Playoff puzzle falling into place with weekend matches

Otto Greule Jr

With two matches remaining for most teams in MLS, Real Salt Lake will be content sitting back and watching the playoff picture fall into place.

Leading into the weekend matches, Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders both did little to separate from the pack in the Western Conference. RSL remains three points ahead of Seattle, who have a game in hand, and six points ahead of LA Galaxy.

In terms of host ranking, should RSL advance to the MLS Cup Final, they are currently level on points (56) with Chicago Fire, currently second-placed Eastern Conference team, and ahead of D.C. United (54), New York Red Bulls (53) Houston Dynamo (50), and Columbus Crew (49), all of whom are competing for playoff spots with two matches remaining. Sporting Kansas City sits atop the pack with 59 points.

In the Western Conference, RSL needs a point - or for LA to drop one - in order to mathematically avoid a wild-card qualifier. The best potential result would be a draw - preferably without goals - for Seattle and LA in the final match of the season, as that could ensure RSL retains the second-placed seed.

Potentially impactful matches this weekend

New York v. Sporting KC, Saturday, 5 p.m. MDT: A win for New York draws them level on points with RSL and seals a playoff spot; with 8 more goals scored than RSL to this point, they'd hold a hosting advantage. Sporting KC, however, have a chance to put more distance between themselves and Chicago Fire for the top seed in the East.

New England Revolution v. Chicago Fire, Saturday, 5:30 p.m. MDT: Chicago Fire will be looking to win and challenge Sporting KC for that top spot. New England Revolution will want to break the 30-point barrier and look ever so slightly less hapless. Jobs are almost certainly on the line for them.

San Jose v. LA Galaxy, Sunday, 5 p.m. MDT: This one should be barrels of fun, right? San Jose would by all practical measures seal the Supporters Shield with a single point (unless they drop their final match and Sporting KC wins their next two by a combined goal difference of nearly +30.) LA Galaxy could put themselves in a position to challenge for the third-place spot, especially as they meet Seattle for the final match of the season.

Vancouver v. Portland, Sunday, 5 p.m. MDT: Vancouver can seal a playoff spot with a win; anything but puts them in moderate danger. Portland Timbers will be hoping to either avoid the last spot in the West, or end up there for draft pick reasons.

Seattle v. Dallas, Sunday, 7 p.m. MDT: FC Dallas will be looking to win a playoff spot at the death - a win isn't entirely necessary, as a draw would do, but it would go a long way toward making that a possibility. Seattle, however, will be hoping to get that third-place spot locked down - or to move into second place over RSL.

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