As the end of the Major League Soccer regular season schedule nears its conclusion next Sunday, logic would state that the playoff picture should become clearer.
However, with just two weekends left on the calendar, things look as murky now as they did when the season started.
“This is about as tight as I have seen it in terms of the most amount of teams still having an opportunity and also probably as tight for the number of positions,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I have seen it where it comes down to three teams competing for the last playoff spot or four teams competing for the last two playoff spots, but it’s rare when you see it go this late in the season with two games left and teams are still competing not only to get into the playoffs but also to finish first or second in their particular conference. It’s a lot tighter than it has been in the past.”
The Columbus Crew has clinched the top spot in the East and the LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and Chivas USA have clinched playoff spots in the West, but beyond that, everything is up in the air.
Chivas has three games left on the schedule, but will face the Chicago Fire and Houston next week after a home match with the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday. LA draws Houston on the road this Sunday before a home tilt with San Jose next week.
Seattle, meanwhile, could possibly leapfrog all three with wins over the Kansas City Wizards Saturday and at home against FC Dallas Oct. 24, though they would need some help to accomplish that. They also have the luxury of controlling their own fate – a win would clinch a playoff berth for the Sounders in their inaugural season.
“It’s nice to be in control of your own destiny. You don’t have to hope that we will win and they will lose and they will lose which is sort of what Kansas City has,” Schmid said. “They have to win and other teams have to lose. It’s always a lot better to be in the position that we are in where let’s just win and we are there. The only scoreboard we need to watch is our own scoreboard.”
In the East, Chicago and New England both have strong playoff positions, though their path to the postseason is a bumpy one. The Revs host the Fire on Saturday, then finish the season in Columbus while Chicago have a home battle with Chivas USA Thursday.
Just behind them is the Colorado Rapids, who would shift over to the East as a wild-card entry. They finish with road matches at Dallas this week and Real Salt Lake next week.
Sitting just outside of the playoff picture are FC Dallas, DC United and Toronto FC, all two points behind eighth-seeded New England with 36 points. RSL has an outside shot with 34 points and Kansas City is in desperation mode at 32 points.
Seattle can clear their own picture, while eliminating Kansas City, with a win this weekend.
“We would like to take care of it this weekend and not wait until the following weekend,” Schmid said. “We would like to get the three points there and wrap it up, but what’s good about it is that they have to play to win. It’s not a point that they are looking to get. They are playing to win. That should allow the game to be a little more open and they shouldn’t be bunkered in on the back in any way.”
Kickoff is set for 5:30 from Kansas City’s Community/America Ballpark.