Kansas City, with a 9-7-9 record, now trails the table-topping Columbus Crew by just four points in the Eastern Conference. That's an awful long climb from the 1-6-3 team that took the field to open Livestrong Sporting Park on June 9.
Here's a completely counter-productive thought: What if Sporting Kansas City had held on to a 1-0 lead in the 89th minute against Seattle or beaten either Toronto or Chicago in June (instead of drawing 0-0 with each)? Well, if that had happened, they'd be in first place in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, if you wanted to play the "what if" game, you could go all the way back April 2 and the 3-3 draw in Vancouver. Or the collapse in New England when up 2-1. Or the meager 1-1 draw up a man against Houston. The positive result in each of those games would've given KC a nice 11-point lead in the East.
But, sadly, we don't live in that reality and you can't change the past just as much as you can't rig the roster rules to allow Los Angeles to add another designated player as the transfer deadline closes.*
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Instead, what you can do is stop dreaming of what would've been and look at the what could be.
With 9 games remaining this season, the Sportos will face 8 teams within a shout* of the playoffs (Dallas, Los Angeles, Houston, Salt Lake, Philadelphia, Columbus, New York and DC -- all but D.C. will come to Livestrong Sporting Park).
If the playoffs started today (get really, really, really used to that phrase), Columbus, Kansas City and Houston would get the automatic playoff spots with Philadelphia and New York taking the last two wild-card spots.My colleague at The Star, Martin Manley, crunched some numbers on his Upon Further Review blog to predict the MLS playoff order. You should check out his conclusions.
Here are the current standings with each team's next three games. The toughest upcoming schedule? Why, it's Sporting Kansas City -- three playoff teams, two of the best in the West. But each face a tough game (or two).
Current MLS Standings1. Columbus Crew (automatic spot) | 11-7-7 | 25 G | +5 GD
• Next three matches: @ Seattle (Saturday), vs. Toronto (Sept. 10), vs. Houston (Sept. 14)2. Sporting Kansas City (automatic spot) | 9-7-9 | 25 G | +5 GD
• Next three games: vs. Dallas (Saturday), vs. Los Angeles (Sept. 5), vs. Houston (Sept. 10)3. Houston Dynamo (automatic spot) | 8-7-11 | 26 G | +2 GD
• Next three matches: @ Vancouver (Saturday), vs. Kansas City (Sept. 10), vs. Columbus (Sept. 14)4. Philadelphia Union (wildcard) | 8-6-10 | 24 G | +6 GD
• Next three matches: vs. New England (Sunday), @ Real Salt Lake (Sept. 3), vs. Portland (Sept. 10)5. New York Red Bulls (wildcard) | 6-6-14 | 26 G | +4 GD
• Next three games: vs. Los Angeles (Sunday), vs. Vancouver (Sept. 10), @ Dallas (Sept. 17)
The playoff race might get much clearer focus in just three weeks: Sporting and Houston go head-to-head on the 10th with Columbus and Houston facing off just four days later.
Also worth noting, after the Labor Day game with Los Angeles, Sporting KC loses the "game in hand" on Houston and New York.