In a season which has very much underlined its superstars, Major League Soccer reaches its home stretch with plenty on the line for the teams of those megawatt names.
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Carlos Vela and expansion LAFC are in a race for the West’s top seed, while crosstown rival LA Galaxy are riding Zlatan Ibrahimovic toward the final playoff spot.
In the East, Wayne Rooney and DC United are now in a playoff spot (at the expense of Saphir Taider and Montreal). And Atlanta’s Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez are hoping to maintain their pole position straight into a Supporters’ Shield.
With *most* teams on 32 matches played — eight teams have midweek matches before a busy weekend — here’s the state of play in the East and West. Let’s start with the latter, where there’s plenty more to dissect but no Supporters’ Shield implications.
The race for the top of the West could be thrilling
Sporting KC is four points behind leaders FC Dallas and three back of LAFC but has a match-in-hand on both.
That match is against a Vancouver team desperate to keep its playoff dreams alive (more on that later, because a Caps win over KC would further enliven the race for sixth!).
Sporting heads to Dallas before hosting LAFC in the finale. Making the race even more exciting is the fact that all three teams are rarities in MLS in that they are .500 or better away from home.
Dallas is in the best spot of the bunch, with a match against lowly Colorado in addition to the visit from KC. LAFC also faces Vancouver, in LA, in what will still be a desperate affair for the Caps.
A home first round spot is Cascadian; Sixth is anyone’s guess
Portland and Seattle are fourth and fifth in the table, and likely jockeying for a home match against the other in what would be a fantastic first round match.
And the fixtures set us up for a lot of fun. Here are the remaining matches for teams still alive for a playoff spot.
Most notably: The final day could have Real Salt Lake simply watching the scoreboard due to a bye, while a Cascadian derby could decide plenty.
Seattle Sounders at Orlando City SC
New England Revolution at Real Salt Lake
Sporting KC at Vancouver Whitecaps
LA Galaxy at Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers
Seattle Sounders at Houston Dynamo
Vancouver Whitecaps at LAFC
Houston Dynamo at LA Galaxy
Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps
San Jose Earthquakes at Seattle Sounders
|Los Angeles FC*||32||16||8||8||65||48||17||9-6-1||7-2-7||56|
|Real Salt Lake||32||13||7||12||51||54||-3||10-4-2||3-3-10||46|
|Minnesota – e||32||11||3||18||46||65||-19||10-1-5||1-2-13||36|
|Houston – e||32||9||8||15||53||53||0||8-3-5||1-5-10||35|
|Colorado – e||32||7||6||19||34||62||-28||5-3-8||2-3-11||27|
|San Jose – e||32||4||8||20||48||69||-21||2-5-9||2-3-11||20|
The Shield looks Southern but nothing is certain
Atlanta United has been consistent home and away, and Tata Martino’s men simply need to match the Red Bulls results to gain a first Supporters’ Shield. Atlanta is home to Chicago and away to Toronto in what should be close to certain.
The Red Bulls know they’ll be first or second, and head to tricky Philadelphia before hosting Orlando City SC.
DC can lessen the drama at midweek
The Black-and-Red haven’t lost since Aug. 29, a run of seven matches, and the Wayne Rooney-Luciano Acosta show hosts already eliminated and Michael Bradley-less Toronto FC on Wednesday.
If DC wins, it will have a four-point lead on seventh-place Montreal and be eyeing up fourth. DC then hosts NYCFC before traveling to Chicago.
Montreal hosts Toronto in a derby before traveling to New England, and can max out at 49 points. That means they need either DC to struggle or Columbus to turn into a pool of mush. The Crew heads to Orlando before hosting Minnesota and… yeah… it would take mush. More than a puddle or maybe even a pool. Perhaps a Lake of Mush.
|New York City FC*||32||15||8||9||55||41||14||11-4-1||4-4-8||53|
|New England – e||32||9||11||12||47||51||-4||7-5-4||2-6-8||38|
|Toronto FC – e||31||9||6||16||55||60||-5||7-2-7||2-4-9||33|
|Chicago – e||32||8||7||17||47||59||-12||6-3-7||2-4-10||31|
|Orlando City SC – e||31||7||4||20||40||70||-30||5-4-6||2-0-14||25|