Thanks to a scheduling "feature" (all 19 teams can't mathematically play on the weekend), Sporting Kansas City will finish its regular season tonight three (or four) days before the rest of the East.
Which means sorting out who Kansas City will play (and where) in the playoffs will have to wait a few days. For now, it can't get more simple for Sporting KC: Win (or draw) and then wait and see what happens.
A win (or a draw) against the Philadelphia Union would mean Kansas City locks up first place in the East (and home-field advantage). It would also eliminate a potential tie with D.C. United (if both end up on 60 points, D.C. United has the edge in the first tie-breaker, goals scored).
So, we'll break down the playoff-scenarios and potential obstacles later. For now, here are a few quick bullet points to get you ready for tonight's matchup.
• Kickoff at Livestrong Sporting Park is 7:30 p.m. and the match will be broadcast locally on KSMO-TV (with Callum Williams and Jake Yadrich) and nationally on the NBC Sports Network.
• Kansas City will be looking to recover from a (relatively) poor outing in New York. Philadelphia is looking to end its (relatively) disappointing season on a positive note. It should be a (relatively) open game. I'm crossing my fingers that Philly won't come in and bunker like most teams have done at LSP this season.
• The Union held tough in Houston last weekend, but fell apart in the second half, falling 3-1.
• This is the first trip to Kansas City in 2012 for the Union. The last time these two met in MLS play, the Union put the beat down on KC, 4-0. That was without Matt Besler. (Sporting got its revenge, 2-0 in the Open Cup semifinals a month later.)
• Regardless of the outcome of tonight's match, Sporting KC's first playoff game will be on the road Sunday, Nov. 4. The first home game will be Wednesday, Nov. 7.
• Winning isn't the only thing on the line:Kansas City is chasing some interesting milestones in this match too
• Kansas City's injury situation is about the same as it was on Saturday: Teal Bunbury (ACL tear) and Cyprian Hedrick (fibula fracture) are out. But the interesting twist is that Roger Espinoza (who missed Saturday's match with a sprained ankle) returned to training and could (emphasis, could) return tonight.
• Philadelphia's injury list is much longer: Bakary Soumare is out; Gabriel Farfan is doubtful; Sheanon Williams, Danny Cruz and Zach Pfeffer are questionable; and Freddy Adu is probable.
• Big number: Kansas City hasn't lost a match in88 days
Predicted Starting XI
I think Peter Vermes shakes things up just a bit in the midfield -- given how toothless KC's pressure system was last weekend and how many days (10-11) they'll have before playing again. I will go with the young Spaniard, Oriol Rosell, seeing the field tonight but I wouldn't be surprised if Lawrence Olum or Michael Thomas find the field too. Vermes shouldn't rush Roger Espinoza back onto the field as a starter, instead he should give him some second half minutes.
GK: Jimmy Nielsen-c; DEF: Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; DEF: Paulo Nagamura, Oriol Rosell, Graham Zusi; FWD: Kei Kamara, C.J. Sapong, Jacob Peterson.
BENCH: Eric Kronberg; Michael Harrington, Lawrence Olum; Julio Cesar, Roger Espinoza; Bobby Convey, Dom Dwyer