Trying to keep up with the playoff race? You don’t need a Nathan Fielder-style flow chart to figure out the permutations (although, honestly, more power to you if you want to do that. Please post it in the comments or tweet it at me. I want to see it.) You just need to know this: If RSL loses, the road gets really, really tough. It could become impossible.
But if you’re intent on watching and keeping up with things, here’s a short preview of how things could affect the Western Conference playoff race.
Colorado Rapids vs. FC Dallas, 1:30 p.m.
The Rapids have been eliminated from playoff contention. Dallas has secured contention. Dallas losing and Nashville winning (see Sunday, 6:30 p.m.) could change the shape of the standings, and we could see a second-tiebreaker (goal difference) for third place.
RSL would like: Colorado Rapids win. I hate that I just said that. I mean, honestly, it doesn’t really matter, because RSL can’t catch them. And Colorado could still jump us in the standings if we don’t win both matches. Weird. Maybe I changed my mind. Maybe I want Dallas to win.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Minnesota United, 8 p.m.
This one could have real effect on Real Salt Lake’s ability to make it into the playoffs. One point from this match for Minnesota would put them out of reach for RSL this week, and four points from their remaining two matches would give them automatic finishing power above RSL.
RSL would like: San Jose Earthquakes win, unequivocally.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Austin, 8 p.m.
Vancouver’s on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. Austin’s very nearly secured second place in the Western Conference. One point from their remaining two matches puts them out of reach. But with a win, Vancouver would move above RSL, and while 46 points (the maximum Vancouver could achieve) is not traditionally enough to make the playoffs, they would stave off elimination until the final week — well, unless a certain set of results comes into being.
RSL would like: Austin win, also unequivocally.
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake, 8:30 p.m.
The big one. A loss wouldn’t necessarily eliminate RSL, but it would make things extremely difficult. You’ll hear more about this one. Hopefully that’s not surprising.
RSL would like: I mean, I hope the answer is a Real Salt Lake win. If it’s not that — well, I’ll have questions.
Portland Timbers vs. Los Angeles FC, 1 p.m.
The Supporters Shield hangs in the balance for LAFC, and the playoffs might hang in the balance for RSL. If Portland wins and RSL achieves anything but a win, they’ll be out of reach. They’ll be out of reach for Vancouver, too. And Seattle. They’ll really want that win. If Portland doesn’t manage a win, they’ll probably need a result against RSL in the final game of the season. I don’t think that would bode well for RSL.
RSL would like: LAFC win. I hate that. I’d much rather Philadelphia Union won the Supporters Shield. Although honestly, if Portland loses here, it probably makes our game against them harder. Hmm.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Seattle Sounders
SKC’s already out. They’re also in some of the hottest form in MLS. In fact, only two teams have more points over the last eight games: Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact. That’s so weird. Seattle, meanwhile, could easily leapfrog RSL with a win over Kansas City, should RSL lose. That might be too big a task for them, though.
RSL would like: You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you? We want a Sporting Kansas City win. I feel icky.
Nashville SC vs. Houston Dynamo
Houston’s already out, and a win for Nashville secures a playoff berth. A draw most certainly does not. RSL could still technically catch up.
RSL would like: Houston Dynamo win. 100% of the time.
The worst case for RSL
Here’s the worst-case scenario for Real Salt Lake.
- Saturday — Minnesota wins or draws vs. San Jose
- Saturday — LA Galaxy wins vs. RSL
- Sunday — Portland wins or draws vs. LAFC
With those three results, all of which are distinctly possible, RSL is out of playoff contention. Just out, no two ways about it. That’s not even three outlandish results.
With a win or a draw, RSL will be close enough to LA Galaxy to catch them in the last game of the season, but it will take the last game of the season to secure a berth. And even if RSL wins on Saturday, Minnesota and Portland results (with both coming into being) would still keep RSL out for the weekend.
The best case for RSL
I mean, it’s roughly the same, just inverted. If RSL wins, they sit just below LA Galaxy. They can’t pip them at this point, but they could in the final game of the season.
- Saturday — Minnesota loses vs. San Jose
- Saturday — RSL wins vs. LA Galaxy
- Sunday — Portland loses vs. LAFC