MLS Table Talk (Week 29) - Now With Playoff Prattle

Just one week remaining in the the 2007 regular season, and MLS HQ--while they'll be disappointed that the Supporters' Shield race didn't come down to the last weekend--must be high-fiving each other in the halls. Four clubs are still duking it out for two playoff spots and the West will come down to a decisive final match. Let's take a look at our usual assortment of stats--ignoring points per game, as it's not particularly relevant now that almost everyone is on the same number of games--and then break down the playoff picture.

DC United have taken their second straight Supporters' Shield title, and they'll be thanking the offense that's pumped in 1.86 goals per game so far and led to the greatest goal difference (+23) in the league. The second highest figure (+20) falls to the best defensive side, the miserly Houston Dynamo and their league best 0.79 goals against average.

Miraculously, despite a recent run of good results, the Galaxy continue to be the most porous defense in the league at 1.64 goals against per game, though TFC are looking to challenge that at 1.62 per game. Of course, the difference between the sides is that LA can actually put them in at the other end, something that TFC has struggled with. They continue to be the only side scoring less than a goal per game, at an average of 0.79.

So, now that the stats are out of the way, let's take a gander at the playoff picture. We know already that DC, the Revs, and the Bulls will finish 1-2-3 in the East, which means that the Revs and Red Bulls will meet in the first round. DC's opponent will either be the fourth-placed finisher in the East (currently Chicago), or--in the unlikely even that the Rapids and Galaxy get in at the expense of KC and the Fire--the fifth-placed finisher in the West.

First place in the West is still up for grabs as Chivas will take it with a win or draw next weekend against the Dynamo. Should the Dynamo win, they'll finish on top. Whoever finishes second will face FC Dallas in the first round, while the first-placed side in the west will face LA or Colorado, should one or both of them get in, or the fifth-placed side from the East, which will be either the Fire or the Wiz.

Confused yet? Stupid MLS head honchos will be adding differential equations to the playoff structure next year! Let's take a look at some scenarios for the four remaining sides trying to get in the playoffs. We'll call it "Playoff Prattle" . . .
  • Chicago (LA): Win and they're in. A draw puts them in unless both KC and Colorado win, in which case KC go above them and Colorado get in on goal difference. They can still get in even if they lose, should at least two of the following happen: (1) LA lose Thursday, (2) Colorado not win, or (3) KC lose.
  • KC (@ Dallas): Win and they're in. If they draw, they'll need help from two of the following: (1) Chicago lose; (2) Colorado lose, draw, or win by less than three goals; or (3) LA lose or draw one of their remaining matches. If they lose, they'll need (1) Colorado to lose or draw and (2) LA to either draw both matches or lose one.
  • Colorado (RSL): Colorado needs to win or they're out. If they win, they need two of the following to occur: (1) Chicago to draw or lose, (2) KC to lose or draw combined with a Rapids victory by at least 3 goals, or (3) LA to lose or draw one of their remaining games.
  • LA (NY and @Chicago): LA have two games left. If they lose either match, they're out. If they win both matches, they're in. If they beat NY, but draw with Chicago, they'll need both (1) KC to lose and (2) Colorado to lose or draw. If they draw with NY, but beat Chicago, they'll only need one of those scenarios to occur.
So there you have it. I'll run a "Playoff Prattle" update after the LA-NY match on Thursday to update the playoff scenarios. Stay tuned tonight or in the wee hours tomorrow morning for the updated MLS Dogpile.

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