The most straightforward way for the Seattle Sounders to qualify for a 14th consecutive MLS postseason is to take care of their own business. There’s virtually no chance that they’ll miss the playoffs if they were to win their final five matches and finish with 51 points.
Short of that, however, they will likely need some help. Let’s take a closer look at their competition:
Current situation: 46 points, third in the Western Conference
Remaining matches (4): vs LAFC; at San Jose Earthquakes; at Colorado Rapids; vs. Sporting KC
Notable injuries: none
Recent form: A 4-0 loss at Nashville SC aside, they’ve looked really good, going 4-2-2 in their last eight.
Outlook: With just four matches remaining, their strength of schedule falls roughly in the middle of this group. But they also have the most wiggle room, if they can just win one of their two remaining home games they’ll be fine.
Current situation: 45 points, fourth in the West
Remaining matches (4): vs. LA Galaxy; at Austin FC; vs. Houston Dynamo; at LAFC
Notable injuries: Teal Bunbury has been dealing with a thigh injury.
Recent form: Just went it looked like their playoff hopes were in serious jeopardy, Nashville have turned it around and are now riding a 4-game winning streak largely on the back of MVP frontrunner Hany Mukhtar, who has 7 goals and 2 assists in that time.
Outlook: Three of their four remaining games are against playoff-contenders, including road games against Austin FC and LAFC. But that home game against last-place Houston leaves them a pretty big out even if they stumble at home against the Galaxy this week.
Current situation: 44 points, fifth in the West
Remaining matches (5): at Portland Timbers; vs. LAFC; at Sporting KC; at Earthquakes; vs. Vancouver Whitecaps.
Notable injuries: They’re missing several notable players. The most recent loss was centerback Bakaye Dibassy, who recently ruptured a quadricep muscle and will miss the rest of the season.
Recent form: It was only a few weeks ago when they looked like absolute locks for a top 3 spot in the west. But since Dibassy’s injury, they’ve been a different team. They managed to hold on and beat the Dynamo in the game Dibassy went down but they’ve now been outscored 6-0 in the two complete games he’s missed. They’ve also given up 17 goals in their past seven matches.
Outlook: Although their schedule looks pretty manageable, there’s some reason for concern. The only game in which they’ll be a heavy favorite from here on out is the Decision Day match at home against the Whitecaps. If they lose to the Timbers this week, they’re definitely a team Sounders should have an eye on.
Real Salt Lake
Current situation: 42 points, sixth in the West
Remaining matches (5); vs. D.C. United; at Austin; vs. FC Cincinnati; at LA Galaxy; vs. Timbers
Notable injuries: Danny Musovski has yet to play since being acquired in a trade with LAFC.
Recent form: After winning a road game against the Sounders on Aug. 14, RSL were sitting pretty. But they’ve gone just 1-1-2 since then.
Outlook: They’ve got a virtual gimme this week when they host D.C. United, but it gets a bit trickier after that while likely needing at least three more points. The Decision Day match at home against the Timbers potentially looms very large and could end up being a literal elimination match.
Current situation: 42 points, seventh in the West
Remaining matches (4): vs. Minnesota; at Columbus Crew; vs. LAFC; at RSL
Notable injuries: Felipe Mora is out for the rest of the year.
Recent form: After back-to-back losses to Toronto FC and Sporting KC a few weeks ago, the Timbers looked to be in serious trouble. But they’ve now won three straight heading into a massive match with Minnesota.
Outlook: A win at home over Minnesota would be absolutely huge for them, but if they slip it gets pretty challenging. They probably need at least six points from their final four games and will be underdogs in their final three. They have the toughest remaining schedule of all the contenders.
Current situation: 39 points, eighth in the West
Remaining matches (6): at Nashville; at Whitecaps; vs. Rapids; at Earthquakes; vs. RSL; at Dynamo
Notable injuries: Nothing new.
Recent form: Although the Galaxy are riding a four-game unbeaten streak, that’s a little deceiving. Not only are three of those results ties, but they got equalizers in the 88th minute or later in all three.
Outlook: Depending on your perspective, they’re either doing a remarkable job of getting results or struggling just to hang on. The last time they beat a team in playoff position was on July 4 when they smacked CF Montreal, 4-0. That they have six games remaining obviously works in their favor, but four of those are on the road and they’ll likely need to win at least one.
Current situation: 36 points, ninth in the West
Remaining matches (5): vs. Austin FC; at Whitecaps; vs. FC Cincinnati; at Sporting KC; vs. Earthquakes
Notable injuries: Cristian Roldan will be out at least until the Sporting KC match.
Recent form: A win over the Dynamo on Sunday snapped a five-game winless skid in which Seattle claimed just a single point and removed virtually all room for error.
Outlook: The Sounders probably don’t need to literally win out, but they probably can’t afford to drop more than four points over their final five games. That’s a tall order to be sure, but the schedule looks reasonably manageable. Aside from the Austin match, the trickiest one will probably be Sporting KC, who are probably going to miss the playoffs but have been playing much better of late. If the Sounders can get to Decision Day with a realistic shot at making the playoffs, you almost have to consider that an achievement in itself and I’d like their chances at that point.