Right now, only Sporting Kansas City has punched its playoff ticket (season-ticket holder members got to literally get their playoff tickets this morning). Which means that just about every game from this point forward in the Eastern Conference matters.
The Kansas City Star
Starting tonight with the Chicago Fire making up its game in hand on the rest of the East when it hosts Philadelphia. (There's no TV for this match, sadly.)
Sporting KC fans should pay keen attention to the result because, if you want to see Sporting inch closer to the top seed in the Eastern Conference, you'll need to root for the Union. A Philadelphia win would lower Kansas City's magic number to 5 points (because both Chicago and New York's maximum points possible would be 62).
But this match is just an appetizer for this weekend, where the main course is Chicago traveling to New York on Saturday.
There are so many scenarios in play here, but the simple rooting strategy for Sporting fans? Root for a tie because it lowers the maximum-possible points for both teams. For New York, a tie would cap its max at 60 points. For Chicago, a tie on Saturday would mean a cap at either 63, 61 or 60 (depending on what happens tonight).*
*It gets a little confusing, I realize, but just know this: KC fans need to root for the Fire to lose. All of the times.
If both New York and Chicago exit Saturday with a maximum of 60 points possible for the season, Kansas City's magic number for clinching first place and avoiding tie-breakers in the East would be just 3.**
**It's worth reminding that, because of MLS's new rules this year, the team that qualifies for the MLS Cup with the most regular season points will host the MLS Cup. So, winning the East and keeping pace with San Jose in the Supporter's Shield race is also very important.
Which means that, with a KC win in Columbus on Sunday and some results going the right way, Sporting KC might wrap up the top seed in the East before "Homeland" starts on Sunday night.*** Wouldn't it be great to head to New York on Oct. 20 and have it not mean anything?
***Both teams will have the advantage, at least, of knowing how all of those matches above played out before kickoff and what needs to be done.
The other two playoff-implication matches on Saturday are D.C. United at Toronto and Houston vs. Montreal. Currently, Houston and D.C. hold the fourth and fifth spot in the East.
Both matches should also interest KC fans a little bit. A draw by Houston or a loss by D.C. United guarantee that KC could finish no worse than fourth in the East. If both of those results happen, KC would finish no worse than third.
In other words, just about every Eastern Conference game this weekend has some baring on KC's playoff fortunes.