There aren't many Major League Soccer teams that can be considered safe in the MLS playoff race. Other than the Columbus Crew, Houston Dynamo and Chicago Fire, the rest of the teams with serious playoff dreams have serious work to do in the remaining five weeks of the season (though poorly-timed slumps could drop Houston and Chicago back into the mix).
That's where Six-Pointers come in, matches that feature two teams in the thick of the race. Win one and you gain a six-point swing on the team you beat. Lose, and you feel the pinch of that swing.
This week's MLS schedule features two such matches. Western Conference foes Chivas USA and Seattle square off at Qwest Field, with the winner having a chance to move past Los Angeles for second place in the Western Conference. The Galaxy will be in its own six-point match against Toronto FC. LA has its sights set on keeping the automatic playoff spot that comes with second place in the West, but it would also help the Galaxy's chances to lock up a post-season berth if it can keep Toronto from scoring a second straight win.
TFC will be hoping to ride a boost from newly-signed Designated Player Julian DeGuzman, who will make his debut at the Home Depot Center against MLS stars David Beckham and Landon Donovan, who will certainly be looking to make up for last week's 6-3 mauling at the hands of FC Dallas.
Here is a closer look at the weekend's MLS schedule, as well as a rundown of the Best XI match-ups of the weekend:
MLS Week 27 Schedule
7:30pm- New England Revolution at New York Red Bulls (MSG). Juan Pablo Angel is questionable while the Revs welcome back Shalrie Joseph from suspension in a match they need all three points from.
11pm- Colorado Rapids at San Jose Earthquakes (ESPN2). No Matt Pickens and probably no Cory Gibbs for the Rapids, who still have to be favored against an Earthquakes team coming off a bye. New San Jose defender Bobby Burling will have to contend with Conor Casey and Omar Cummings in his debut, not exactly fun.
3pm- Chivas USA at Seattle Sounders (Fox Soccer Channel). Chivas USA is 2-0 with two shutouts against Seattle this season, but the Sounders come in with confidence after beating D.C. United twice on the road. Loser of this one will feel serious heat in the playoff race.
8:30pm- FC Dallas at Kansas City Wizards. Can the Hoops come close to repeating its six-goal outburst vs. LA? Jimmy Conrad and the Wizards D will hope to shut down Jeff Cunningham in order to keep its faint playoff hopes alive.
8:30pm- Real Salt Lake at Houston Dynamo. The Dynamo will look to break its recent slump against an RSL team that posted a 1-1 tie in its last visit to Robertson Stadium. The battle in central midfield will make this one fun to watch.
10:30pm- Toronto FC at Los Angeles Galaxy. Julian DeGuzman's MLS debut comes in LA, and while we still don't know where Chris Cummins will deploy him, it will be fun to see how he does vs. David Beckham and Landon Donovan. Another question is how will LA's defense respond after its beatdown loss to FC Dallas?
3pm- Columbus Crew at Chicago Fire (Telefutura). The Crew will be without Chad Marshall, which will make dealing with Brian McBride difficult, but the Fire's 4-4-4 home record means Columbus will stand a good chance of scoring a second impressive road win this week.
Best XI Match-ups to Watch
Stuart Holden vs. Kyle Beckerman
David Beckham vs. Julian DeGuzman
Jimmy Conrad vs. Jeff Cunningham
Freddie Ljungberg vs. Paulo Nagamura
Robbie Findley vs. Bobby Boswell
Alejandro Moreno vs. Wilman Conde
Omar Cummings vs. Jason Hernandez
Marco Pappa vs. Robbie Rogers
Brian Ching vs. Jamison Olave
Javier Morales vs. Geoff Cameron
Eddie Lewis vs. Marvell Wynne
Which match are you most looking forward to? What individual match-ups do you think are the best this week (and which should be on this list that aren't)? Excited to see Julian DeGuzman make his debut?
Share your thoughts below.