What you need to know

Pulido signs DP extension with Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City have signed striker Alan Pulido to a new Designated Player contract through the 2026 MLS season. The 32-year-old Mexican international, who’s enjoying his most prolific campaign since becoming SKC’s club-record signing before the 2020 season, was set to be out of contract this winter.

Vancouver Whitecaps sign Canada attacker Hoilett

Vancouver Whitecaps FC have added another Canadian men's national team player, announcing Thursday they have signed midfielder/forward Junior Hoilett through the 2023 MLS season. The 33-year-old most recently played for Reading in England's second division. He follows VWFC's summertime additions of fullbacks Richie Laryea (loan from Premier League side Nottingham Forest) and Sam Adekugbe (transfer from Süper Lig side Hatayspor).

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What's good this weekend, WATCHGRIDOMETER?

This weekend is incredible. You have some of the biggest games of the year and even the ones that aren’t quite as big feel important. To help you sort through each game, we have your regularly scheduled Plusometer* plus a “Playoffocity” value to each game. The closer to 50, the closer it is to a winner gets in/loser goes home game on Decision Day. You’re welcome. 

Also, I want to note that I’ve totally forgotten why it’s called The Plusometer. Genuinely no idea. I think maybe because games used to be on ESPN+? Probably going to have to rethink this soon. For now though…

*The Plusometer is a scientific way to quantify the potential watchability of any given game on Apple TV - MLS Season Pass, but can and will also be used for all other channels. Using the elements of "Potential for very good/entertainingly bad soccer," "Chances created," "Narrative," "Aesthetics" and "Totally subjective bonus points," I assign each element a score out of 10 and each game a score out of 50. Twenty-five is average potential. Fifty is greatest game of all-time potential. Yes, I do calculate each game. No, I don't know why. Respect for the form, maybe?

Tier One: The delightful hum of a soccer broadcast on television
Soccer is nice to have on. And sometimes you look up and see something fun.

NYCFC vs. New York Red Bulls

WATCH: **Apple TV - Free** | Saturday, 3:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 27/50 | Playoffocity: 33/50

Behold! The… uh… possibly most mid Hudson River Derby of all time!

Both teams still have a shot at the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, sure. But it feels like if they were going to look like a playoff team, they would have looked like a playoff team at some point over the last seven months. Let’s just say we at The Daily Kickoff are not convinced. It is still a Hudson River Derby, though. Could be fun. If anyone scores. 

Toronto FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

WATCH: Apple TV - Free | Saturday, 7:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 25/50 | Playoffocity: 20/50

Toronto are the only team in the East without a genuine shot at a playoff spot (though they aren't quite eliminated either). That’s great news for the ‘Caps as they navigate through the smoldering wreckage of the Western Conference. They better take advantage of an “easy” day and earn some points before things start getting dangerous again. Yes, I am imagining the West as a post-apocalyptic wasteland where death lurks around every corner at this point, it’s just what happens when second-place Seattle are four points out of eighth place.

Colorado Rapids vs. New England Revolution

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 9:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 23/50 | Playoffocity: 20/50

This score would be far lower in most cases, but the Revolution are not a normal case right now. It’s been a messy, messy week in New England, and it will be fascinating to see how they handle things on the field the rest of the way. The answer is probably “They’ll get the ball to Carles Gil and be fine,” but you never know.

Tier Two: The joy of stumbling onto a match you previously weren't invested in but now are
Every now and then, you go into a game not asking for much and come away with more than you ever imagined.

Charlotte FC vs. D.C. United

WATCH: Apple TV - Free | Saturday, 7:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 29/50 | Playoffocity: 38/50

CF Montréal vs. Chicago Fire FC

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 7:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 29/50 | Playoffocity: 40/50

I’m grouping these two together because they’re basically the same game. Both are critical six-pointers between teams who have been decent but never all that good this season. It’s like a little mini-tournament between teams trying to outrun Inter Miami. Of course, whoever might finish in one of the two non-Miami Wild Card spots would then have to play Miami… which… good luck with that. So I’m not sure how great the prize actually is. Making the playoffs is better than not making the playoffs though, right?

FC Dallas vs. Seattle Sounders 

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 8:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 27/50 | Playoffocity: 38/50

Hey, remember the whole “The West is a post-apocalyptic wasteland” thing from a few blurbs ago. This is what I’m talking about.

