Real Salt Lake has two matches remaining in the regular season, and given we've already made the playoffs, we'll want to finish as strongly as possible. Our best finish is third place in the Western Conference, but there's also a chance we could finish third place in the league.
We're currently sitting at fourth place in the league, three points behind DC United in the East and three points ahead of both New England and Sporting Kansas City (also in the East, obviously.) Our 52 points put us in an acceptable position, but we'll feel a certain sense of regret looking up at those around us — who we'd obviously have a tough time reaching regardless, even with two more wins.
What will it take for us to make Champions League? At this point, the only way we'd be able to win it not by our own merits would be by finishing third or fourth (but only behind at most one team in the East) and LA Galaxy winning the title. That seems awfully unpalatable, but it provides an opportunity to have at least one silver lining.
Obviously, winning MLS Cup is the highest priority. Getting there is a good first step. But let's think about hosting, if we can deviate from the process for a second. As it stands, winning out would give us 58 points and 16 wins.
D.C. United would host unless they manage to lose or draw both of their matches. First, they play MLS record-setters Chicago Fire (that record? Draws in a season.), then league-worst Montreal Impact. Two wins are hardly guaranteed (we're looking at you, Chivas USA) but smart money is probably on them doing just that.
Sporting KC would host if they managed at least a win against Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls and we didn't win any points the rest of the season — they'd be level on points with us and would have more wins. New England would host with at least a win against Houston Dynamo and Toronto FC, and we didn't end with more points.
New York Red Bulls would host with six points (that can't earn only five) — so two wins, with RSL earning no points at all. If RSL drew one of the two remaining matches, it would all come down to goal difference. Columbus Crew would host with two wins and a considerable improvement in goal difference.
We love to talk about the relative ineptitude of the Eastern Conference, but looking at the possibilities for an MLS Cup final involving Real Salt Lake, we'll have to win at least one of our last two if we want to host. Four points would seal a hosting opportunity in all but a match against DC United.
We're well off from all this yet, and we clearly have no way of knowing if we'll actually make the MLS Cup final, but it provides a compelling impetus to the final two matches of the regular season.