlanta, 4-1, while FC Dallas defeated Inter Miami, 2-1.
Due to COVID-19, MLS has expanded its playoff structure from 14 teams to 18. Eight teams in the Western Conference will qualify for postseason, while 10 will do so in the East. As it stands, Nashville is eighth in the East.
The 2020 playoff structure sees the top-six teams in the East automatically qualify for the first round. Teams that finish No. 7-10 will enter into a play-in round. Seeds No. 7 and No. 10 will face off, while No. 8 and No. 9 will play. Nashville would host Montreal in the play-in round if the season ended today.
Though Nashville has won just seven matches, it has conceded just 18 goals in 20 matches. Only the Columbus Crew (17) have conceded less.
Additionally, Nashville scored only nine goals combined in August and September and has already matched that in October.
For stories about Nashville SC or Soccer in Tennessee, contact Drake Hills at DHills@gannett.com. Follow Drake on Twitter at @LiveLifeDrake.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Nashville SC clinches MLS playoff berth in its first season