- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 28, 2018

D.C. United locked up the No. 4 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, which comes with a home playoff match this week.

The Black and Red will host the fifth-seeded Columbus Crew 8 p.m. Thursday at Audi Field.

United wrapped up the 34-game regular season Sunday with a scoreless draw at the Chicago Fire and finished the year 14-11-9 (51 points). Wayne Rooney got close to scoring a go-ahead goal on a free kick in the 68th minute, but Chicago keeper Patrick McLain got in front of it for his lone save of the game.

The Crew tied United with 51 standings points by winning their regular-season finale. United earned the higher seed and home-field advantage in the knockout round because they beat Columbus in a goal differential tiebreaker.

United haven’t lost since Aug. 29, winning seven times and drawing three in their last 10 matches. They split their season series with the Crew one win apiece, but they haven’t faced each other since April.

It’s likely D.C. will be the happiest hosts in the league this week. The club is 13-2-2 at home this season, and 12-2-1 at Audi Field since christening the new stadium in July.

The MLS playoff format is fairly analogous to the NFL’s. Six teams in each conference advanced to the postseason; the top two teams on each side have first-round byes, and No. 3 hosts No. 6 while No. 4 plays No. 5. Just like in the NFL, the first-round winners will be re-seeded based on regular season performance so the No. 1 teams play the lowest remaining seeds.

But in the conference semifinals and finals, opponents will play series of two matches against each other, with each team hosting once. The winners will be decided on aggregate score. The MLS Cup Final, though, will be just one match played on Dec. 8.

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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