The Western Conference dominance of San Jose Earthquakes means that Wednesday's match, with second-place Real Salt Lake taking on third-place Seattle Sounders, a sort-of-not-really top-of-the-table clash emerges. Both sides are near enough the top, and the impact is far from minimal on both clubs' seasons.
If Real Salt Lake win, they'll be assured a place in the top three with 58 points and move eight points clear of fourth-place Los Angeles Galaxy, whose maximum point haul is 56. It also would move RSL to a position in which the Sounders would need two wins - one against FC Dallas on Oct. 21, and one against the Galaxy on Oct. 28 - the final match of the season. Their maximum point haul would be 58, leaving Real Salt Lake needing only a point to seal second place.
If Seattle Sounders win, it'll leave them level on points with RSL and ahead on the first tiebreaker, goals scored, with a maximum point haul of 61. Real Salt Lake's maximum points would be 58, which would be just enough to clear the Galaxy and end in third place with a win over Vancouver to end the season.
If the two sides draw, it leaves both side's maximum points at 59. The first tiebreaker - goals scored - would remain within two goals, with Seattle holding the edge. Reaching that maximum points total would ensure that the two sides faced each other in playoff action for a second consecutive season.
In case you've forgotten what happened last time these two sides met in the playoffs, here's a quick reminder of one of my favorite moments. If there is to be a repeat of any playoff series, there is perhaps no better one than this, which is turning into a budding rivalry all its own.