It's "Decision Day" all around MLS today with all 12 games the same start time sometime soon after 3 p.m. and Minnesota United has played 33 games this season to decide its own fate on the final Sunday.
Win this afternoon on the artificial turf in Seattle and the Loons finish alone in the Western Conference's second place with two home playoff games their reward (if, of course, they win the first).
Tie and they still can finish second with those two home games -- IF the L.A. Galaxy doens't win at Houston.
Lose and they still can finish anywhere from third to fifth. If they would drop to fifth -- which only happens if they lose and both the Galaxy and Real Salt Lake win -- they'd start on the road MLS playoffs opening weekend Oct. 19-20.
They'll play on a sunny day in Seattle, where at least today you'll find the bluest skies you've ever seen.
"As I said a few weeks ago, would I have settled for this before the season started?" United coach Adrian Heath said. "You bet I would have. We want to try and finish it off. I've said it numerous occasions now, I know we're capable of betting anybody, whether that's LAFC or whether that's the Galaxy. If we're at home, if we can get ourselves home-field advantage for some of these games, we knows where we could go?"
UPDATE: UNITED LINEUP IS BELOW, WITH HEATH GOING WITH VETS ANGELO RODRIGUEZ AND ETHAN FINLAY AND ROOKIE HASSANI DOTSON WHILE MOLINO, LOD AND TOYE ARE SUBS. I'll post United's lineup shortly. Heath said Saturday he had decided the shape and style he wants his team to play today, but hadn't decided on the exact personnel to execute and said he needed one more night to sleep on it.
If the Loons would get all the way to the Nov. 10 MLS Cup and win it, they'd also get invited into the prestigious CONCACAF Champions League starting in February.
They could get their anyway if things fall right today. They'd have to win here at Seattle, Philadelphia would have to lose to NYCFC and LAFC, Atlanta or NYCFC -- all of three which have already qualified -- win the MLS Cup.
Then the Loons would play a home-and-home series against one of the top teams in Central America or the Caribbean to start the 16-game tournament.
"It'd be nice, wouldn't it?" Heath asked. "It's another opportunity to play top competition. It'd be love to play one of them Mexican teams in the stadium (Allianz Field)."
Today, of course, is the return of United captain Ozzie Alonso to the city and stadium at CenturyLink Field where he played 10 years (all of them reaching the playoffs) before the Loons acquired him in a deal on waivers last winter.
If you didn't see it, here's a story on his season and that return with a video interview with him Saturday after United trained at the Sounders' suburban facility he used to call home.
“Ten years, I never spent a night in a hotel here,” he said. “So to come here, take a bus, go to training, go to the hotel is a little bit weird. But you have to go forward.”
The Sounders will honor him today when they announce their XI best from their first decade in MLS and Alonso is an integral part of that best 11.
A couple other tidbits:
United has asked starting right back Romain Metanire's Madagascar national team to excuse him outright or limit his playing time during the next FIFA international break window that starts right after Decision Day today and stretches almost until the MLS playoffs begin Oct. 19. As of Saturday, the Loons were waiting for a reply.
Madagascar is scheduled to play a African Cup of Nations qualifier Oct. 16 and then Metanie would have to fly 19 hours through Paris to get back to Minnesota. If the Loons earn a home playoff game, they'd likely play Sunday, Oct. 20 because the St. John's-St. Thomas college-football game is already scheduled for Allianz Field on the 19th.
"It's not ideal for the playoffs, let's put it that way," Heath said.
Heath on the early 1 p.m. start in SeattIe: "I don't think players like it because it upsets your routine. I thought the games could be a little later over this way (Pacific time zone). But it's the same for everybody. We knew that."
United starting 11
GK: 1 Vito Mannone GK
D: 77 Chase Gasper, 3 Ike Opara, 15 Michael Boxall, 19 Romain Metanire
M: 31 Hassani Dotson, 8 Jan Gregus, 6 Ozzie Alonso, 13 Ethan Finlay
F: 25 Darwin Quintero, 9 Angelo Rodriguez
Dayne St. Clair, Kevin Molino, Miguel Ibarra, Lawrence Olum, Robin Lod, Mason Toye, Wilfried Moimbe-Tahrat