With four games remaining in the MLS Regular Season, the Portland Timbers (9-5-5) are tied with the Seattle Sounders (9-4-5) for first place in the Western Conference with 32 points each.
But what exactly are they playing for?
In a normal MLS season, the higher seed would get to host an MLS Playoff game in front of their home fans and the top seed would get a first-round bye while the second seed hosts the seventh seed.
However, in 2020, likely no fans will be allowed at Providence Park or CenturyLink Field during the entirety of the postseason and the first seed doesn't receive an additional bye, as they will host the lower advancing seed of the play-in games while the two-seed will host the higher advancing seed.
"The fact that we don't have our fans - and we miss them greatly because how amazing they are - is unfortunate," explained head coach Giovanni Savarese.
Also, neither Seattle or Portland can likely catch Toronto FC for the Supporters Shield, so what is Portland playing for exactly when it comes to competing for the one-seed in the Western Conference?
"I think this is an interesting question because definitely, you would want to play at home first because you would like to try to have the advantage of having your fans," said Savarese. "But never the less, you want to play at home. You want to make sure you don't have to travel."
Given MLS COVID-19 protocols, road teams must travel to the opposing stadium the same day as game day, and return following the contest.
“Obviously, you have an advantage if you play at home because you don’t have to fly, and as you know we are flying the same day, which is not easy," said Diego Valeri following a road loss to Real Salt Lake on October 14th.
Playing at home in the postseason will also give a sense of accomplishment to the home team. They did what they needed to do to be in the best position possible in the postseason.
"You want to make sure that at least you have that sense of feeling that 'You know what, we did what we had to do. We put ourselves in a good situation and now at home, we have to make sure that we do even better,'" said Savarese.
"It’s a good one if we can play in our home field," added Valeri.
Now with four games left in the regular season, the Timbers are focused on the job in front of them.
"We're looking to make sure we do things the right way," said Savarese. "We want to win every game. We want to win everything that is in front of us and that's going to hopefully give us a reward to be able to play at home. But we have to get the job done, game-by-game, and we are definitely looking forward to make sure that we come back home."
Next, the Timbers host the LA Galaxy on Wednesday, October 28th at 7:00 p.m. PT at Providence Park.