Atlanta United have become the first expansion team since the 2009 Seattle Sounders to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs. They earned a spot as one of the Eastern Conference’s top six teams by virtue of a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Union, giving them a seven-match unbeaten streak overall and a twelve-match home unbeaten streak. Atlanta, who join the 1998 Chicago Fire and the 2009 Sounders as expansion clubs to make the playoffs in year one, haven’t lost a match since a 1-0 defeat at DC United on August 23.
The Five Stripes’ next goal is to position themselves to either host a playoff match in the first round knockout stage or capture the conference’s second seed to advance directly to the two-legged semifinals. They could still even catch Toronto FC for the Supporters’ Shield if they win out and the Reds continue to drop points. Toronto host the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
Atlanta’s play of late certainly make them a potential contender to lift MLS Cup in December. For now, there’s still work to be done in the regular season before they chase another bit of history: joining the 1998 Chicago Fire as the only expansion sides to win an MLS Cup in their inaugural season.