The race for the Supporters' Shield will come down to the last weekend -- actually, just two games -- with New York and Sporting Kansas City fighting neck and neck: The Red Bulls (56) have a slight one-point lead over Sporting KC (55).
The Kansas City Star
A New York loss or draw against Chicago (at home on Sunday) and a win by Sporting Kansas City in Philadelphia (on Saturday), would mean Kansas City would take home the Shield -- and the automatic Champions League berth and theoretical home field advantage it brings in the playoffs.*
*The team to qualify for the MLS Cup with the best record will host the final.
Which marks a pretty fantastic month for Sporting KC as the team chased the Shield with a lot of hard work and a ridiculous amount of luck.
The hard work? Over the last seven matches, Kansas City's record is 5-1-1 with just three goals allowed.
The luck? Results for the last three weeks have -- for the most part -- gone Kansas City's way, as many major contenders have stumbled.
Seattle and Montreal -- the two teams with the most games in hand this month -- have floundered. The Sounders have failed to win a single game in its last six; Montreal have just one win in that span.
Portland and Salt Lake are the two top teams in the West, but battled to a scoreless draw this weekend. Meaning both are still in the race, but would need New York and KC to lose this weekend. Portland and Salt Lake both need to win of course, but both also close the season against Chivas, which likely means both will be victorious. Portland can finish with 57 points; Salt Lake with 56.
Unfortunately for KC fans, New York throttled Houston this past weekend to stay on top, ending the run of results that broke KC's way.
The current form table (last six games)
New York (4-0-2) 14 points
San Jose (4-0-2) 14
Kansas City (4-1-1) 13
Chicago (4-1-1) 13
Colorado (4-2-0) 12
Portland (3-0-3) 12
New England (3-1-2) 11
Houston (3-1-2) 11
Columbus (3-3-0) 9
Los Angeles (2-1-3) 9
Real Salt Lake (2-2-2) 8
Vancouver (2-2-2) 8
Philadelphia (2-3-1) 7
Montreal (1-4-1) 4
Toronto (1-4-1) 4
Dallas (1-4-1) 4
Chivas (1-4-1) 4
Seattle (0-4-2) 2
D.C. United (0-4-2) 2
With one game remaining for every team,* only one team can finish with more points than Kansas City if both teams win this weekend. The Red Bulls.
*Well, every team that matters. Chivas has two games left.
The advantage, obviously, is in New York's favor. New York has the home match (against Chicago on Sunday) and will know the result of the KC-Philadelphia match (early on Saturday).* But as the above table shows, Chicago is plenty hot right now. (Though the last three wins have come against D.C. United, Dallas and Toronto. Not exactly playoff preparation.)
*The uneven number of teams in the league makes the English-style approach of playing the final round of games simultaneously impossible. Salt Lake plays its last game of the season on Wednesday. I hope the league explores the balanced option when the 20th team joins -- it would be a day of intense drama.
While the Supporter's Shield race will come down to the wire, the good news is that Kansas City is guaranteed to finish no worse than second in the East. (Only New York and KC have clinched playoff spots in the East. Out West: Portland, Salt Lake, Los Angeles and Seattle have clinched -- and are within three points of each other.)
Montreal and Chicago are level on 49 points with New England and Houston also level on 48 points. Philadelphia is two back at 46. *
*Since you'll probably need to know this: The first tiebreaker this year is total wins. The second is goals for. The third is goal differential. There are nine of them total, I won't list them all.
Only five teams qualify for the playoffs. The fourth- and fifth-place teams will face each other in a one-game play-in match. The winner will face the conference champion.
As of right now in the East, New York would play the winner of Chicago/New England, Kansas City would face Montreal. But that will certainly change this weekend.
Here's the full Eastern schedule:
Kansas City at Philadelphia, 2 p.m. Saturday
Montreal at Toronto, 3 p.m. Saturday
Houston at D.C. United, 12:30 p.m. Sunday
New England at Columbus, 3 p.m. Sunday
Chicago at New York, 4 p.m. Sunday