Sunday, October 18, 2009

MLS Gets Exciting

The penultimate weekend of the Major League Soccer regular season settled a couple of things and blew open a few others. Expansion franchise Seattle Sounders FC joined the list of teams that have clinched a playoff berth, continuing their almost Cinderella season. Already holding the U.S. Open Cup and a play in spot in next years CONCACAF Champions League, the Sounders win yesterday over Kansas City earned the Sounders a berth as the fourth Western Conference team to advance to the post-season.

The Playoff List
So far five teams have qualified

--Columbus (49 points--1 game remaining)
--Chivas USA (45 points--2 games remaining)
--L.A. Galaxy (45 points--1 game remaining)
--Houston (45 points--1 game remaining)
--Seattle (44 points--1 game remaining)
Yes, that is four teams from the western Conference and Colorado is knocking on the door and FC Dallas might make it as well if a few games next week break their way. That would be six teams from the West and just the top two from the East.

Here is the schedule for next week:

Chivas at Chicago (Thursday)
Toronto at New York (Saturday)
D.C. United at Kansas City (Saturday)
Colorado at Real Salt Lake (Saturday)
FC Dallas at Seattle (Saturday)
San Jose at L.A. Galaxy (Saturday)
Houston at Chivas (Sunday)
New England at Columbus (Sunday)

Race for Supporter's Shield.

If Chivas loses on Thursday to Chicago, Columbus will win the Supporter's Shield without another game. If Chivas wins on Thursday, the Supporter's Shield will be determined, as it should be, on the last day of the season. If Columbus wins on Sunday, they win the Supporter's Shield for the second year running. Chivas could win the Supporter's Shield if they win their final two matches and Columbus draws or loses to New England. L.A. and Houston are out of the Supporter's Shield race and no one else is close.

Still open is the second automatic qualifier spot for the Eastern Conference. Chicago had a chance to clinch the berth Saturday, but were robbed by a shockingly bad blown penalty call.

With three playoff spots open, there are no less than six teams who can clinch those three spots on the final weekend. Those teams are:

Chicago (42 points)
Colorado (40 points)
Toronto (39 points)
New England (39 points)
D.C. United (39 points)
FC Dallas (39 points)

Simply, Chicago can qualify with a win or draw against Chivas to secure a playoff birth and deny Chivas the Supporter's Shield. Now Chicago losing to Chivas is a real possibility. Chivas has been solid these past few weeks and Chicago looks to be in pretty bad form, particularly at home. Chicago has had poor form at Toyota Park, with a 4-4-6 record and a -2 goal difference. Of course, Chivas is likewise pretty poor on the road, going 4-7-3 with a -7 goal difference. Chivas has been pretty good on the road lately and overall in good form, with a draw in the Sounders cauldron and a big win over DC United. Chicago have looked shaky. I still think Chicago can pull at least a draw and clinch a berth in the playoffs on Thursday.

Colorado controls their own destiny. A win and they are in the playoffs on 43 points. A draw or a loss and they could be caught by any number of teams and be on the outside looking in. If Colorado win, there will be just two playoff spots left and five teams looking for a spot.

If Chicago loses to Chivas, then it is possible to end the weekend with five teams tied on 42 points. If Toronto, DC United, New England and FC Dallas win, and Chicago loses, those five teams would have 42 points each and you go to tie-breakers.

The first tie-breaker in MLS is head to head results against teams with the same number of points. It gets complicated because there are five teams. The permutations get crazy, but the only one that really matters is if Toronto, DC United, New England and FC Dallas win this weekend.

As noted above a Chicago draw puts them in the playoffs. A Colorado win puts them in the playoffs. That would leave just one playoff spot available for four teams now sitting at 39 points.

This weekend will be spectacular to watch.

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