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Early returns could decide race
by Ridge Mahoney, October 23rd, 2009 7AM

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[MLS] Six teams take the field on the final weekend of MLS league play with playoff hopes, and only two can get in.

The suspense, and the probabilities, could be lessened if Toronto FC and Colorado win their games. Colorado can eliminate some of the anxiety by beating Real Salt Lake and finishing with 43 points, which would knock out RSL and fill the No. 7 slot, leaving just one opening to be thrashed out among Toronto, New England, D.C. United and Dallas, all of which can finish with no more than 42 points.

TORONTO'S EDGE. Toronto wins a four-way tiebreaker and also head-to-head tiebreakers against New England and D.C. United, it can knock out the Revs and effectively eliminate D.C. United by beating New York in the weekend's first game. The Revs can't win a three-way tie that involves TFC, and D.C. United's only hope in a three-way tie with TFC is a huge win at Kansas City (six or more goals better than FC Dallas does at Seattle).

FCD VS. TFC. Toronto, however, loses a head-to-head tiebreaker against Dallas, which plays at Seattle later in the evening. The Crew and Wizards can help out Dallas by preventing New England and D.C., respectively, from winning. If only TFC and FCD finish with 42 points, FCD would edge TFC in a head-to-head tiebreaker. Those two teams would take the last two slots if the Rapids lose or tie; if Colorado wins, it would grab the No. 7 overall slot, and FCD would take the eighth and final slot against TFC via the tiebreaker.

RAPIDS AT 40. On the other hand, if the Rapids (40 points) lose, they and RSL would be tied with 40 points, and also on the first tiebreaker, head-to-head results, at 1-1-1. The second tiebreaker is goal difference in all games, the third is total goals scored. If any of the teams on 39 points also tie their games, there could be logjam of teams with 40 points that would require tiebreakers.

Incredibly, the Rapids would have tied the season series against every team with which it could finish tied, including RSL, and their goal difference -- the second tiebreaker -- is plus 7, far superior to all of the Eastern teams. But a multi-team tiebreaker might not favor Colorado, depending on the teams involved.

According to league spokesman Will Kuhns, the league has drawn up more than 50 possible playoff brackets of eight teams. With three teams in each conference deadlocked on points heading into the final weekend, that bracket might not be filled up until the final whistle of Columbus-New England, the final game on Sunday night.

Qualified: Columbus (49), Chicago (45), Los Angeles (45), Houston (45), Chivas USA (45), Seattle (44). Two of the Western teams will fill the top two slots in the conference that provides homefield advantage in the conference semifinals. The other two will be seeded by total points, even if they have more points than the Fire, the conference slots take priority.

Close: Colorado (40). Win guarantees slot, tie may not be enough.

Bubble: Toronto (39), New England (39), Dallas (39), D.C. United (39). Not all can get in even if they all win.

Longshot: Real Salt Lake (37). Needs a win and a lot of help but it could happen.

Spoilers: Kansas City, San Jose, New York.

Playoff Contenders
COL
FCD
DC
TFC
NE
RSL
Colorado (40 pts, 42-35)
--
1-1-1
1-1-0
1-1-0
0-0-2
1-0-1
FC Dallas (39 pts, 49-45)
1-1-1
--
0-1-1
1-0-1
1-1-0
1-1-0
D.C. United (39 pts 41-42)  1-1-0
1-0-1
--
0-1-1
0-1-1
0-1-1
Toronto FC (39 pts, 37-41) 1-1-0
0-1-1
1-0-1
--
1-0-1
1-1-0
New England (39 pts, 32-37) 0-0-2
1-1-0
1-0-1
0-1-1
--
1-1-0
Real Salt Lake (37 pts, 40-35) 0-1-1
1-1-0
1-0-1
1-1-0
1-1-0
--


Standings:
EASTERN W L T GF GA P +/-
*Columbus 13 6 10 41 30 49 +11
*Chicago 11 7 12 39 34 45 +5
----------------------------------
Toronto FC 10 10 9 37 41 39 -4
New England 10 10 9 32 37 39 -5
D.C. United 9 8 12 41 42 39 -1
+Kansas City 8 13 8 31 40 32 -9
+New York 4 19 6 22 47 18 -25
WESTERN W L T GF GA P +/-
*Los Angeles 11 6 12 34 31 45 +3
*Houston 12 8 9 36 27 45 +9
-----------------------------------
*Chivas USA 13 10 6 32 28 45 +4
*Seattle 11 7 11 36 28 44 +8
Colorado 10 9 10 42 35 40 +7
FC Dallas 11 12 6 49 45 39 +4
Real Salt Lake 10 12 7 40 35 37 +5
+San Jose 7 13 9 36 48 30 -12
*=Clinched playoff berth.
+=Eliminated from playoff contention.

Schedule:
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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