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MLS playoff race goes down to final week


Five teams and three playoff spots.

That is what it is going to come down to in the final week of the MLS regular season. Five clubs fighting for the three remaining post-season berths, with four teams having the luxury of knowing that a win puts them into the playoffs.

The Kansas City Wizards, New York Red Bulls, D.C. United, Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids will make next weekend an exciting one as we find out who exactly rounds out the playoff field.

Real Salt Lake and Colorado will meet at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday night with the winner guaranteed the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. A tie would eliminate the Rapids from playoff contention.

Now, if RSL loses to the Rapids, Jason Kreis’ team would suddenly be eliminated from the playoffs.

Things in the East are a little more complicated. Let’s take a closer look at all the playoff permutations heading into the last week of the regular season:

Here is the final week’s schedule for playoff hopefuls:

  • Thursday– New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire
  • Saturday– Kansas City at New England, Real Salt Lake at Colorado
  • Sunday– D.C. United at Columbus Crew

Here is a rundown of what each team needs to happen in order to qualify for the playoffs (current point total included):

Kansas City Wizards (39 pts)

In with a win at New England, and would be the No. 4 seed in the East.

In with a tie if:

Red Bulls fail to win or D.C. United fails to win by three or more goals. If neither wins, KC would be the No. 4 seed in the East. If New York wins or D.C. wins by three or more goals, KC would be the No. 4 seed in the West.

In with a loss if:

New York loses to Chicago OR D.C. United ties or loses vs. Columbus. Would be No. 4 in East if Red Bulls lose and D.C. doesn’t win. Would be No. 4 in West if New York wins or ties and D.C. doesn’t win, or if D.C. United wins and New York loses. KC owns tie-breakers against New York and Real Salt Lake (head-to-head) and D.C. United (goal differential).

New York Red Bulls (39 pts)

In with a win at Chicago. Would be No. 4 seed in the East with win and KC loss or tie. Would be No. 4 seed in the West if they win and KC wins.

In with a tie if:

Kansas City loses or D.C. United ties or loses. Also in with a tie if Kansas City wins, even if D.C. United wins because the Red Bulls own the tie breaker vs. D.C. United (goal differential).

Would be No. 4 in East if KC loses and D.C. United ties or loses. Would be No. 4 in the West if KC wins and D.C. ties or loses, or if D.C. wins and KC loses.

If Kansas City ties and D.C. United wins, then both teams with be tied with Red Bulls at 40 points. If all three teams wind up tied at 40 points, Red Bulls would fail to qualify for the playoffs (worst overall record head-to-head among the three teams). (I have been informed that the Red Bulls would, in fact, advance to the playoffs if all three teams finish with 40 points. KC would win the three-team tie-breaker, which would then leave the Red Bulls and D.C. United in a two-team tiebreaker that the Red Bulls would win on goal difference)

In with a loss if:

D.C. United ties or loses. I the Red Bulls lose, they can only qualify for the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the West. Red Bulls owns tie-breakers against D.C. United (goal differential) and Real Salt Lake (head-to-head).

D.C. United (37 pts)

In with a win at Columbus if:

Kansas City or New York Red Bulls lose. Would be No. 4 seed in East if both KC and NY lose, otherwise D.C. would be No. 4 seed in West.

If Kansas City or New York wins while the other ties, D.C. United would need to win by three or more goals to beat out KC if the Red Bulls win and KC ties. D.C. would need to win by four or more goals to beat out the Red Bulls if KC wins and the Red Bulls tie.

D.C. is even on head-to-head vs. both KC and New York Red Bulls, and beats RSL on head-to-head.

Real Salt Lake (39 pts)

In with a win or tie at Colorado. If RSL qualifies, would be No. 3 seed in West.

Would be eliminate with a loss because KC and Red Bulls hold head-to-head tie-breakers.

Colorado Rapids (37 pts)

In with a win vs. Real Salt Lake. If Colorado wins, the Rapids will be No. 3 see in West.

Did you get all that?

