WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Ned Grabavoy #20 of Real Salt Lake controls the ball against Andy Najar #14 of D.C. United at RFK Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)
Football season has started, which means annoying debates and arguments about what is American, but it also signals that the MLS playoffs are near.
Football is back. The throwing, running, egg-shaped ball kind of football and with it comes the inevitable Texan who wants to yell at you that, "REAL FOOTBALL IS BACK". Naturally, that angers you so you tell him that football (this time referring to the kicking kind of football, which we will henceforth call soccer so as not to get confused) is the world's most popular sport. In response, he screams "'MURCAH!" and the debate ends awkwardly with both sides dumber than they were when they began the exchange.
This is a depressing reality, but it is not all bad. It means that fall is right around the corner and with the changing leaves, pumpkin pie and sad realization that you are out of vacations days comes MLS' stretch run and playoffs. No amount of football worshipping Texans can take that away from you.
Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
This is a PSA from NBC to spend these two hours with your family.
Pick: Family fun.
Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET
With D.C. trying valiantly to pull off the biggest collapse in MLS history, the door is open for Columbus or Montreal to grab the final playoff spot. Odds are that Columbus gets it because: 1) They are red hot. 2) They are not an expansion team. 3) The English-language MLS website doesn't doesn't direct you to a French-language Crew website like it does the Impact's and karma always wins.
Pick: Language consistent Columbus, 3-0.
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
The prize for the winner -- they are still better than Toronto. The prize for the loser -- they are still better than Toronto.
Pick: Not Toronto.
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
C.J. Sapong will have to step up with Teal Bunbury out for the year and it is always nice to ease your way into a bigger role with an exhibition match, er, match against Toronto.
Pick: Kansas City, 2-0.
Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
This would have been a great match back in May when both of these teams were clicking, but now they look nothing like they did at the beginning of the season. For Salt Lake, getting back on track is all about getting Jamison Olave healthy. For D.C., well, it's a really long list, but paying off MLS so it never has to play a road game again would be a good start.
Pick: Salt Lake, 3-1.
Saturday, 10:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
The Galaxy's reserves are a perfect 1-0-0 against foreign teams after beating Puerto Rico on Thursday in Champions League action, while LA's first team have won just two of eight matches* against teams from countries where people pay more for Budweiser because it is imported. You can bet Vancouver will be happy to see the likes of David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez instead of U.N. Security Council enemies Kenny Walker, Tommy Meyer and Jack McBean.
* This statistic includes friendly results and is brought to you by the Foundation for Asinine Statistics™.
Pick: LA, 2-0.
Sunday, 7:00 p.m. ET, Galavision
The Fire are simultaneously a dark house for first place in the East and to fall out of the playoff spot. The Dynamo are only one point better and have played one more match. It's a riddle, or something.
Pick: Houston, 1-0.
Sunday, 7:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Dallas' bid for a playoff spot doesn't look too bad when you look at the table and their recent hot streak, but their hopes get much bleaker when you look at their schedule. Matches like this one against Seattle, San Jose and then another against Seattle could do the Hoops in. Either that or their complete no show for the first half of the season.
Pick: Draw, 1-1.
Sunday, 9:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Shalrie Joseph carrying a team in a stadium that makes you question that whole "major league" part of Major League Soccer? It's MLS, just like you remember it as a kid.
Pick: San Jose, 3-0.