The Sounders are in second place on 41 points with 28 games played. FC Dallas are in ninth place with 34 points on 26 games played. That’s enough to put them four points out of 13th place. It’s also enough to put them in contention for a home playoff spot. And not just any home playoff spot, the one Seattle are occupying right now. If Dallas win, they’ll be four points back with two games in hand. And it’s definitely conceivable that Dallas win because Seattle have been sleepwalking this season. We could reach peak clutter in this conference and it’s stressing me out.

Minnesota United vs. Sporting KC

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 8:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 31/50 | Playoffocity: 38/50

Ok, this one is a little more relaxed than Dallas-Seattle. It seems like SKC are kind of dead. But only kind of dead. They still have a chance to catch Dallas or San Jose in the standings and jump Austin and Portland in the process. It’s a long shot, but it is possible. But they really, really need to take advantage of Minnesota’s terrible home performance this year and pull out a win. Otherwise, we can probably close the curtain.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake

WATCH: Apple TV - Free | Saturday, 10:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 30/50 | Playoffocity: 38/50

Just throw it on the pile with the rest of the Western Conference games that mean everything and also nothing. The Quakes could match fourth-place RSL on points here with a win. Have we considered a world where teams 2-13 in the West end the season on the same amount of points? Because it feels like we might be heading towards that.

Anyway, both teams have been far from their best lately. Maybe someone can break out of a slump.

Austin FC vs. Portland Timbers

WATCH: Apple TV - Free, FS1 | Saturday, 8:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 26/50 | Playoffocity: 37/50

Both teams are one point below the playoff line entering this one. I think this might be the part of the year where Portland just become invincible for no particular reason. This year’s “no particular reason” is Evander, who’s really starting to look the part as Portland’s most expensive signing. If he stays hot, the Timbers have a shot at making a run.

Tier Three: The satisfaction of expectations being met
Sometimes you want the best and you get it.

Atlanta United vs. Inter Miami

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 5:00 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 48/50 | Playoffocity: 40/50

Just about 73,000 are expected for this one. Josef’s back for the first time. Tata’s back for the first time. And Lionel Messi will be there, too. It might be as wild an atmosphere as we see in MLS this year. Or maybe just one of the weirdest, as Atlanta fans wrestle with seeing Josef and Tata in the wrong colors.

It also might be an excellent game. This is far from the same Atlanta team that got boat raced in Miami during Leagues Cup a couple of months ago. The Five Stripes have looked like something close to a genuine contender since the summer transfer window. We might get the best sense of how far they’ve truly come in this one. Maybe they can be the first team to slow down a Miami side that feels inevitable?

Orlando City SC vs. Columbus Crew

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 7:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 46/50 | Playoffocity: 37/50

Atlanta-Miami might be the most intriguing game, but this one might be the most well-played. Orlando have been stringing together solid performances for the last few weeks, and the Crew have been playing beautiful soccer all year.

More importantly, this might be a game we look back on once the dust settles at the top of the East. Orlando are two points ahead of the Crew, but those two points loom large right now. It’s the difference between third place and fifth place in the East. Trust me, you’re really, really going to want a home playoff spot if you want to make it through that side of the bracket in the playoffs. Home-field advantage might be the only thing that separates these teams in the postseason.

Philadelphia Union vs. FC Cincinnati

WATCH: Apple TV - Free | Saturday, 7:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 44/50 | Playoffocity: 33/50

You don’t need much to sell this one, so I’ll just point out that the Union are entering the match in fourth place with a game in hand on the two teams in front of them. It feels like they could easily end up taking second place in the East when all is said and done. And with home-field feeling extremely important, that might just set up a timeline where this game is an Eastern Conference Final preview.

Houston Dynamo FC vs. St. Louis CITY SC

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 8:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 40/50 | Playoffocity: 35/50

The Dynamo have been one of the best teams in the West over the last couple of months. St. Louis have been one of the best teams in the West all season. That’s why this one matters far more to Houston as they try and climb to the top of the standings. St. Louis still have a little bit to go before they clinch the top spot in the West, though. And, just saying, a Dynamo win would put them six points behind St. Louis with a game in hand. It’s not over yet!

(It’s over. But this should be a really good soccer game and a good barometer for Houston.)

LAFC vs. LA Galaxy

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 10:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 40/50 | Playoffocity: 36/50

El Trafico. That’s it. That’s the whole pitch.

Other Things

Messi nominated for 2023 Best FIFA Men's Player: A third Best FIFA Men's Player award could await Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi after being among the 12 players shortlisted for the 2023 honor.

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