The Full 90

The Great Playoff Race: KC's in, but other things matter

Nine teams have clinched the playoffs (in order of points): Los Angeles (Supporter's Shield), Seattle, Real Salt Lake, Dallas, Sporting Kansas City, Philadelphia, Columbus, Colorado and Houston.

Four teams are still fighting for the last spot: New York, Portland, Chicago and D.C. United. (Portland and D.C. play what should be an elimination game on Wednesday at RFK; the loser will miss the playoffs.)

Also up for grabs: How the East will settle. The difference between first place and the third wild-card team is just 2 points.

To paraphrase

the greatest movie of ever

, "This just got real."

Right now, Kansas City and Philadelphia top the conference with 48 points. The two teams tied both regular season games and have the exact same goal differential. Meaning, by virtue of the third tiebreaker (total goals), KC would win the conference outright with a victory against D.C. on Saturday -- unless the Union win by a greater margin than KC.

Eastern Conference Standings

Team: Points | Games | W-L-T | Goal Differential | Total Goals

1. Kansas City: 48 | 33 | 12-9-12 | +9 | 49



2. Philadelphia: 48 | 33 | 11-7-15 | +9 | 44



3. Columbus: 47 | 33 | 13-12-8 | 0 | 41



4. Houston: 46 | 33 | 11-9-13 | 2



5. New York: 43 | 33 | 9-8-16 | +5 | 49



6. Chicago: 40 | 33 | 8-9-16 | 0 | 43



7. D.C. United: 38 | 32 | 9-12-11 | -2 | 48

With most teams just having one game remaining, here are the maximum points each team can earn.

Eastern Conference

Team: Maximum points possible | Games remaining

1. Kansas City: 51 | Saturday @ D.C.



2. Philadelphia: 51 | Thursday @ New York



3. Columbus: 50 | Sat. @ Chicago



4. Houston: 49 | Sun. vs. Los Angeles



5. New York: 46 | Thurs. vs. Philadelphia



6. D.C. United: 44 | Thurs. vs. Portland, Sat. vs. Kansas City



7. Chicago: 43 | Sat. vs. Columbus

KC owns tiebreakers over Columbus (goal differential) and Houston (head-to-head) as well. They could also wind up level with Colorado potentially, and also own the tiebreaker there (goal differential).

Where will Sporting Kansas City wind up?

Here are the scenarios:

Sporting Kansas City would clinch first place in the East if...



• they defeat D.C. United AND



• Philadelphia loses or draws New York

OR if...



• they and Philadelphia both draw AND



• Columbus loses to Chicago

When would Livestrong Sporting Park host a playoff game?

It's not a foregone conclusion that KC will host a playoff game. It's highly likely, but not a certainty.

• If Kansas City finishes

first

or

second

in the East, they would host the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals on either Nov. 2-3. The lower seed would host the first leg on Oct. 29-30. The highest seed remaining will host the Eastern Conference championship on Nov. 5-6.

• If KC finishes

third

in the East, they would host the first-leg of the semifinals on Oct. 29-30 and go on the road for the second leg on Nov. 2-3.

• If KC falls to the wild-card, it would host the Colorado Rapids in a single-elimination game on Oct. 26-27

only

if they finish better or level with Colorado. If not, KC would have to travel to Colorado for the single-elimination game. (I've not seen this certified by MLS, but according to my calculations, Salt Lake or Dallas would hold the first wild card and would host Portland/New York/D.C./Chicago. Meaning the fourth-place team in the East will play Colorado no matter what.)

Key games this week

• Wednesday: D.C. United vs. Portland, 7 p.m., Direct Kick/Match Day Live



A Portland win would eliminate D.C. before the game with KC on Saturday.

• Thursday: New York vs. Philadelphia, 7 p.m., ESPN2/ESPN Deportes



A loss wouldn't eliminate New York, but it would put them in dire straits. Kansas City fans would probably be best served by a draw in this game. Philly would end the season on 49 points in that scenario and a KC win locks up the East without the need for tiebreakers. Though, as a few commenters have mentioned, if Philly wins and KC wins by a greater margin, KC owns the tiebreaker.
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