MLS Playoff Bubble Teams and Scenarios

By Dan Irwin
Columbus Crew
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

October is the final month of regular season play for the MLS and already several squads have punched their tickets to the postseason. The possibilities are still wide open for others, as only three teams total, all from the Eastern Conference, have been eliminated. Although only one playoff spot remains in the Western Conference, every single team who currently sits outside of the playoff picture–even last place Chivas USA–still has a stab at playing on in November.

So what will it take, and who will be sitting on the outside when it’s all said and done? Let’s take a look, first at the Eastern Conference.

Team Points Games Left Goal Diff.
x- Sporting Kansas City 58 3 14
New York Red Bulls 53 3 10
Chicago Fire 53 4 6
D.C. United 51 3 8
Houston Dynamo 49 3 7
Columbus Crew 48 3 0
Montreal Impact 40 3 -5
e – Philadelphia Union 30 5 -5
e – New England Revolution 29 3 -6
e – Toronto FC 22 3 -24

x – clinched playoff spot
e – eliminated from playoff contention

Okay, so the top half of the Eastern Conference will qualify for the playoffs. Sporting Kansas City is the only team that’s officially in and there’s still a battle between them and the San Jose Earthquakes for the Supporter’s Shield. If the playoffs started today, the Houston Dynamo are in and the Columbus Crew are out. But with only one point separating the two, and five points in between the Crew and the top non-qualified team the New York Red Bulls, Columbus is currently very much alive. In fact, Columbus has a great opportunity to affect the race above them when they play D.C. United on Oct. 20.

While the Montreal Impact are still technically alive, a single win by either Columbus or Houston eliminates them. A single Houston tie or three Columbus ties also eliminates the Impact.

So not a lot of teams who are sitting out are alive in the East. Certainly any team below Kansas City can have a horrible run and play themselves out and put Columbus in. With so many scenarios that can play out, Columbus has to be feeling pretty good about their chances.

Alright, enough of the East. Let’s now examine the table of the Western Conference.

Team Points Games Left Goal Diff.
x – San Jose Earthquakes 61 3 26
x – Real Salt Lake 52 3 10
x – L.A. Galaxy 50 3 12
x – Seattle Sounders FC 49 4 14
Vancouver Whitecaps 39 3 -9
FC Dallas 37 3 -3
Colorado Rapids 31 3 -7
Portland Timbers 30 3 -20
Chivas USA 28 4 -28

x – clinched playoff spot

The main thing you’ll notice, as was mentioned at the top of the article, is that not one team is eliminated from contention. There are nine teams in the Western Conference, but the same amount of teams will make the playoffs as the East. You can essentially take every team below the Seattle Sounders and have a mini table for the last spot. With only a two point lead over FC Dallas, the Vancouver Whitecaps will still have to do plenty of work to play their way in.

A win by either Vancouver or Dallas in October eliminates both Chivas and the Portland Timbers, so their chances are not very good. The Colorado Rapids would have a decent chance to make it if they played either Vancouver or Dallas, but Colorado’s games come against San Jose, Chivas USA and Houston. Even if they were to win all three, it would take Vancouver losing their three remaining games and Dallas not winning any of theirs, tying no more than two. Colorado’s chances currently exist but are slim to none.

So that’s the story with the playoff picture. We know who’s in if the playoffs start today, but both Columbus in the East and Dallas in the West still have a prime opportunity to make a run. After all, catching fire late in the season and taking that momentum into the playoffs may be just what a team needs to do in order to take down a giant like Kansas City or San Jose. It should be a fantastic final month in the MLS, as so many things are still up for grabs, including home field advantage and, of course, the all important Supporter’s Shield.

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