With the Union on the cusp of the playoffs, manager Jim Curtin is already aiming higher.
He doesn't just want the Union's first postseason berth in two years, which they'd get with a win Saturday over Minnesota United (7:30 p.m., PHL17). He wants them to climb above their fifth place in the standings, which would secure the team's first playoff home game in seven years.
It's a big task. The fourth-place Columbus Crew would need to lose at least once along the way, most likely at Montreal on Saturday. Then, the Union (14-12-5, 47 points) would need to beat not just middling Minnesota, but also the second-place New York Red Bulls and third-place New York City FC to close the season.
Still, Curtin isn't afraid to dream – and he isn't afraid to dream out loud.
"We're trying to get as high a seed as possible and working hard to now get our fans a home-field game here at Talen Energy Stadium," Curtin said Wednesday. "That's the No. 1, singular focus of the group right now."
The Union have already broken their records for wins in a season (12 in 2013). They're one point from tying the record for points in a season (48 in 2011, the year of that last home playoff game). Getting third place would match their highest finish in the standings (also in 2011, though there were five fewer teams in MLS).
That might be a bigger bite than this team can take. Though the Minnesota and Red Bulls games will be at home, the season finale against NYCFC will be on the road. And since City plays its home games at Yankee Stadium, the baseball playoffs might kick them out. The Union could go anywhere from the Bronx to Citi Field to East Hartford, Conn., venues where City played October games last year.
First up is Minnesota, which could be a trap game. Though the Loons are ninth in the West (11-3-16, 36 points), they have some great attacking players. The best is Darwin Quintero, a Colombian playmaker who has 10 goals and 13 assists this season. A former star with Mexico's Club América, he isn't a superstar name like Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Wayne Rooney, but he's just as skilled and unpredictable.
"When he gets a head of steam, and he runs at you … he's a game-changer," Curtin said. "He's the equivalent of your NFL wide receiver that can make a play at any moment, can break you down, and make you change everything that you're doing."