The Full 90

Looking at the standings as MLS hits the home stretch

As Major League Soccer enters the home-stretch of the 2011 season, the Eastern Conference race is tighter than a hipster's skinny jeans. Just five points separate first-place Columbus from fifth-place New York.

It's looking more and more that the final playoff spots will go right down to the wire.

Sporting Kansas City remain locked in at second place with 40 points after a 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake -- one point behind Columbus, one point above Philadelphia (who are coincidentally, KC's next two opponents).

If you filter the standings by points per game (to account for the discrepancy in games played), the shakedown is a little bit different.

Current Eastern Conference standings by points per game


Team: Points | Games | W-L-T | Goal Differential | Points/Game

1. Columbus: 41 | 29 | 11-10-8 | -2 |

1.41


2. Philadelphia: 39 | 28 | 9-7-12 | 6 |

1.39

3. Kansas City: 40 | 29 | 10-9-10 | 6 |

1.38

4. D.C. United: 34 | 26 | 8-8-10 | -1 |

1.31

5. Houston: 39 | 30 | 9-9-12 | -1 |

1.30

6. New York: 36 | 28 | 7-6-15 | 5 |

1.28

7. Chicago: 30 | 28 | 5-8-15 | -4 |

1.07

8. Toronto: 30 | 30 | 6-12-12 | -20 |

1.00

9. New England: 27 | 29 | 5-12-12 | -14 |

0.93

That's tight. Just .02 separating first and third.

If the playoffs started today (based on points per game), Columbus would win the East with Philly and Sporting taking up the other two automatic playoff spots.

Over in the West (based on points per game), Los Angeles would win the West and the Supporter's Shield, with Salt Lake and

Dallas

Seattle taking up the other two automatic spots.

The wild-cards would be Dallas, Colorado, D.C. United and Houston. New York and Portland are nipping right behind.

Another interesting thing as the season grinds down, is the maximum available points for each team in the East. This puts the "games in hand" into context.

Current Points Available for Eastern Conference Teams

1. D.C. United: 58 (8 games remaining)



2. Philadelphia: 57 (6 games)



3. Columbus: 56 (5 games)



4. Kansas City: 55 (5 games)



5. New York: 54 (6 games)



6. Houston: 51 (4 games)



7. Chicago: 48 (6 games)



8. Toronto: 42 (4 games)



9. New England: 42 (5 games)

If every team in the East earns the maximum points from each available game (which isn't really possible), Kansas City would wind up fourth in the East.

The most important thing to take away from the last five games though is that KC can take 12 points against fellow playoff-foes Philadelphia, Columbus, New York and D.C. United.

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