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MLS Confirms New Playoff Qualification Rules; What Does it Mean for Sporting KC?

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Oh 2020, why do you do this to us?

Columbus Crew v Sporting Kansas City Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

10 days before the 2020 MLS season will conclude on Decision Day, MLS has officially updated how teams qualify for the playoffs. Because many teams will not play a “full,” 23-game season, points per game (PPG) will replace total points as the metric to determine seeding.

The move sees Sporting Kansas City drop from first place to second place in the Western Conference behind the Seattle Sounders who have a game in hand. Seattle’s 1.84 PPG just edges out SKC’s 1.80 PPG.

The change came about because of COVID outbreaks that caused games to be cancelled. Notably a one month stretch of games for the Colorado Rapids that included a game against Sporting KC where the same game was cancelled twice. The league confirmed those games will now not be made up. The Rapids have actually climbed from next to last in the standings to the 8th and final playoff spot, though they still have work left to do.

Tiebreakers

Beyond points per game there are quite a few tiebreakers to keep an eye on but with the out of whack schedules PPG shouldn’t end in quite as many ties. Here are the tiebreakers in order:

  1. Total number of wins per match
  2. Goal Differential (GD) per match (Goals For per match minus Goals Against per match)
  3. Goals For (GF) per match
  4. Fewest Disciplinary Points* per match
  5. Away Goals Differential per Away match (Away Goals For per Away match minus Away Goals Against per Away match)
  6. Away Goals For per Away match
  7. Home Goals Differential per Home match (Home Goals For per Home match minus Home Goals Against per Home match)
  8. Home Goals For per Home match
  9. Coin Toss (tie of two clubs) or Drawing of Lots (tie of three or more clubs)

Sporting KC’s Seeding Math

First, SKC are one of five Western Conference teams to make it into the playoffs already. However, final seeding is far from decided. They can finish as high as first place with a maximum PPG total of 1.91. As of today, the worst KC could finish is seventh (eight teams in the West get into the playoffs). The only teams with the ability to pass them are Portland Timbers, Minnesota United (this weekend’s opponent), LAFC and FC Dallas (with Seattle of course already ahead of them).

For a deeper look, Kurt Austin over at SportingKC.com has broken down all the complexities of deciding who will be seeded where.

Stunningly not a single team, in either conference, has been eliminated from the playoffs. That’s with just two to three games to go per team. Even the bottom dwellers FC Cincinnati, with their 4-13-4 record, are still alive. This weekend should see several teams mathematically eliminated but Decision Day will be must watch for everyone fighting to stay alive or fighting for a higher seed.