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Match Day Guide: Western Conference playoff implications, potential eliminations and more

It’s a massive Wednesday in MLS for the Western Conference.

Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

It’s a big midweek match day in MLS, with both RSL and LA Galaxy playing implication-filled matches. Only one Western Conference team looks possible to be on the verge of elimination (if I’ve played through the permutations correctly,) but RSL could find themselves on the outside looking in at the end of the night.


Austin FC (2) vs. Real Salt Lake (7), 7:15 p.m. MDT

The big one. Read our match preview for more on this one. Results could see RSL dip out of the playoff spots, or they could move as high as 5th place on the night. RSL has just four wins in their last 16 matches.

Colorado Rapids (10) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (14), 8 p.m. MDT

This is probably going to be scintillating MLS soccer. Major League Soccer soccer. You get it. Anyway, the Rapids just won after going six without a W, and the Quakes have two wins in their last 10 — including a stunner against LAFC. They have six losses during that period, too. Oof.

Vancouver Whitecaps (12) vs. LA Galaxy (8), 8 p.m. MDT

The Galaxy are bound to be hungry in this one, because they have a real chance to go ahead of RSL here. I don’t think anyone’s expecting RSL to win, either. They haven’t lost in six, but they’ve only one two of those. That they’re still close to the playoffs is a fascinating thing. The Whitecaps, on the flip side, are on a three-game losing streak, and they have just two wins in their last 12 matches.

Playoff position movement

  • Austin win, RSL loss AND Vancouver loss, LA Galaxy win: RSL would move to 8th place in the Western Conference
  • RSL win, Austin loss would see RSL move up to 5th place, but unless they achieve a shocking 12-0 result. An 11-0 result would come down the fourth tiebreaker, disciplinary points per match. Nashville currently has 619 disciplinary points (plus any technical staff warnings) to RSL’s 551 disciplinary points (again, plus any technical staff warnings), so I don’t think it’s feasible that RSL moves up to 4th. (I mean, outside of scoring 11 uncontested goals. That’s more than 25 percent of our season total.)


Well, at least some of the implications. It’s like a puzzle. I think I’ve worked through the permutations OK, but it turns out, there’s a lot to think about!

San Jose (14, max 45 pts) can finish no higher than 6th. They will be eliminated if:

  • San Jose draw (max 43 pts) AND LA Galaxy win (43 pts holding wins tiebreaker), OR
  • San Jose loss (max 42 pts)

Vancouver (12, max 46 pts) can finish no higher than 4th. They can finisher no higher than 7th and would be practically eliminated if:

  • Vancouver loses (34 pts, 31 GP, max 43 pts). In this case, they would need to recover a 20+ goal differential in three games. Possible but not feasible, I think.

Sporting Kansas City (11, max 43 pts) can finish no higher than 7th. They’re eliminated if:

  • LA Galaxy win (43 pts) (in this case, they are practically but not technically eliminated — SKC would need to surpass LAG on goal differential, and SKC sits at -15 to LA’s +4)

Colorado (10, max 48 pts) can finish no higher than 4th. They can finish no higher than:

  • 6th place if Colorado loses (max 45 points)
  • 5th place if Colorado draws (max 46 points), barring a huge GD recovery, which would allow them to finish 4th

Standings Simulations

My Projected Standings page in the Form Guide gives us a little more clarity on some of these scenarios. Here, I’ve got the following:

  • Colorado Rapids have no simulations in which they finish higher than 5th place (0.01 percent of simulations), and only 0.21 percent see them finish in a playoff spot.
  • Vancouver Whitecaps finish in a playoff spot in roughly 0.24 percent of simulations.
  • Sporting Kansas City and Houston Dynamo are eliminated in all 20,000-plus simulations, regardless of outcomes. San Jose Earthquakes have a near-microscopic chance of finishing in 7th place, but weirdly, my simulations have them never finishing in 8th under any circumstances.
  • Real Salt Lake makes the playoffs in 70 percent of simulations — a downgrade over recent weeks.

Yesterday’s results

Minnesota 1-1 LAFC

LAFC’s perpetual surrender of the Supporters Shield race is fascinating. Their last six games have seen a 1-1-4 record, and coming after a seven-game winning streak just has to feel like utter capitulation. Minnesota, meanwhile, stopped a three-game losing skid with this draw.

Sporting Kansas City 3-0 D.C. United

Remember that team we couldn’t score against? The league’s worst team? Well, our longtime rivals knocked three past them. SKC is quietly having a very good run, and their last seven games see a 4-2-1 record. It almost certainly won’t be enough to pull them into playoff position, but it’s been an interesting development.