NEW YORK - Major League Soccer's ninth regular season comes to a close this weekend with a full slate of matches all with postseason implications. MLS Cup Playoff berths and playoff seeds remain up for grabs in each Conference along with the Supporters' Shield, awarded to the team with the best record in MLS, and the Budweiser Scoring Champion, which honors the League's top scorer (two points for a goal, one point for a tie).
The Columbus Crew (48 points) currently lead the Kansas City Wizards (46 points) in the race for the MLS Supporters' Shield heading into the final weekend of the season. Columbus heads to Denver to face the Colorado Rapids on Saturday knowing that they control their own destiny. A Columbus victory would guarantee its first ever Shield as would a Wizards tie or loss. Ironically, the Colorado Rapids are the last team to beat the Crew (June 26), who have gone on an MLS-record 17-game unbeaten streak since the loss. Columbus is just 4-12-4 against Colorado all-time and holds a 1-6-2 record in Denver.
The Wizards will look to put the pressure on the Crew earlier the same night, knowing their only chance of taking the Supporters' Shield is to defeat the Galaxy and hope for a Crew loss or tie. Kansas City has yet to lose to Los Angeles this year, winning once and tying twice. However, the Galaxy have their own incentive to win the game - a win by a two-goal margin ensures the Galaxy the top seed in the Western Conference. If the Wizards finish tied with the Crew for the best point total in the MLS regular season, overall goal differential would decide the Supporters' Shield winner since the season series between the Crew and Wizards is tied 1-1-1. Entering the last game, the Wizards' goal differential stands at +7, and the Crew's at +8.
The Budweiser Scoring title chase will also be decided this weekend in one of the tighter races in the League's nine-year history. The MetroStars' Amado Guevara and the New England Revolution's Pat Noonan are currently tied with 30 points each, but there are six players on their heels within five points of tying them.
Noonan, who has scored 11 goals and added eight assists on the season, will face the Chicago Fire - one of only two teams that he has yet to score against in his two-year career. In seven games against the Fire, Noonan has registered a single assist (one point). However, in a brief period, Noonan has recorded 12 regular season points during the month of October, the second highest total in League history during the month of October.
Guevara (10 goals, 10 assists for 30 points) will go up against Jaime Moreno (7 goals, 13 assists for 27 points) and D.C. United on Sunday, October 17 (5:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2) looking to take the lead, while Moreno aims to challenge for the title. Guevara has yet to score against D.C. United in his two seasons in MLS, but he has recorded four assists in the six games in which he has played.
Not only is Moreno United's all-time leading scorer, he has also registered more points against the MetroStars than any player in MLS history. Moreno is the all-time leading scorer against the MetroStars, having scored 18 goals and 10 assists for 46 points in 24 career games, including one goal and three assists in two games this season.
The Earthquakes' Brian Ching (11 goals, 4 assists for 26 points) and Kansas City's Davy Arnaud (9 goals, 8 assists for 26 points) trail the leaders by four points going into the last game of the season and are followed by Arnaud's teammate Josh Wolff (9 goals, 7 assists), the Dallas Burn's Eddie Johnson (11 goals, 3 assists), and the Fire's Damani Ralph (11 goals, 3 assists) with 25 points each.
At the conclusion of the regular season the top four teams in each conference advance to the MLS Cup Playoffs with the goal of reaching MLS Cup 2004, the League's championship game which will be played on Sunday, Nov. 14 at The Home Depot Center (3:30 p.m. ET live on ABC Sports). Under the playoff format introduced for the first time in 2003, a home-and-home, aggregate-goal Conference Semifinal series will be followed by a one-game Conference Championship to determine the MLS Cup finalists from the East and West.
Individual tickets are now available for MLS Cup 2004. Individual ticket prices are as follows: $55 (sidelines), $40 (corners), $32 (upper deck) and $28 (goal line). For more information or group sales, contact the Los Angeles Galaxy toll-free at 1-877-3GALAXY or visit www.lagalaxy.com. To purchase tickets today, visit Ticketmaster or call at 1-800-366-8652.