MLS Playoff Cheat Sheet: This Could Get A Lot Less Interesting

HARRISON, NJ - APRIL 30: Davy Arnaud #22 of Sporting Kansas City is pursued by Juan Agudelo #17 of the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on April 30, 2011 in Harrison, New Jersey. The Red Bulls defeated Sporting KC 1-0. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Sporting KC-New York Red Bulls is the first game of the day and the one with the most playoff implications, but the Columbus Crew, the Chicago Fire and DC United could each do with a win as well.

The expanded MLS playoffs were designed at least in part to ensure that more of the games were meaningful. Despite 13 teams still being mathematically alive with just two weeks left to go, results this weekend will probably determine whether or not next week is very interesting. A number of teams no longer control their own destiny, so those that do can't waste their chances.

Playoff race

Here's how the MLS playoff race is shaking out:
Club Pts GP Pace Max H A
Galaxy 64 32 68 70 1 1
Sounders 57 32 61 64 1 1
Real Salt Lake 52 33 54 55 1 0
FC Dallas 49 32 52 55 1 1
Union 47 32 50 53 1 1
Dynamo 46 33 47 49 1 0
Rapids 46 33 47 49 0 1
Sporting Kansas City 45 32 48 51 1 1
Crew 44 32 47 50 0 2
Red Bulls 43 32 46 49 1 1
Timbers 40 32 43 46 0 2
DC United 38 31 42 47 3 0
Fire 37 32 39 43 1 1
Key: Green (Automatic West qualifier); Blue (Automatic East qualifier); Red (Wildcard)

The Portland Timbers' loss to the Houston Dynamo on Friday means they no longer control their own destiny. Wins by the New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew could essentially lock up their spots. All of that said, this weekend should be very interesting.

Supporters Shield

In case you didn't hear, this race is officially over. The Los Angeles Galaxy clinched the Shield by virtue of the Seattle Sounders' loss last week.

Top Spot In East

Philadelphia Union: A win on Saturday against Toronto FC would leave Sporting KC as the only team capable of catching them. Whether or not the Union actually want this spot is an entirely different question. There's a good chance that the winner of the East will draw either Real Salt Lake or FC Dallas in the conference semifinals, while the team that finished second in the East will have any one of several lesser opponents.

Dynamo: They picked up a huge win on Friday, but with just one game left to play, they are really reliant on other teams slipping to have any real shot at the top spot in the East. They will close out at home against the Galaxy.

Sporting Kansas City: Saturday's match against the New York Red Bulls will go a long way toward deciding their fate. They are probably the best team in the conference, but could still miss out on the playoffs if they aren't careful. Need to be more worried about points than positioning.

No. 10 playoff spot

Colorado Rapids: Even their point on Friday against Real Salt Lake doesn't guarantee the playoffs, although they are in very strong position now. A tie next week against the lowly Whitecaps would guarantee them a spot even if every team behind them continues to win.

Crew: They still have a shot at taking the No. 1 spot in the East, but would have to win out to have any real shot. A win at New England on Saturday doesn't quite clinch a spot in the playoffs, but leaves them in great position.

Red Bulls: They still have an outside shot at claiming the top spot in the East, but are still in need of some points to guarantee their playoff spot. They face Sporting KC on Saturday in a game in which they need at least a point to feel remotely comfortable.

Timbers: That loss on Friday was costly if for no other reason than they need to win their final two games of the season, both on the road, to have any realistic chance at making the playoffs.

DC United: They still have three games remaining, which means they can still finish as high as No. 1 in the East. But losing to the Whitecaps has removed much of their margin for error. They need to win on Saturday against the Fire just to feel good about even making the playoffs.

Fire: They are mathematically still in the race, but a lot needs to go wrong with the teams above them to have any chance. 

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