An early look at the MLS Playoff Race

An early look at the MLS Playoff Race

Major League Soccer

An early look at the MLS Playoff Race

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RileySealy (ISIphotos.com)

As we move closer to the 20-game mark in the MLS season, and the end of summer draws nearer, it's a good time to see where the MLS playoff race stands as we prepare for the stretch drive.

The Los Angeles Galaxy, Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake all boast comfortable cushions of between 12 and 17 points between them and the San Jose Earthquakes, currently the first team on the playoff bubble, while FC Dallas, the New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders all currently have five to seven point cushions.

That leaves the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC currently holding the final two playoff places, though as we learned last season, you can lose your grip on a playoff berth before you realize it.

Here is a look at the playoff picture with a third of the MLS season left to play:

MLS PLAYOFF RACE

1W. Los Angeles Galaxy (12-3-4)……….40 points

1E. Columbus Crew (11-4-4)……………37 pts

2W. Real Salt Lake (10-4-5)……………35 pts

3W. FC Dallas (7-2-9)………………….30 pts

2E. New York Red Bulls (8-6-4)………..28 pts

4W. Seattle Sounders (8-8-4)…………28 pts

4E. Colorado Rapids (7-5-6)…………..27 pts

3E. Toronto FC (7-6-5)………………..26 pts

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San Jose Earthquakes (6-6-5)………..23 pts

Chicago Fire (5-5-6)………………….21 pts

Kansas City Wizards (5-8-5)…………20 pts

Houston Dynamo (5-9-5)…………….20 pts

New England Revolution (5-9-3)…….18 pts

Chivas USA (5-10-3)………………..18 pts

Philadelphia Union (4-10-3)………..15 pts

D.C. United (3-13-3)……………….12 pts

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Current Playoff Match-ups

EAST

Columbus Crew vs. Colorado Rapids

New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC

WEST

Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders

Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas

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So what can we gather from this picture? Unless the Chicago Fire really turns it on in the final weeks, the Western Conference is likely to have five playoff teams yet again. In fact, San Jose is just three points behind Toronto FC and holds a game in hand, so it isn't out of the realm of possibility that we see six Western Conference playoff teams.

Right now the Seattle Sounders and FC Dallas are playing very well and both look like strong bets to lock down their Western Conference playoff spots. That means Colorado and San Jose will be competing with Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire for those remaining places.

The Fire currently sits on just 21 points, but with two games in hand on Toronto FC and newly-acquired Designated Players Freddie Ljungberg and Nery Castillo in the fold, Chicago cannot be ruled out at this point.

Truth is it's tough to truly rule out anybody but D.C. United and Philadelphia when you consider that every other team is within eight points of a playoff spot. Of those lower-level teams I'd say Houston and Chivas USA look least likely to mount a late-season charge, while New England can never be ruled out with Shalrie Joseph and Stevie Nicol around.

Team most likely to fall short? Colorado has fallen short before and may need to boost the roster to have a chance of holding on to its current playoff place.

Team most likely to grab a playoff spot? You have to like what the Chicago Fire has done with the additions of Ljungberg, Castillo and Gonzalo Segares, and if Sean Johnson can keep the rookie growing pains to a minimum and keep putting up strong performances, Chicago has no excuse not to make the playoffs.

Looking at the potential playoff match-ups, do you think the Galaxy would want to see the red-hot Sounders right now? Luckily for LA, the playoffs aren't for another three months, plenty of time for Bruce Arena's boys to recapture their early-season form. Also, if you're wondering why Colorado is listed ahead of Toronto FC but listed as the No. 4 seed in the East, it's because the 5th Western Conference team automatically becomes the No. 4 seed in the East, even if the team has a better record than the No. 3 seed.

What do you think of the current playoff picture? Which team currently not in the playoffs do you see making it? Which of the currently qualified teams can you see falling out?

Share your thoughts below.

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