NYCFC can still make the playoffs in 2023

NYCFC / Griffin Zetterberg-USA TODAY Sports

New York City FC has had an interesting season thus far.  The team currently sits in fifth place in the Eastern Conference table, and is 4-4-3.  13 of the side's 15 total points have been earned at home, and then only two points have been gained on the road. 

In other words, the Pigeons are playing superbly at home, but terrible when they are away.  Some games are incredible, while others are ones supporters would like to forget.  Sometimes they are able to score despite not having a true striker, and other times the goals are missing in action.  There are fixtures where the defense is on-point, and there are others, like the match against Charlotte FC, where the defense collapses.

It needs to be said the current players that mostly start are great players who should be starting in MLS.  The issue at hand is the lack of strength with depth players, where rotation can hurt the team.  And again, the road is not a friendly place, at least at this moment.

Based on the current eleven matches the team has played in Major League Soccer, NYCFC can make the playoffs in 2023.  Teams can still make the postseason, even when the struggles on the road describe the season as a whole.  However, if the solid home record continues, then the Bronx/ Queens side can easily make the playoffs. 

NYCFC have a path forward for the 2023 playoffs

So, how can New York City FC make the playoffs in 2023, even if they continue the poor away performances?  Well, the biggest help are the changes for this year.

MLS is trying to follow other leagues in the United States, and award postseason berths to teams that probably should not even see the MLS Cup playoffs.  This year, nine teams in each conference will qualify for the postseason, with the eighth and ninth seeded teams playing a wildcard fixture.  Then, the changes are interesting, for now the first round will be a best of three series, where the first team to win two games will move on in the playoffs. 

The rest of the Cup is mostly the same, but the fact remains that it will be easier for NYCFC to make the playoffs, even the wild card round.  Last season, the ninth place Charlotte would have qualified for the playoffs with 42 points.  In 2021, it was the Columbus Crew with 47

Subsequently, using the fact the Pigeons are great at home and terrible away from home, supporters can assume the team would have to gain at least 27 to 32 more points.  There are 12 home fixtures remaining, and if the team were to win every one, then that would give them 36 points.  However, it is important to be realistic, and perhaps the team will lose two and draw two of those home games.  That would mean the team would end up with 26 points from the remaining home matches.

As such, that would mean NYCFC would have to win at least two or three times on the road.  Based on their recent play in Charlotte, that seems more possible than it did compared to a week ago.  In addition, the team has to and will bring in a few more players this summer, especially a center-forward.  Therefore, it is entirely possible to gather some points away from home.

At the same time, NYCFC has to capitalize on their chances, and better defend set pieces.  Without the mistake by Richard Ledezma against Charlotte, the Pigeons would have left with a point.  Yes, it is tough without a striker, but at least Santiago Rodríguez has been the best option up front and center, and has made a difference.  The lack of depth has made it difficult as well, but again, more pieces will arrive this summer, and other players can improve over the next few months.   

The team is notorious though for going on tough stretches throughout a MLS season.  Even in 2021, there was a point where it felt like NYCFC would not make the playoffs, but then they did and won the MLS Cup.  Hence, it is entirely possible for the team to make the playoffs, even with bad road fixtures and good home ones. 

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The season might look bleak at this point, especially because New York City FC is on a poor road stretch.  But by looking at the last couple of seasons, and the current changes to the playoffs, it is possible to play in the postseason.  There is a path forward, and supporters have to remember that.