Eastern Conference playoff field set, seeding still unclear
The field is complete. At least as far as the Eastern Conference is concerned.
The remaining three playoff berths in the East were secured on Saturday night, rounding out the final group of five clubs that will do battle in the 2012 MLS playoffs for a spot in MLS Cup 2012.
With only one weekend remaining in the regular season, D.C. United (57pts), the New York Red Bulls (54pts) and the Houston Dynamo (53pts) joined the Chicago Fire (56pts) and Sporting Kansas City (60pts), who had previously secured their tickets to the postseason.
Saturday's key result was D.C. United's 3-2 stoppage-time victory over the Columbus Crew, which knocked out the Crew and gave United their first playoff berth since 2007. The Crew's elimination locked up the playoffs for NY and also meant that Houston's 3-1 home win over Philadelphia was enough to also clinch a return to the big dance.
Although the playoff qualifiers may be known, there's still plenty to play for in the East going into the final weekend of the regular season with none of the seedings set in stone. Not even the No. 1 seed.
In fact, if current East leaders Sporting KC lose on Wednesday in their season finale vs. Philadelphia, 2nd-place D.C. United can overtake them for the top spot in the East with a win in Chicago on Saturday. United would jump past SKC on the first tiebreaker (goals scored). The situation is so fluid that D.C. could potentially fall to the No. 4 seed and a Knockout Round match against No. 5.
As it stands now, the No. 4-ranked NY Red Bulls and No. 5-ranked Houston Dynamo are currently on a collision course for the Eastern Conference single-elimination Knockout Round match tentatively scheduled for Halloween night. But with the right results next weekend, both could move up the East standings and avoid the drama of the winner-take-all game hosted by the No. 4 seed.
Here is the list of the decisive matches coming up this week:
Wed., Oct. 24: Sporting KC vs. Philadelphia (8:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network)
Sat., Oct. 27: Philadelphia vs. NY Red Bulls (1:30 pm ET, NBC)
Sat., Oct. 27: Chicago vs. D.C. United (4 pm ET, NBC Sports Network)
Sat., Oct. 27: Colorado vs. Houston (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE)