MLS playoff picture comes into focus
With only nine days left in the regular season, the Major League Soccer playoff picture should come into sharp focus this weekend.
Already, five teams have made certain of their places: Columbus, New England and Chicago from the Eastern Conference and Houston and Chivas USA from the Western Conference.
That leaves three places up for grabs. Going into the league's penultimate weekend, nine teams, including the Galaxy, are chasing those three spots.
The Galaxy will be eliminated from contention on Saturday if it loses or is tied by Houston in Texas.
Even if the Galaxy wins, it will be eliminated if Real Salt Lake defeats Dallas, New York defeats Columbus and Kansas City defeats San Jose.
Going into Saturday's games, Real Salt Lake has hold of third place and an automatic playoff berth in the West. But a win over Real in Utah would propel Dallas into third place and leave Real fighting for a wild-card spot.
The two wild-card places currently are held by D.C. United and Kansas City, both from the East.
Chivas USA, which plays Colorado in Carson on Sunday afternoon, is guaranteed finishing no lower than second in the West, but likely will not know its playoff opponent until after the final game of the regular season.
If the Galaxy defeats or ties Houston on Saturday and Chivas defeats Colorado on Sunday, the Western Conference regular-season title will be decided when Chivas USA plays host to Houston in Carson on Oct. 25.
-- Grahame L. Jones
Photo: Chivas USA has secured a playoff spot. Here, Chivas USA's Francisco Mendoza, left, battled for possession against San Jose Earthquakes' Arturo Alvarez in a match last weekend. Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press