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Sounders playoff scenarios: Still lots of possibilities

Fourth is still very much in reach as long as Sounders can get one more win.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at LA Galaxy Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In some kind of weird, twisted way it makes sense that the Seattle Sounders seem insistent on making playoff qualification more complicated than it needed to be.

The common thinking for at least a couple months has been if they could figure out a way to steal a few points on the road that they’d be fine as long as they won at home. There was a big circle around two games in particular as absolute must-wins: The Chicago Fire and Houston Dynamo, the league’s two worst teams.

Of course, the Sounders did just enough to beat the Fire a few weeks ago, but couldn’t find the back of the net against the Dynamo.

Standings via MLSsoccer.com

The scoreless tie against the Dynamo was especially frustrating, being as it would have clinched a playoff spot and would have left the Sounders in prime position to host a first-round game.

But thanks to better-than-expected road form — including wins over the LA Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps — the Sounders are still highly likely to qualify for the postseason, and can do so as soon as today. SportsClubStats.com puts their chances at 98.5 percent.

To clinch a playoff spot, the Sounders can make it easy on themselves by beating FC Dallas. Simple, right? Even if that doesn’t happen, though, they can clinch if the Portland Timbers fail to beat the Colorado Rapids at home later in the evening.

A tie against FC Dallas at least allows the Sounders to avoid a potential must-win game in the season finale, at home against Real Salt Lake, as a point in that game would be enough to get them in regardless of what else happens.

The other thing getting at least a tie against FC Dallas does is preserve the Sounders’ ability to claim the No. 4 position in the West and get themselves a home game in the First Round of the playoffs. By getting at least a point against FC Dallas the Sounders would be guaranteed no worse than fourth if they beat RSL the following week.

A loss against FC Dallas is hardly disastrous — even if it’s combined with a loss in the season finale — but it does open up a whole host of other possibilities. If it’s combined with a Timbers win, the Sounders could be knocked out of the playoffs entirely with a loss to RSL. That nightmare scenario would come about if Sporting Kansas City wins either of their final two games and the Timbers win out, which would need to include a road win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

There’s even a possibility of the Sounders claiming fourth if they lose to FC Dallas. That would require the Sounders to beat RSL in the season-finale and for Sporting KC to fail to win their final two — on the road against RSL and at home against the San Jose Earthquakes.

It should be said, the Sounders have improved their position enough that they can still fully back their way into the postseason by losing their final two, as long as Sporting KC picks up two or fewer points or the Timbers fail to win their final two. That’s obviously not exactly a preferred path, but it’s of some comfort to know it’s still a possibility.