The Portland Timbers have qualified for the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, making it five years straight that the Timbers have advanced to the postseason. Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw between Los Angeles FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps meant that mathematically Portland can finish no worse than seventh place in the Western Conference.
Portland also has a chance to clinch a top four finish in the Western Conference which would guarantee a home match in the first round of the playoffs. There are technically a few permutations, but the most straightforward way to get there is the Timbers winning either of their final two regular season matches.
Their first chance to do so will be tonight in their final regular season road fixture. They square off against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium (7:30 p.m. PST, ESPN2). Portland also host Austin FC at Providence Park on Decision Day, providing another chance to secure a home playoff match should things go awry in Sandy tonight.
For the Timbers, making the playoffs in 2021 is definitely an accomplishment based on the course this season has taken. After multiple deflating summer blowouts, it appeared that this team was on the trajectory of missing out on the postseason. Instead, this squad was able to pull it together and string enough late summer and early autumn results together to earn a spot in the MLS postseason.
Of course, the team should not be satisfied with solely qualifying for the playoffs. Qualifying should be the bare minimum for a potentially successful season with seven teams from each conference making the playoffs. Playoff qualification isn’t enough to deem the season a success for a team with Portland’s talent and pedigree and they will have the chance to prove their bona fides for postseason success as the regular season winds down and the playoffs kick off.
To be successful in the postseason, a team must make them first. And this Timbers squad has successfully checked that box. As the Timbers army once proudly proclaimed: We’re back. You’re welcome.