Now that the U.S. men's national team has left Livestrong Sporting Park with hexagonal qualification in hand (and the future bright for KC to host a game in "The Hex"), it's time to turn our attention back to league play.
The Kansas City Star
And, for Sporting Kansas City, the picture couldn't be much clearer: KC needs a win and a draw over its last two matches to clinch home-field advantage at least through the Eastern Conference. (Four points would not only clinch first-place in the East, but it would also mean that only San Jose can finish higher than KC -- which matters because the team that qualifies for the MLS Cup with the most regular season points will host.)
Let's break down the scenarios and the remaining schedules for the Eastern Conference contenders.
Points: 59, Games remaining: 2, PPG: 1.84, Max points possible: 65
Remaining games: @ New York (Sat.), vs. Philadelphia (Oct. 24)
The Skinny: Four points. That's the magic number. A draw in New York and a win at home is all that's necessary. However, if KC beats New York AND Chicago falls to New England on Saturday, Sporting would clinch first place.
Points: 56, Games remaining: 2, PPG: 1.75, Max points possible: 62
Remaining games: @ New England (Sat.), vs. D.C. United (Oct. 27)
The Skinny: The Fire are already in the playoffs and are the only team that can seriously catch and over-take Kansas City for first. They would need to win both remaining games with KC earning less than 3 points to do so. (Chicago holds the first tiebreaker -- goals scored -- over KC in the event of a tie in the standings.) The match against D.C. is likely a preview of the first-round of the MLS playoffs with the winner of that game earning the right to host the second match of the two-game aggregate series.
Points: 54, Games Remaining: 2, PPG: 1.69, Max points possible: 60
Remaining games: vs. Columbus (Sat.), @ Chicago (Oct. 27)
The Skinny: United hold a slim lead over New York for third place. First place in the East isn't out of reach, however they'd need to win out, have New York and Philadelphia both beat Kansas City and Chicago draw with New England. United truly have the toughest remaining games -- they are the only team of these six to play two playoff contenders.
New York Red Bulls
Points: 53, Games remaining: 2, PPG: 1.66, Max points possible: 59
Remaining games: vs. Kansas City (Sat.), @ Philadelphia (Oct. 27)
The Skinny: The Red Bulls have somehow fallen out of contention for the top spot in the East and are now struggling to keep Houston and Columbus off their heels. They'll need to win at least one of the last two matches to book their playoff ticket. A loss to KC combined with wins by the Crew and Dynamo on Saturday could spell disaster.
Points: 50, Games remaining: 2, PPG: 1.56, Max points possible: 56
Remaining games: vs. Philadelphia (Sat.), @ Colorado (Oct. 27)
The Skinny: The Dynamo have the easiest schedule (both Philly and Colorado are out of the playoffs) in the league, but have a tricky mid-week CONCACAF Champions League match against Olimpia in between. Two wins could propel them into safety above the fifth-place spot.
Points: 49, Games remaining: 2, PPG: 1.53, Max points possible: 55
Games remaining: @ D.C. United (Sat.), vs. Toronto (Oct. 28)
The Skinny: Just one point out of the playoffs, the Crew face a must win against D.C. this weekend. If it comes down to the last match of the season, Columbus would have to be favored to pick up points against the MLS cellar-dwelling TFC. They need to root for losses by both Houston and New York this weekend.
So, what should KC fans be rooting for this weekend?
Obviously, an SKC win over New York. Picking up three points would guarantee that KC finishes either first or second in the East. But after that?
• D.C. United vs. Columbus: A Crew win would downgrade D.C.'s max points to 57 -- greatly improving SKC's chance of finishing either first or second in the East if they happen to lose or draw to New York.
• New England vs. Chicago: A Revolution win would be massive.
• Houston vs. Philadelphia: If I'm Kansas City, I'd want nothing to do with the Dynamo in the playoffs. They are the one team that have proved to be Peter Vermes' kryptonite. A Union win combined with a Crew victory would knock Houston out of its tenuous playoff position.
• San Jose vs. Los Angeles: The Supporter's Shield isn't quite out of KC's grasp. A Galaxy win combined with SKC getting three points would mean the Quakes would hold just a narrow 2-point lead going into the final week of the season. (But, thanks to tiebreaker rules, KC would need to root for the Quakes to lose its last game of the season in Portland too.)