As the Seattle Sounders head into the final two matchdays of the MLS regular season, their place in the Western Conference standings is about as secure as it has been in several years. Still, it’s not quite settled and they can finish as high as first in the Western Conference or as low as third. Here’s everything you need to know:
What’s left on Sounders’ schedule?
The Sounders have two games remaining — at home against the LA Galaxy on Monday and on the road against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Decision Day, Nov. 7. Both opponents are in playoff position but are hardly secured in their spots.
The Galaxy are currently sixth, are coming off a 2-0 loss to Sporting KC and are 2-1-2 in their last five. The Sounders have won their two previous meetings with the Galaxy, a 3-0 win at Lumen Field on May 2 and a 2-1 road win on June 19.
The Whitecaps have shot all the way up to fifth, their highest position in the table since going 1-0-1 to start the season. They’re coming off a 2-1 win against Minnesota United and are 9-2-3 over their last 14. The Sounders are 1-0-1 in two home against the Whitecaps, tying them 2-2 on June 26 and beating them 4-1 on Oct. 9.
What’s already secured?
The Sounders can finish no lower than third in the Western Conference and are already assured of having a better record than any team in the Eastern Conference other than the New England Revolution. That’s all significant because it means the Sounders will host at least one playoff game for the 13th straight season — an MLS record — and still have a reasonably good chance of hosting MLS Cup, although that would require a pretty big upset on the other side of the bracket.
What can be clinched this weekend?
The Sounders can lock up second place this weekend. Not only would that secure home-field advantage through at least the Western Conference finals, but it would also guarantee a spot in 2022 Concacaf Champions League after it was determined that the top three regular-season teams would get spots.
The most straightforward path to the No. 2 spot is winning one of these two games. That would put the Sounders on 61 points and 18 wins, the first tiebreaker. The Rapids can still get to 61 points, too, but they can only max out at 17 wins.
The Sounders can also clinch by matching the Rapids’ result. In other words, the Sounders can clinch the No. 2 spot with a tie or even a loss as long as the Rapids do no better. The Rapids play at home against the out-of-playoffs Houston Dynamo on Sunday (Update: the Rapids won) and close out the season with a home game against LAFC, who are currently outside the playoffs but still alive.
How the Sounders can win the West
After securing just one point in their past four games, the Sounders no longer control their own destiny in the West. But there’s still some hope.
It’s theoretically possible the Sounders could pull this off without even securing another point, but that is extremely unlikely, as it would require Sporting KC to lose all THREE of their remaining matches while losing by at least two more goals than the Sounders and scoring five fewer goals than the Sounders. The Colorado Rapids would also need to claim no more than three points. Let’s not waste too much time on that, though.
More plausibly, the Sounders need to win at least one of their two remaining games, probably need at least four points and can still fall short even if they win out, thanks to Sporting KC’s game in hand. Due to the current state of the tiebreakers, the Sounders will likely need one more point than Sporting KC over the final two games to win the West.
In other words, the Sounders need Sporting KC to drop some points. The good news is that their next two games are on the road and they’ve got two remaining games against teams with more than just pride to play for.
Sporting KC’s next game is today at 10 AM PT at Minnesota United, a team currently outside playoff position but only due to tiebreakers. This could be Minnesota’s make-or-break game, so they should be plenty motivated. Sporting KC won their previous meeting, 4-0, at Children’s Mercy Park on Sept. 15. (Update: SKC lost this game.)
Sporting KC then goes to last-place Austin FC on Wednesday. As bad as Austin has been this year, they’ve actually played Sporting KC pretty tough despite the two previous games being at Children’s Mercy Park. In the first meeting on May 9, Sporting KC needed a pair of late goals to win, 2-1, after playing up a man for the final 27 minutes. About a month later, Sporting KC needed a 70th minute goal to salvage a 1-1 tie. It should also be noted that Austin has been a respectable 6-8-2 at home this year.
Sporting KC will then close out the season — on short rest, by the way — at home against Real Salt Lake, who are currently clinging to the No. 7 playoff spot and are guaranteed to still be fighting for that spot in the season finale. RSL won the previous meeting with Sporting KC, 3-1, on May 1 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Games to watch
Sporting KC: at Minnesota United, today at 10 AM PT; at Austin FC, Wednesday at 6 PM PT; vs. Real Salt Lake, Nov. 7 at 3 PM PT.
Colorado Rapids: at Houston Dynamo, today at noon PT; at LAFC, Nov. 7 at 3 PM PT
Western Conference tiebreakers