PHOTO COURTESY CITY SC City SC huddles during its 2-0 loss to Seattle on October 21, 2023.
Before the 2023 Major League Soccer season few expected City SC to qualified for the post-season, let alone finish on top of the Western Conference. The team started with their historical run by becoming the first expansion team to win its first five matches and never looked back by staying on top of the Western Conference. While the team manage to stay on top to earn the top seed, they suffered their second straight loss against the Seattle Sounders Saturday Night 2-0, preventing the team from equaling or breaking the record for most points by an expansion team that was previously held by LAFC in 2018. The lost their last road game of the season to the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 on October 4th.
Perhaps the team is resting their star players in preparation for the post-season, but momentum is everything and in the history of Major League Soccer post-season there are no guarantee that the top seed of both the Eastern and Western Conferences make to the Championship Finals. For many of City SC players, this is their first experience in playing in MLS post-season. Majority of them, that played in various European Soccer Leagues don’t have post-season playoff formats so for these players, it’s a new challenge.
“We know that in the playoffs, it is a whole different thing,” St. Louis midfielder Eduard Lowen said. “I have never played in a playoff, but I treat this as kind of a German Cup mentality in one game where everything can happen, because it’s only one game. It doesn’t matter what happened in the whole season before, on what spot you ended the season. We know in this situation, every team can make it to the final, and that’s maybe a bad thing and maybe also a good thing.”
In 2019 the league went to a straight single-elimination tournament in every round. For the 2023 the best-of-three series starts on October 28 through November 12. While the Wild Card Game between the 8th and 9th seed starts Oct 25th and 26th. City SC will begin its playoff run against the winner of the October 25 match-up between San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City which is played in Kansas City. City SC’s first-ever playoff match will take place at Citypark on October 29 at 9 p.m. The risk for is a possible quick exit from the playoffs which would be a huge blow for this franchise in their historical first season. As Eduard Lowen said after their disappointing loss Saturday against Seattle said, “We just have to stick together as a team now and have to work out this week and focus on the playoffs like the season, like nothing else, happened, like we are not first in the Western Conference, like we didn’t lose the last two games. It doesn’t matter. The playoffs start now.”