Understanding the last few weeks of a convoluted playoff race in MLS' Eastern Conference
Hold onto your hats folks, because it's about to go down this weekend.
There are two games remaining on the MLS schedule and six teams from the Eastern Conference still have a shot at the postseason. It's the tightest playoff race we've seen since the Union joined the league in 2010.
As it stands, only New York and Kansas City have clinched postseason berths. Philadelphia, Houston, Montreal, and Chicago are fighting for the final spots, with Columbus a long shot to sneak into the picture as well.
Tiebreaker scenarios aren't critical just yet, but keep in mind that the first two determining factors this year are total wins and goals scored.
We'll dig deeper into that next week.
For now, let's take a look at the final stretch for the still-relevant Eastern Conference teams.
1. New York Red Bulls - 53 points (15-9-8)
Remaining schedule: at Houston, Chicago
A simple scenario for Red Bull, who can claim their very first Supporter's Shield with a pair of wins to finish the season.
New York is 2-0 against Houston this year and has already won once down at BBVA Compass Stadium. They lost 3-1 at Chicago back in April but have not played the Fire at Red Bull Arena in 2013.
Unflattering as it may be, Union fans should really be pulling for Red Bull for win these final two games. Victories over the Dynamo and Fire would give a massive boost to Philadelphia's playoff chances.
2. Sporting Kansas City – 52 points (15-10-7)
Remaining schedule: D.C. United, at Philadelphia
An interesting spot for Kansas City, who can still win the Supporters' Shield if New York, Real Salt Lake, and Portland slip up.
KC plays at PPL Park to finish the season, but they do have a midweek CONCACAF Champions League game against Olimpia of Honduras. That game likely affects who Sporting coach Peter Vermes decides to bring to Chester for the season finale.
Sporting's match versus D.C. United this weekend is only partially relevant to the Union.
3. Houston Dynamo – 48 points (13-10-9)
Remaining schedule: New York, at D.C. United
Houston is the back-the-back Eastern Conference champion, so everybody on this list should be pulling for them to lose.
Dominic Kinnear's teams always play well in the playoffs, and a matchup with the Dynamo isn't exactly preferable at this point in the year.
4. Montreal Impact – 46 points (13-12-7)
Remaining schedule: Philadelphia, at Toronto
The Impact have slowed as of recent but they own the tiebreakers against Chicago and Philadelphia right now.
The Union obviously need a win or draw at Stade Saputo to stay alive.
Montreal closes with a difficult trip to rival Toronto FC.
5. Chicago Fire – 46 points (13-12-7)
Remaining schedule: Toronto, at New York
Speaking of TFC, they can do Philly a favor by knocking off Chicago this weekend.
The Fire get Toronto at home, but they'll probably need a result at Red Bull Arena to lock up a playoff spot.
6. Philadelphia Union – 46 points (12-10-10)
Remaining schedule: at Montreal, Sporting KC
The tricky part here is that Philadelphia only has 12 wins compared to Montreal and Chicago's 13.
The Union is also third in total goals among the three teams, so that's also not ideal.
Right now, Philly doesn't need six points to get into the playoffs, but a draw in one of these final two games puts the onus on another team to help out with a positive result.
7. New England Revolution – 45 points (12-11-9)
Remaining schedule: Columbus, at Columbus
What a weird way to end the season for New England.
They play a home-and-home series with Columbus that begins on Saturday in Foxboro. New England's last game against the Crew was a 2-0 road win back in July.
8. Columbus Crew – 41 points (12-15-5)
Remaining schedule: New England, at New England
Columbus needs to win both games and hope for two of Chicago, Montreal, and Philadelphia to lose out to sneak into the playoffs.
What do you think about these last two weeks of the regular season? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org