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MLS State of Play: Playoff, Supporters’ Shield races go to wire

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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.

[ MORE: Salah injury update ]

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.

Wednesday
Seattle Sounders at Orlando City SC

Thursday
New England Revolution at Real Salt Lake
Sporting KC at Vancouver Whitecaps

Oct. 21
LA Galaxy at Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers
Seattle Sounders at Houston Dynamo
Vancouver Whitecaps at LAFC

Oct. 28
Houston Dynamo at LA Galaxy
Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps
San Jose Earthquakes at Seattle Sounders

Western
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
FC Dallas* 32 16 9 7 51 39 12 10-5-1 6-4-6 57
Los Angeles FC* 32 16 8 8 65 48 17 9-6-1 7-2-7 56
Sporting KC* 31 15 8 8 56 38 18 9-5-2 6-3-6 53
Portland 32 14 9 9 50 46 4 10-4-2 4-5-7 51
Seattle 31 15 5 11 45 33 12 9-2-5 6-3-6 50
Real Salt Lake 32 13 7 12 51 54 -3 10-4-2 3-3-10 46
Los Angeles 32 12 9 11 61 60 1 8-4-4 4-5-7 45
Vancouver 31 12 7 12 49 60 -11 6-5-4 6-2-8 43
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.

Eastern
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Atlanta* 32 20 6 6 67 39 28 10-4-2 10-2-4 66
Red Bulls* 32 20 5 7 60 33 27 13-1-2 7-4-5 65
New York City FC* 32 15 8 9 55 41 14 11-4-1 4-4-8 53
Philadelphia* 32 15 5 12 48 46 2 9-2-5 6-3-7 50
Columbus 32 13 9 10 39 41 -2 10-4-2 3-5-8 48
D.C. 31 12 8 11 56 49 7 11-2-2 1-6-9 44
Montreal 32 13 4 15 45 52 -7 10-2-4 3-2-11 43
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

Watch Live: West Ham United v. Liverpool

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After weeks of having a game in hand on Premier League title chasers Manchester City and Leicester City, the full extent of Liverpool’s lead will be revealed when the Reds visit West Ham United on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Once the full-time whistle blows at the London Stadium, all 20 PL sides will have played 24 games. Ahead of kickoff, Jurgen Klopp‘s side leads second-place Man City by a whopping 16 points.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

West Ham, meanwhile, sit 17th in the table and are only clear of the relegation zone by way of goal differential. That’s something that could very easily change between now and 5 p.m. ET.

LIVE, League Cup semifinal: Man City v. Man United

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It’s time for leg two of the Manchester derby in the semifinals of the EFL Cup (Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET) at the Etihad Stadium.

[ LIVE: Man City v. Man United ]

Manchester City lead 3-1 following their first-leg dismantling of Manchester United at Old Trafford. In theory, it’s a mere formality to reach the final at Wembley, where they would take on Aston Villa following their late dramatics on Tuesday.

Click on the link above to follow the action live, while we will have you covered here at Pro Soccer Talk with all of the reaction and analysis.

LINEUPS

Transfer rumor roundup: Richarlison to Barca for $110m? Spurs’ striker search

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Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.


A roundup of all of the major transfer rumors, most notably those involving Premier League clubs, on Wednesday…

[ MORE: Spurs complete Bergwijn transfer from PSV ]

Barcelona have reportedly had a $110-million bid for Richarlison rejected by Everton. That’s a mind-blowing number for a club like Everton to receive, but the Toffees apparently didn’t have to think long before saying “thanks, but no thanks.” Luis Suarez is expected to miss four months due to a knee injury, leaving the Blaugrana somewhat for a replacement. Everton, however, have no desire to lose a key member of their squad with little to no time to sign a replacement.


After adding winger Steven Bergwijn on Wednesday, Tottenham Hotspur are heavily linked with a number of strikers as options to replace the injured Harry Kane. AC Milan’s Krzysztof Piatek is the most frequently linked (and most expensive) player coming out of the rumor mill, while Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud has come up as an emergency option (he is reportedly open to the idea). However, Jose Mourinho has reportedly been told he has just $13 million to acquire a new forward after spending a combined $108 million on Bergwijn and Gedson Fernandes.


Elsewhere in Tottenham rumors, full back Kyle Walker-Peters is expected to complete a loan move (without an option to buy) to Southampton in the very near future. The 22-year-old has been on the fringe of the first-team squad for what feels like five years now, but has never quite broken through. This could be Spurs putting into the shop window a player who they don’t believe is in their long-term plans in order to drive up his price tag come this summer.


Sheffield United look set to make a big push for a top-six finish, as the Blades are linked with moves for a pair of highly rated young players: Richairo Zivkovic, from Chinese side Changchun Yatai, and Sander Berge, from Genk. Zivkovic was one of the most highly touted youngsters in Europe before moving to China on a big-money deal; Berge has been linked with some of the biggest clubs across Europe in recent years, all the while the 21-year-old has become a fixture for the Belgian side.

Man United confirm agreement for Bruno Fernandes

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Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.


Bruno Fernandes is on the brink of becoming a Manchester United player after the club announced on Wednesday that an agreement has been reached with Portuguese side Sporting CP.

[ MORE: Spurs complete Bergwijn transfer from PSV ]

From the club’s website, which is currently unreachable at the time of posting:

“Manchester United are delighted to announce it has reached agreement with Sporting Clube de Portugal for the transfer of Bruno Fernandes.

“The deal is subject to a medical and the agreement of personal terms. A further announcement will be made in due course.”

The dollar figure most commonly reported is $61 million (potentially reaching $88 million after add-ons). Fernandes, 25, is reportedly in the process of visiting the Sporting offices to terminate his current contract and record a goodbye video for fans before boarding a flight to Manchester.

Fernandes came close to joining Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, but an agreement could never be reached between the involved parties and they ended up signing Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis instead.