Rather than our normal rundown of points-per-game and goal scoring averages, let's start the graceful transition from "Table Talk" to "Playoff Prattle" by outlining the current scenarios for the various clubs...
Columbus Crew vs. Revolution, 5PM Sunday
- They've already sewn up first seed in the East and will know what they need to do to clinch the Supporters' Shield before kickoff, possibly as early as Thursday (should Chivas lose Thursday). Only Chivas can possibly catch them, and the Goats need to win both games (or mount a huge charge on goal difference with a win and a draw--they're tied head-to-head).
- LA hold all the tiebreakers with Chivas and Houston, so a win guarantees them at least second in the West and they'll grab the first spot if Chivas don't get at least a win and a draw this week. A loss or draw could see them potentially finish as low as fourth in the West. How 'bout them Parity apples?
- The Dynamo need a Galaxy loss or draw to open the door for a possible Western crown, and, by virtue of the tie-breaker, will beat out Chivas with a win, no matter what the Goats do on Thursday with their game in hand. A draw or loss could dump them as far as fourth seed in the West.
- Chivas are the only side that can still challenge the Crew for the Supporter's Shield, but (due to tie-breakers) need to win out in combination with the Crew failing to win.
- Despite LA and the Dynamo holding the head-to-head tie-breakers against Chivas, the Goats have a game in hand. Any sort of result against the Fire on Thursday means they control their own destiny when it comes to the conference crown. Dropping points in both matches could see them finish as low as fourth in the West.
- They've already qualified as at least the fourth seed in the West, but could still win the conference if they win and other results fall in line. Bear in mind that Chivas and the Dynamo hold head-to-head tiebreakers against the Sounders, though goal difference would see them ahead of the Galaxy if they end up tied on points.
- The Fire aren't quite across the line yet, and the final weekend could be a really nervous one if they fail to pick up at least a point against Chivas. With a point, they would be the number two seed in the East. If they lose, they still hold tie-breaker advantages against everybody in the East who could unseat them save United. A Fire loss, combined with the Rapids, United, and FC Dallas winning, could still see them eliminated from playoff contention.
- Win and they're in. Draw and lose, and they're dependent upon other results and various tie-breaker scenarios. Strangely, the head-to-head tiebreaker is a wash with all four of the teams one point behind them, meaning their superior goal difference will probably be enough to see them through against any of them save possibly Dallas. Likewise, a loss to RSL would put them level on points and head-to-head, but RSL would need to win by at least two to win out on goal difference.
- If they win, they'll be in unless Dallas and the Rapids also win, and the Revs and United both lose or draw (Fire hold the head-to-head against TFC regardless, while TFC holds head to head against the Revs and United, but not Dallas). A loss or draw and they might still be in, but they'll need some significant stars to align.
- They Revs could go into this game against a Crew side that's already won the Supporters' Shield and is looking to rest and protect players. Likewise, they could go into this game knowing that they can't make the playoffs if results earlier in the weekend are unkind. They hold the head-to-head tiebreaker vs. United, but head-to-head or goal difference favors all of the other contenders. It's probably going to come down to a needing a win, and even that might not be enough. One thing is for certain: a loss puts them out.
- If the Fire lose, a United win could still see them finish second in the conference by virtue of head-to-head (if other results go their way). Unfortunately, the only other team in contention that they hold an advantage over is Dallas, so even a win doesn't guarantee post-season play. They'll still need slip-ups elsewhere. A loss and they're done, regardless of what else happens.
- Head-to-head and goal difference will come to their aid against most of their direct competitors save DC United, meaning a win will probably see them cap a remarkable run to the post-season (unless almost all of their competitors win as well!). A draw would require some major mojo to get them in, while a loss would keep them out.
- RSL must beat the Rapids to have any chance, and they'll need to beat them by at least two clear goals in order to surpass them on the table. Even then, they'll need help from elsewhere, though they will hold tie-breakers (either head-to-head or goal difference) against everybody else who could end up tied with them. If they lose or draw, they're done, though a one-goal win might be enough if none of the teams on 39 points win.
- All are done, and all are fixed in their positions...KC and NYRB finish 6 and 7 in the East and the Quakes are bottom of the West.
At least that's what my tired brain is telling me...