SA Senior Editor Ridge Mahoney puts the MLS playoff picture in focus following Aug. 26 games:
The race is down to six teams fighting for four remaining places. Two weeks remain in the regular season.
Playoff spots have been clinched by the Metros (51 points), Kansas City (50), Tampa Bay (48), and Los Angeles (47). At the bottom, San Jose was eliminated when it lost 3-0 to the Galaxy Saturday (Aug. 26) night, and thus the Quakes join D.C. United as Those Without Hope.
The Metros have also clinched the Eastern Division crown and as such will be seeded into the one of the top three slots regardless of their final point total. The next five playoff places go to the teams with the most points regardless of divisional placing.
Division leaders square off Saturday (Sept. 2) when Tampa Bay (Eastern) travels to Kansas City (Western). But first, the Mutiny travels to Columbus for a midweek match.
The Crew turns right around and flies to the West Coast for a Friday match in San Jose. The CrewÆs final two games are a home-and-home series with Chicago.
Here's the ladder as of Aug. 28:
1. MetroStars 51 points (3 to play)
@Fusion, Fusion, @Revs
2. Kansas City 50 (3)
Mutiny, @Revs, @Mutiny
3. Tampa Bay 48 (3)
@Crew, @Wizards, Wizards
4. Los Angeles, 47 (3)
Quakes, Burn, @Rapids
The next four:
5. Chicago 45 (4)
Burn, Rapids, Crew, @Crew
6. Dallas 40 (3)
@Fire, @Galaxy, Quakes
7. New England 39 (4)
United, @United, Wizards, Metros
8. Columbus 38 (4)
Mutiny, @Quakes, @Fire, Fire.
9. Colorado 37 (3)
Fusion, @Fire, Galaxy
10. Miami 35 (4)
@Rapids, Metros, @Metros, @United
11. D.C. 27 (3)
@Revs, Revs, Fusion
12. San Jose 26 (3)
@Galaxy, Crew, @Burn
That win by L.A. (47) clinched its playoff spot but could not break it out of logjam with Chicago (45) in the middle of the points standings.
The fourth- and fifth-seeded teams meet in the first round; in those spots sit the Galaxy and Fire, and both are three points behind the leaders in their divisions.
After the Fire comes the heat: Just five points separate five teams.
At the All-Star Game, several coaches expressed an opinion that 40 points would clinch a playoff spot. Dallas is right at 40, but the No. 6 seed hasn't clinched anything yet.
Three teams behind the Burn -- New England (39) Columbus (38) and Miami (35) have four games left. The Burn has only three.
With 37 points and three games to play, Colorado is the ninth-seeded team and could pass New England and Columbus with a win Wednesday (Aug. 30) when the Rapids host Miami.
The Fusion is three points out of the final playoff slot and has four games left. The Rapids close the season at Chicago and at home against Los Angeles.
Last year, the last season of the Shootout Era, Tampa Bay (32 points) and Miami (29) made the playoffs. Those are the two lowest point totals recorded by playoff teams in the league's history. The next lowest was Miami (35) in 1998.
The playoff brackets based on current standings look like this:
1. Metros vs. 8. Columbus; winner plays winner of 4. Los Angeles vs. No. 5 Chicago
2. Kansas City vs. .7 New England; winner plays winner of 3. Tampa Bay vs. 6. Dallas.
Games this week:
Wednesday -- D.C. United at New England, Tampa Bay at Columbus, Dallas at Chicago, Miami at Colorado, San Jose at Los Angeles.
Friday -- Columbus at San Jose (doubleheader with U.S.-Brazil women's friendly).
Saturday -- MetroStars at Miami, Tampa Bay at Kansas City.
Sunday -- New England at DC United, Colorado at Chicago.
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