Last week the Red Bulls, despite what they might think, did do a bit of backing into the playoffs, even after playing a great game against Sporting Kansas City. This week, against the Philadelphia Union, it's all about playoff seeding, which is where things start to get hazy.
As it stands now, with Sporting's 2-1 victory over the Union last night, they secure the top spot in the East. D.C. United, on 57 points and 52 goals for, sit in second. The Chicago Fire, with 56 points and 45 goals for are in third. The Red Bulls sit in fourth with 54 points and 54 goals for. The Houston Dynamo have 53 points and 48 goals scored.
With a win in Saturday's 1:30 p.m. game, the Red Bulls will vault into third place in the East, with 57 points, if only temporarily.
The 4 p.m. game is the other half of the equation. First, the most cut-and-dry situation: Assuming the Red Bulls win and D.C. wins, the 2 vs. 3 conference semi-final will be an Atlantic Cup affair. A draw would see both the Red Bulls and the Fire finish on 57 points, but the Chicago would be relegated to fourth, unless they score 10 or more goals. Unlikely.
A Fire win coupled with a Red Bulls win makes things dicey. If the Red Bulls win and Chicago wins, the Fire will have 59 points and finish second while the Red Bulls and D.C. will finish tied on points. Who finishes in third becomes an issue of how many goals are scored. D.C. will have to score at least 3 goals to overtake the Red Bulls in the standings. If they end up tied on goals for, the tiebreaker is goal differential. Heading into the weekend, the Red Bulls have a +8 differential, while D.C. is +10.
If the Red Bulls draw or lose, the scoreboard watching will extend into the night, with the Houston's result against the Colorado Rapids would determine seeding in the east.
For all intents and purposes, a Houston draw or loss would put the Dynamo on a flight to Harrison for the play-in game. The only way they could host is if Houston draws and scores 6 goals in the process.
If Houston wins and the Red Bulls draw or lose, Houston would jump into fourth place, knocking the Red Bulls down to fifth. Who the Red Bulls would travel to for the Halloween play-in game would depend on the result from the 4 p.m. game. If Chicago loses they would finish tied with Houston and chances are the Red Bulls would then travel to Illinois for the play-in game. Though it is possible they could end up in Houston: The Dynamo and Fire are only separated by 3 goals for, with the advantage to Houston. So it's entirely possible, albeit unlikely, that Chicago could overtake Houston.
If the Red Bulls lose and Houston draws Colorado, the two would finish tied on points, but the Red Bulls' six goals for advantage would likely be enough to hold Houston off from fourth place.
So there you have it. I hope.
And yes, this will be on the final.