The Full 90

Striking Distance: KC 7 points out of first

With 21 games played and just 13 remaining (10 of them at home), Sporting Kansas City have put themselves right into the thick of things -- just seven points out of first place in a very shaky conference.

That's right, it's OK to start talking about the playoffs. Premature? Yeah, a bit. But nonetheless, let's talk about it.

But it's more than just playoff talk. Sporting KC are in decent position as August* begins to start pushing for the top spot in the conference. The schedule is tough, for sure, but the toughest tests will all come at Livestrong Sporting Park.

*Of course, Kansas City has historically found August a tough month to negotiate. Of course, KC hasn't had an August with no road games.

As it stands right now, Sporting would be the 9th team (out of 10) into the playoffs, tied with Houston at 27 points and one point up on Chivas and DC United.

The MLS playoff structure works as such: The top three teams in each conference will qualify for the playoffs (right now that's Columbus, Philadelphia, New York in the East; Los Angeles, Dallas and Seattle in the West) with the last four teams decided by regular season points "irrespective of conference" (right now that's Colorado, Salt Lake, Kansas City and Houston in that order). The four wild-card teams will face each other in single-elimination play-in games.

The West is going to be a bear no matter how you dice it. Los Angeles and Dallas are head and shoulders (points-wise) above the rest of the league and Colorado and Salt Lake would be automatic qualifiers for the playoffs if they were in the East.

So, the higher Sporting can climb in the East, the better the odds to advance.

Let's compare Kansas City to those ahead of them -- and close behind -- in the East.

Team | Games Played | Points | W-L-T | Goal Differential | Form
Sporting Kansas City | 21 GP | 27 Points | 6-6-9 | +1 GD | T-T-T-W-T

Teams KC is chasing

Columbus Crew | 22 GP | 34 Points | 9-6-7 | +4 GD | W-T-L-W-W

Next Game: @ Colorado Rapids on Friday (8:30 p.m. Fox Soccer Channel)

Last game against KC: 1-0 win at Crew Stadium on April 16

Games remaining against KC: 1 (Sept. 28 @ Livestrong Sporting Park)

Philadelphia Union | 20 GP | 31 Points | 8-5-7 | +7 GD | W-T-T-W-L

Next Game: @ Chicago tomorrow (8 p.m. on DirectKick/Match Day Live)

Last game against KC: 0-0 at PPL Park on June 22

Games remaining against KC: 1 (Sept. 23 @ Livestrong Sporting Park)

New York Red Bulls | 23 GP | 30 Points | 6-5-12 | +7 GD | W-L-T-L-T

Next Game: @ Real Salt Lake on Saturday (8 p.m. on DirectKick/Match Day Live

Last game against KC: 1-0 win at Red Bull Stadium on April 30

Games remaining against KC: 1 (Oct. 15 @ Livestrong Sporting Park)

Thoughts: With a game at home against all three teams -- and games in hand against Columbus and New York -- KC has a chance to make up ground as the season winds down. ... Along with these three teams, KC is the only other Eastern Conference team with a positive goal differential. ... New York is the only team at the top of the Eastern Conference that's lost two games in its last five. ... New York is 1-3-8 on the road this year; Philly and Columbus each have 3 road wins.

Teams KC is fighting

Houston Dynamo | 22 GP | 27 Points | 6-7-9 | 0 GD | T-W-T-L-W

Next Game: @ Philadelphia on Saturday (7 p.m. on DirectKick/Match Day Live)

Last game against KC: 1-1 at Robertson Stadium on July 16

Games remaining against KC: 1 (Sept. 10 @ Livestrong Sporting Park)

DC United | 20 GP | 26 Points | 6-6-8 | -4 GD | T-W-T-L-W

Next Game: vs. Toronto FC on Saturday (6:30 p.m. on DirectKick/Match Day Live)

Last game against KC: N/A

Games remaining against KC: 2 (Aug. 21 @ Livestrong Sporting Park; Oct. 22 @ RFK Stadium)

Thoughts: Kansas City has a home date against both team -- and six points on the table to take from DC. ... So far, KC has only earned 2 points against the Top 5 teams in the East, without having played a single one of them at home. ... There are 18 points available just against these five teams. ... DC has the advantage of having a game in hand on everyone but Philadelphia.