Thursday, October 09, 2014

How Sporting KC Qualify for the Playoffs with a Win Tomorrow

With last night's loss by Toronto FC, Sporting KC is now just a win away from clinching a playoff spot for the fourth straight year. If Sporting KC can defeat the Chicago Fire tomorrow at Sporting Park that will guarantee them a playoff berth. MLS' site may not say it, but Sporting's playoff math does, and I'll try to quickly break down how that is, I hope this makes sense to you (it does to me in my head).

Right now Sporting KC sits in third place in the Eastern Conference on 46 points, two ahead of fourth place New York. DC has already clinched a playoff berth while Chicago and Montreal are both eliminated from the playoff race.

Team Points Wins
1 DC United  52 15
2 New England 48 15
3 Sporting 46 13
4 New York 44 11
5 Columbus 43 11
6 Toronto 40 11
7 Houston 39 11
8 Philadelphia 39 9
9 Chicago 33 5
10 Montreal 25 6

A win puts Kansas City on 49 points, making it impossible for Houston or Philadelphia to catch KC. That leaves just New York, Columbus, and Toronto as being able to catch Kansas City. For Toronto to catch Kansas City, that would mean that they would have to win out, beating New York, Montreal, and New England. That would give Toronto 49 points and 14 wins, tying them with Kansas City. Toronto would need to overcome what is now a 15 goal difference between the two teams (would be at least 16 if KC beats Chicago) to finish ahead of KC on the second tie breaker though. 

Meanwhile, Columbus would need to win two of their last three to tie Kansas City's 49 point total. The Crew play Philadelphia twice and New York once. Their point maximum is 52, but if the Crew and KC tie on points at 49, Kansas City would finish ahead of the Crew by virtue of the fact that KC would have 14 wins to the Crew's 13.

Finally, New York would need five points from their final three games to tie KC. I've already pointed out above though that Toronto needs to beat New York to keep their hopes of catching KC alive, so let's assume that Toronto beats New York, that leaves games against Columbus and Kansas City. A win against KC would still leave them two points short of Sporting. So New York would have to beat the Crew and get to 50 points to move ahead of KC. So then for the Crew to get to 49 points and tie KC, they'd need to win both games against Philadelphia.

So in that scenario, here's how the 3rd through 6th spot would look in the East.

Team Points Wins
3 New York 50 13
4 Sporting 49 14
5 Toronto 49 14
6 Columbus 49 13

With just the one win KC still qualifies as them and Toronto would beat out the Crew on the second tiebreaker, most wins. And if any of those results don't follow that process, one of the three teams will not be able to pass Sporting. So while each team individually could still pass KC, all three teams could not.

A draw tomorrow can also see KC qualify this weekend, although it would take help elsewhere. If Sporting draw with the Chicago Fire tomorrow, and let's be honest, the Fire have 18 draws this year, a draw would seem to be the favored result tomorrow if you were betting on the game, then they'll need all the teams below the playoff line to drop points.

A draw would put KC on 47 points, which means that Toronto FC would still have to win out to pass them, so a loss to New York this weekend takes them out of the equation. The draw would also keep Houston and Philadelphia alive in their race to catch KC. But dropped points by the two of them to DC and Columbus respectively would see them unable to catch KC. Put all three together with a draw and KC is into the playoffs that way.

A loss to the Fire and things get even more complicated for Kansas City, especially if other results go against them this weekend.

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