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How the Red Bulls snuck in; top spots for grabs
by Ridge Mahoney, October 10th, 2007 7AM

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[MLS PLAYOFF PICTURE] Three days after failing to clinch a playoff spot - again -- New York snuck into the postseason thanks to other results going in its favor. The Red Bulls lost to Toronto, 2-1, last Thursday, which left their record at 11-11-6 and 39 points. When Columbus lost to FC Dallas, 3-1, on Saturday, it lost any chance to catch New York. Colorado won, but is seven points behind New York with two games to play.

If Chicago, New York and Los Angeles finish in a three-way tie, New York wins a tiebreaker in head-to-head results against those other two teams even if it loses to the Galaxy next week. It also wins a head-to-head tiebreaker against Chicago and because the Fire and Los Angeles play on the final day of the season, both of them cannot match the Red Bulls point total.

(The Galaxy can get in by tying Chicago on points, if it beats Chicago in the season finale and thus wins the tiebreaker vs. the Fire. Get it?)

With Real Salt Lake and Toronto eliminated, and three other teams - Columbus, Colorado and either Los Angeles or Chicago -- incapable of edging New York for eighth place, by process of elimination and subtraction - 12 rivals minus five -- New York can finish no worse than eighth overall.

New York is one of the possible choices to host an ESPN2 playoff game on Thursday, Oct. 25.

In the two-game conference semifinals, the lower-seeded team hosts the first leg and TV executives could have a juicy list of DP-fueled options: New York (Juan Pablo Angel, Claudio Reyna), Chicago (Cuauhtemoc Blanco) and Los Angeles (David Beckham).

All three teams could make the playoffs if Kansas City (10-11-6, 37 points) fails to get two points out of its last two games. Kansas City also loses a head-to-head tiebreaker against Chicago.

Because teams on the bubble play each other in the last two weeks of the regular season, not all of them can get maximum points out of their remaining games:

Chicago - at D.C. United, Los Angeles; Kansas City - at New York, at FC Dallas;

Los Angeles - Toronto, New York, at Chicago; New York - Kansas City, at Los Angeles.

New York, D.C. United, New England, New York, Chivas USA, Houston and FC Dallas are the six teams that have already clinched playoff spots.

The Red Bulls are the only team that doesn't play on the final weekend of the season. Their season ends next Thursday (Oct. 18) at Home Depot Center against the Galaxy. On ESPN2. Maybe against Beckham. The Galaxy finishes a week from Sunday (Oct. 21) at Toyota Park. On Telefutura. Against Blanco, presumably.
Now that's programming!



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