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Seven teams fighting for three spots
by Ridge Mahoney, October 19th, 2009 7AM

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[MLS] Seven teams remained in contention to claim three playoff spots still up for grabs as MLS headed into the 32nd and final week of regular-season play. Five teams have clinched playoff berths, and only three teams have been eliminated.

Assured of playoff spots are Eastern Conference leader Columbus (49 points), and Western Conference teams Los Angeles, Houston, Chivas USA (all 45 points) and Seattle (44). Knocked out over the weekend was Kansas City, joining San Jose and New York among the fallen.

Then comes Chicago (42), the East's second-place team but not yet assured of a playoff spot, and then a tightly-packed cluster: Colorado (40), Toronto (39), New England (39), D.C. United (39), FC Dallas (39) and Real Salt Lake (37). Only Chicago clinch a spot by tying its final game (Thursday against Chivas USA). All the others probably need a victory and/or some help.

Of the several teams that could have clinched playoff berths, only Seattle came through, rallying to beat Kansas City, 3-2, at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.

Kansas City took the field Saturday night already eliminated, as only if TFC failed to win would the Wizards still been in the hunt. Toronto beat Real Salt Lake, 1-0, in an afternoon contest, and when the Revs tied Chicago, 0-0, to join TFC with 39 points, that dropped the Wizards too far behind: seven points back with just two games to play.

The Fire's tie left it in second place in the Eastern Conference with 42 points but not yet assured of a playoff spot. It can take care of that by tying Chivas USA at home Thursday; Chivas US, the odd team with two games remaining, squandered a chance to climb atop the Western Conference on points by tying San Jose, 2-2.

TFC leads a quartet of teams with 39 points filling spots eight through 11 based on tiebreakers. D.C. United beat Columbus, 1-0, and Dallas defeated Colorado, 2-1 to join the 39-point contingent, which is just a point behind the seventh-place Rapids, which host RSL in the regular-season finale Saturday knowing a tie in their final game might not be enough. If at least two of the four teams behind them win, the Rapids would be pushed out of the playoff octet.

Because none of the four teams with 39 points play each other, they could all end up with 39, or 40, or 42 apiece, or some combination of those totals. As many as five teams could be tied for the final three spots at 42 points, and six teams could be tied for two spots at 40.

The tiebreaker: Teams tied in the standings are separated as follows: greatest number of points in games among the tied teams; best goal difference among the tied teams; total goals (all games).

Overall Standings:
EASTERN W L T GF GA P
*Columbus 13 6 10 41 30 49
Chicago 10 7 12 38 34 42
----------------------------------
Toronto FC 10 10 9 37 41 39
New England 10 10 9 32 37 39
D.C. United 9 8 12 41 42 39
+Kansas City 8 13 8 31 40 32
+New York 4 19 6 22 47 18
WESTERN W L T GF GA P
*Los Angeles 11 6 12 34 31 45
*Houston 12 8 9 36 27 45
-----------------------------------
*Chivas USA 13 9 6 32 27 45
*Seattle 11 7 11 36 28 44
Colorado 10 9 10 42 35 40
FC Dallas 11 12 6 49 45 39
Real Salt Lake 10 12 7 40 35 37
+San Jose 7 13 9 36 48 30
*=Clinched playoff berth.
+=Eliminated from playoff contention.

Schedule:
Thursday, Oct. 22
Chivas USA at Chicago, 8:00 p.m. ET
(TV: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
Saturday, Oct. 24
Toronto FC at New York, 7:30 p.m. ET
D.C. United at Kansas City, 8:30 p.m. ET
Colorado at Real Salt Lake, 9:00 p.m. ET
(TV: FSC, FSE)
FC Dallas at Seattle, 10:30 p.m. ET
San Jose at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, Oct. 25
Houston at Chivas USA, 3:00 p.m. ET
(TV: TeleFutura)
New England at Columbus, 5:00 p.m. ET
(ESPN2, Deportes)



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