What do you think of the playoff race? What three teams do you see taking the remaining playoff spots?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I’m confused, how does DCU have head to head over RSL? They split at a game apiece… We have RSL winning the Ben Cup over DC on goal diff. Did I miss something?

  2. it seems like alot of this depends on the K.C. game. i dont know if they are going to win that though. if K.C. lose, redbulls only need to tie. D.c. needs to win and RSL i have over columbus.

  3. ooh rsl vs col for all the marbles and its their rivalry game, sweet!

    also, agreed with tom p above (guess that means rsl over colorado…)

  4. Okay folks, this is what I have been told. If KC, DC and the Red Bulls finished tied at 40 points, then KC clinches the first spot by virtue of best record among matches vs. the other two teams. DC and the Red Bulls would then be matched up head to head. They are tied in head-to-head, which means the next tie-breaker, goal difference, would be used. Right now the Red Bulls have a four-goal edge there, meaning D.C. would have to beat Columbus by four goals to erase it.

    Sorry for the mix-up in the original breakdown.

  5. Hmmm…

    Red Bull have it all to play for, and you’ve got to like their position. I believe. I think they are more than capable of getting a result.

    That said, I think this is a bridge too far for DC. It’s too unlikely that both RSL and RB drop their games. Going to Columbus wont be easy, especially needing all 3 points. That said, they’ve got the advantage playing last and knowing what the situation is. If they face a win and their in, it’s going to be hard to deny them.

    This all said, please NY, take all 3 and don’t give me a heart attack.

  6. It comes back to the Fire again.

    Evil Villain laugh —-

    Thursday night at Toyota Park is gonna be suhweet!!!

    What a perfect way to screw Osorio than to have the team he left on bad terms knock his new team out.


  7. If all three teams end up with 40 points, then KC and NY will qualify unless DC wins by 4 goals.

    A more detailed explanation:

    A thre way tie goes to head to head PPG:

    1. KC – 7 pts in 4 games = 1.75

    2. DC – 7 pts in 5 games = 1.40

    3. NY – 5 pts in 5 games = 1.00

    So KC would get the first playoff spot. HOWEVER, you don’t use this (the three way PPG) to determine the second spot. You go back to the top of the tiebreaker list between the two teams who are still tied.

    DC and NY are tied 1-1-1 head to head, so it goes to goal differential. Currently, NY is at -3 and DC at -7. So if all three teams end up tied, DC will have to win their final game by 4 goals to qualify.

  8. j1mbr0wn,

    The first tiebreaker is record in head-to-head matches so in a KC, DC, NY scenario KC and DC get in because NY has the worst record in head-to-head matches.

    If NY and DC were tied you would go to the first tiebreaker, head-to-head. Each team won a match and lost a match versus the other so you go to the 2nd tiebreaker which is goal differential, which DC would win.

  9. Ives, thanks. I wasn’t sure on all the scenarios. It is funny how FSC was saying last night RSL was a lock for the playoffs after they won. Along with the other important games next weekend that Colorado vs RSL game should be very intense. Since they already have a history of some bad blood that game might be the most intense game this season. I would put the over/under for players on the field at the end of regulation at 20 for that one.

  10. Ives, something smells fishy to me. In one scenario (KC, DC and RB with 40 points), you say KC and DC win tie breaker based on “(worst overall record head-to-head among the three teams)”. Yet in the next paragraph, you say “Red Bulls owns tie-breakers against D.C. United (goal differential)”.

    How can the tie breakers be different?

  11. RSL has been a great story this year.They have had a great mix of players with some established MLS veterans (Beckerman, Williams, Kovalenko, Wingert), a few American players who returned from overseas (Borchers, Joy, Mathis, Russell), a couple quality foreign players in key positions (Morales, Olave) and a host of young talent most teams in the league would drool over (Sturgis, Findley, Movsisyan, Beltran, Nimo, Seitz, Espindola, Johnson).

    I’m a Rapids fan, so I’m hoping Clark, Cooke, Casey and the boys can take care of business, but RSL has been a great story.

  12. Its gonna be an exciting last week of the regular season. Unfortunately, the teams playing next week closest to me aren’t involved in any way.

    My predictions are NY, KC, and RSL


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