The Montreal Impact will play at least one Major League Soccer playoff game for the first time in franchise history, and all it took was a little help from the New York Red Bulls who thrashed the Chicago Fire 5-2 on Sunday.
After Montreal's 1-0 loss to Toronto F.C. on Saturday, and wins by Houston and New England on Sunday, the Impact (14-13-7) were forced to put their fate in the hands of the Red Bulls.
Chicago (49 points) would have knocked Montreal (49 points) out of playoff contention if it had beaten or tied New York — or if Chicago had lost and scored six or more goals to move past the Impact according to tiebreaker rules.
Though the Impact can breathe a sigh of relief, Montreal has a difficult playoff route ahead of them.
As the fifth-place team, it must now play fourth-place Houston — who beat D.C. United 2-1 on Sunday — to determine who will join the top three teams in the East in the conference semifinals. Had Montreal beaten Toronto, it would have clinched third and avoided the additional playoff game.
New England shut out Columbus 1-0 to seal third place.
With the Red Bulls' victory over Chicago, New York captured the Supporters' Shield — awarded to the team that finishes first in the regular season standings — and earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
New York will face the winner of the Montreal-Houston playoff game in the Eastern semifinal.
With the Impact making the playoffs in its second year in MLS existence, TFC is now the only Canadian team to not have a playoff appearance.