Every Minute Matters
We demystify the Rapids MLS play-off senarios
Richard Bamber
Oct 17th 2011

In February this year, fresh from criticism from jealous fans of all other clubs about how the Rapids won an Eastern Conference Final against Western Conference stable mate San Jose, the MLS introduced a new play-off format for 2011. Basically the top three teams from each conference would reach the play-off semi-finals direct & the next four teams from both conferences would enter a wildcard round & through a mix of seeding based on regular season standings everyone would conspire to play-off against each other to produce two finalists who will contest the MLS Cup in L.A. in November…or something like that.

However the system is what it is and, while we hear that more changes are possibly on the way in 2012, we will attempt to guide you through it. One thing assured is that, like last year, where the Rapids finish in the regular season standings will matter 100% meaning that every minute will matter in the final game against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Before we start it is worth mentioning that the MLS updates the play-off standings on its website almost daily at www.mlssoccer.com/playoffstandings. Anyway, below is the current situation which includes the results of all the games played at the weekend:

Western ConferencePTSGPGD
ss- LA Galaxy673322
x- Seattle Sounders603318
x- Real Salt Lake52338
Eastern ConferencePTSGPGD
x- Sporting KC48339
x- Philadelphia Union48339
x- Columbus Crew47330
Wild Card RacePTSGPGD
x- FC Dallas (WC1)52335
x- Colorado Rapids (WC2)46332
x- Houston Dynamo (WC3)46332
New York Red Bulls (WC4)43335
Portland Timbers4032-8
Chicago Fire40330
D.C. United3832-2
z- Chivas USA36330
z- San Jose Earthquakes3533-7
z- Toronto FC3233-23
z- Vancouver Whitecaps2833-19
z- New England Revolution2733-20

ss - clinched Supporters Shield
x - clinched playoff spot

z - eliminated from playoff contention

The top three teams in each conference qualify directly into the play-offs proper. So the first thing we can see is that Salt Lake’s draw against us seals means we cannot make 3rd place (positions in green) in the Western Conference. Salt Lake & FC Dallas being tied on 52 points means that they will share the 3rd place & the top wildcard spot (WC1) between them meaning that it’s a preliminary round 2nd, 3rd or 4th wildcard spot (yellow) or nothing for the Rapids or any other Western Conference challengers.

So this is where the regular season standing position is all important as it decides whether we are at home or not in the one game preliminary round…

If the Rapids finish in position WC2:

- We will be at home to WC3 on Wed Oct 26th or Thu Oct 27th.
- If we win & WC1 wins, we will go into the Western Conference.
- If we win & WC4 wins, we will go into the Eastern Conference.

If the Rapids finish in position WC3:

- We will be at away to WC2 on Thu Oct 27th.
- If we win & WC1 wins, we will go into the Western Conference.
- If we win & WC4 wins, we will go into the Eastern Conference.

If the Rapids finish in position WC4:

- We will be at away to WC1 on Wed Oct 26th.
- If we beat WC1, we will go into the Western Conference.

So the advantage of finishing in WC2 is clear; we get a home game in the preliminary round. Should we win that match then which Conference we go into comes into play…

If the Rapids go into the Western Conference:

- We will be the 4th seeded team.
- We will most likely face L.A. Galaxy at home on Sun Oct 30th & away on Wed Nov 3rd.
- If we beat L.A. over two games we will face either Seattle Sounders or Salt Lake away on Sat Nov 6th. There will be no chance of hosting the Western Conference Final at DSG Park.

If the Rapids go into the Eastern Conference:

- We could be anything from the top seeded team the 4th seeded team.
- We will play on Sun Oct 30th & again on Tue Nov 2nd or Wed Nov 3rd.
- If we progress & are the 1st or 2nd seeded team there is a chance we could host the Eastern Conference Final at DSG Park (like last year against San Jose) on Sun Nov 7th.

So from these scenarios we can first deduce that we are likely to get a much easier ride through the Eastern Conference as the teams are weaker & there a much greater possibility of hosting home games. Although the possibility of knocking Salt Lake out of the play-offs in their own back yard does even it up for the west a bit.

Another side point is that should we get to the play-off semi-finals all the 1st leg matches involving wildcard teams will be on Sun Oct 30th. This means that we can say now the Rapids will not play either home or away on Sat Oct 29th – so feel free to accept those Saturday night Halloween party invitations with confidence.

We are getting to that part of the season where other teams results play a big part as we will the team at the top & the bottom of the single table standings to take points off the teams around us. The following games are the key ones to watch:

Wed Oct 19th

D.C. United v Portland 6pm

Thu Oct 20th

New York v Philadelphia 6pm

Sat Oct 22nd

Vancouver v Colorado 5pm – Click here for viewing party details.
D.C. United v Sporting KC 5:30pm
Chicago v Columbus 6:30pm
Real Salt Lake v Portland 7:00pm EDT
San Jose v FC Dallas 8:30pm

Sun Oct 23rd

Houston v Los Angeles 5:00pm

The British Bulldog & the Three Lions both have the MLS Direct Kick package & will be happy to show any of these fixtures should you go in & request them.

So with the Rapids hanging around the play-offs spots, the team (hopefully) over its recent bad patch and going into the Eastern Conference side of the play-offs a real possibility, Rapids fans could be forgiven for feeling that history may be repeating itself. Surely it couldn’t happen again…could it?

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