Three of eight MLS Cup Playoff spots have already been secured with three weeks remaining in the 2004 Major League Soccer regular season. The MetroStars (East) and Kansas City Wizards (West) are the latest teams to join in the postseason chase with the Columbus Crew (East), which became the first team to earn a right to play for MLS Cup (View the latest MLS regular season standings).
Although the Crew and Wizards know they will be competing in the MLS Cup Playoffs, they will still have a lot to play for in the upcoming round of matches. In fact both clubs will be in position to secure the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences as early as next weekend.
And the top seed in the conference presents more than just a trophy: as No. 1 seeds, both teams would secure the right to host the single game Conference Championships. In last year's edition of the MLS Cup Playoffs, both home teams in the Conference Championships advanced to MLS Cup after emerging victorious in tightly matched encounters.
While the 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion Wizards can ensure the road to the MLS Cup goes through Arrowhead Stadium with a win in Los Angeles, the Crew equation is slightly more complicated. Greg Andrulis' men, who are on a league record 14-game undefeated streak, will not only need to win their match against Chicago but also hope for a MetroStars home loss.
What follows are the scenarios in play ahead of the next full slate of weekend action on Oct. 2:
Columbus Crew clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference with:
(a) win vs. Chicago Fire + MetroStars loss
D.C. United clinch an MLS Cup Playoff berth with:
(a) win vs. MetroStars + New England Revolution loss or tie
(b) tie vs. MetroStars + New England Revolution loss
Chicago Fire clinch an MLS Cup Playoff berth with:
(a) win vs. Columbus Crew + New England Revolution loss or tie
Kansas City Wizards clinch the top seed in the Western Conference with:
(a) win vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
Los Angeles Galaxy clinch an MLS Cup Playoff berth with:
(a) win vs. Kansas City Wizards + San Jose Earthquakes loss or tie
(b) win vs. Kansas City Wizards + Dallas Burn loss or tie
(c) tie vs. Kansas City Wizards + San Jose Earthquakes loss
(d) tie vs. Kansas City Wizards + Dallas Burn loss
Colorado Rapids clinch an MLS Cup Playoff berth with:
(a) win vs. San Jose Earthquakes
(b) tie vs. San Jose Earthquakes + Dallas Burn loss
At the end of the season four teams qualify from each conference and advance to the home-and-home, aggregate goal MLS Cup Conference Semifinals (No. 1 vs. No. 4 and No. 2 vs. No. 3). The two teams left standing in each conference will meet in the Conference Championships with the winners advancing to MLS Cup 2004 at The Home Depot Center on Nov. 14 (live on ABC Sports at 3:30 p.m. ET).
Individual tickets are now available for MLS Cup 2004, which will be broadcast live on ABC Sports at 3:30 pm (ET) on Sunday, Nov. 14, at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. 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.