As if the pressure of the Cascadia Cup rivalry between the Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps wasn't enough, this weekend's bout featuring the Pacific Northwest rivals also carries notable Western Conference playoff implications.
With a crowd of about 60,000 expected to fill CenturyLink Field, the Sounders will host the Whitecaps in a match contested between two of the teams locked in a three-way tie for third in the conference. (Los Angeles is the other.) With so little margin for error, neither side can afford to drop points head-to-head if they intend on eventually securing that key first-round playoff bye.
Elsewhere this weekend, D.C. United will face the Philadelphia Union just three days after a trade sent Danny Cruz up Interstate 95 and Lionard Pajoy to the nation's capital, and the Columbus Crew will try to continue their push for playoff bid when they travel to take on the Houston Dynamo.
Here is a rundown of the full Week 24 slate:
SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 4 p.m., TSN2/MLS Live/Direct Kick)
The challenge of containing the Fredy Montero-Eddie Johnson forward partnership will be a tough task indeed for the Whitecaps, who will be without centerbacks Jay DeMerit (concussion) and Martin Bonjour (suspension) sidelined.
With such favorable circumstances, this match presents an ideal opportunity for Seattle to get back on the right track after back-to-back gut-wrenching losses last week, when the Sounders dropped the U.S. Open Cup final to Kansas City in penalty kicks and a league match at San Jose in stoppage time.
TORONTO FC vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 4:30 pm., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
The early-season Kansas City that dominated MLS for two months made a comeback last week, downing Seattle in the Open Cup final before controlling play throughout in a 2-1 win over D.C. United.
Back in first place, SKC will face a Toronto team that has found success with recently acquired Eric Hassli up top, presenting a physically imposing challenge for Kansas City centerbacks Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin.
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
Coming off yet another dramatic win, the Earthquakes will try to hold off challengers for the Supporters' Shield by grabbing a result against a Montreal team that may be missing Alessandro Nesta (questionable with a knee sprain) in addition to the suspended Nelson Rivas.
While Chris Wondolowski and Steven Beitashour will be in action following their U.S. national team call-ups, Alan Gordon will be sitting this one out while serving a suspension.
CHICAGO FIRE vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
The new-look Fire, with Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald up top, Alvaro Fernandez on the flank, and the likes of Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro coming off the bench, seem poised for a surge in the Eastern Conference.
They'll have to find a suitable replacement for the injured Logan Pause (pneumothorax), though, especially against a New England team that features the creative talent of Benny Feilhaber centrally.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. CHIVAS USA (Saturday, 9 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
These two teams are holding on for dear life in the Western Conference playoff hunt. While Chivas have a little more breathing room, a loss for Colorado at home here could be a knockout punch.
If the Rapids are going to get the whole three points, they'll have to do so without Jaime Castrillon, who received a red card in Colorado's loss to Dallas last weekend. And Conor Casey is questionable with a hamstring injury.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. FC DALLAS (Saturday, 9 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
It's almost certainly too little, too late, but Dallas has been making a bit of a push lately, rising to sixth in the Western Conference on the strength of resurgent play from David Ferreira and Brek Shea.
Schellas Hyndman's squad faces a tough task this weekend in Real Salt Lake, though the home side may again be without Jamison Olave (hamstring) and Javier Morales (adductor).
D.C. UNITED vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Sunday, 5 p.m., NBCSN/TSN2)
This edition of the budding I-95 rivalry got a little more interesting with Thursday's trade. Danny Cruz figures to slot right into the Union's lineup on the right flank in a 4-3-3, while Lionard Pajoy could start up top for United with Maicon Santos (toe) questionable and Hamdi Salihi mired in a dry spell.
The match also marks Freddy Adu's first trip as a visiting player to RFK Stadium, where he played from 2004 to 2006 for United. With Pajoy out of the picture, Adu seems set to slide to his natural left flank.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS (Sunday, 7 p.m., Galavision)
Battling for that top spot in the Eastern Conference, New York will continue to develop chemistry with its revamped attack, featuring Tim Cahill in a playmaking role and Sebastien Le Toux on the right flank.
It could be a busy night for new Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and a Portland side that remains winless since general manager Gavin Wilkinson replaced John Spencer as coach in early July.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Sunday, 9 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
After battling to a 1-1 draw with Los Angeles on Wednesday in the emotional first game since the death of midfielder Kirk Urso, the Crew will continue the difficult task of keeping their focus on the field when they travel to take on Houston.
After racking up five wins in a row and a remarkable six shutouts in seven games, the Dynamo were brought back to earth in a 2-0 loss at New York last weekend. With Federico Higuain now in the mix for Columbus, Houston will have a new threat to keep on eye on Sunday.