It's been simple for some time -- thanks to taking care of business at home this summer, Sporting Kansas City have controlled their own destiny for the last month.
This weekend, that all comes to a head. Beat the New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City are playoff bound. Done. No help needed for that.
Where KC will land in the playoffs, however, is yet to be determined. And could require help.
The Eastern Conference is refusing to take shape. Because of Philadelphia's 2-0 win over Seattle on Saturday, KC could finish anywhere from first to the last wildcard. (The only Eastern team who can't finish above KC? Chicago. That's it.)
Just four points separates the top four teams. Here are the standings as of this morning.Eastern Conference Standings
Team: Points | Games | W-L-T | Goal Differential | Points Per Game
1. Philadelphia: 47 | 32 | 11-7-14 | +9 |1.469
2. Kansas City: 45 | 32 | 11-9-12 | +7 | 1.406
3. Columbus: 44 | 32 | 12-12-8 | -3 | 1.375
4. New York: 43 | 32 | 9-7-16 | +7 | 1.344
5. Houston: 43 | 32 | 10-9-13 | 0 | 1.344
6. D.C. United: 38 | 30 | 9-10-11 | 0 | 1.267
7. Chicago: 37 | 31 | 7-8-16 | 0 | 1.194
If the playoffs started today, Philly would win the East with KC and Columbus in second and third. New York and Houston would take the third and fourth wild card spot. Out West Los Angeles, Seattle and Salt Lake would take the automatic berths with Dallas and Colorado as the first and second wild card teams.
The good news? Sporting can finish first in the East if it wins both of its remaining games and Philadelphia loses just once (or draws twice). If KC and Philly both win out, Philly will take first place and KC second. Meaning the road to the MLS Cup goes through PPL Park and not Livestrong.
The bad news? A loss to New York won't kill Sporting, but it could be bad. How bad? Well, if it was combined with the wrong results (like, say both Columbus and Houston winning) KC's last match against D.C. United could become a loser-misses-the-playoffs scenario. So, don't take anything for granted. It's probably best not to think too deeply on this topic. Just know that the possibility exists.
You know that old saying "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing"? Well, yeah, that's in order this weekend.