The Road to the Playoffs

D.C. United now finds itself in 6th place in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference and currently out of the playoffs. Lots has been written and said about the downward trajectory from first place to where we find ourselves now, but what does the road ahead look like for United and its Eastern Conference foes?

Team Points Home Games Remaining Away Games Remaining Games vs Playoff Teams Remaining Games
Sporting KC 50 3 4 4 Hou,@NY,@Mon,Chi,@CLB,@NY,Phi
New York RB 46 5 2 4 CLB,KC,@NE,Tor,Chi,KC,@Phi
Chicago Fire 44 4 4 3 @Tor,Mon,CLB,@KC,Phi,@NY,@NE,DC
Houston 42 4 3 2 RSL,@KC,@Phi,NE,Mon,Phi,@Col
Columbus 42 4 4 3 @NE,@NY,Chv,@Chi,Phi,KC,@DC,Tor
D.C. United 41 3 4 2 NE,@Phi,Chv,@Por,@Tor,CLB,@Chi
Montreal 39 2 3 3 @Chi,KC,@Hou,@Tor,NE
Philadelphia 26 4 5 6 @Tor,DC,Hou,@CLB,@Chi,NE,@Hou,@KC,NY
New England 25 3 4 4 CLB,@DC,NY,@Hou,@Phi,Chi,@Mon
Toronto FC 21 4 3 4 Chi,Phi,@LA,@NY,DC,Mon,@CLB

What does this mean for D.C. United?

1. D.C. United must find a way to get results on the road. This is an obvious statement of course. Of our remaining seven matches, three are at RFK, and four are on the road. And, interestingly, as proud as we are that D.C. United has returned RFK to fortress-like status this year, our home record is really no different than the other Eastern playoff contenders. Our road record is also similar, but worse, than all the other playoff contenders, with the notable exception of Sporting Kansas City (who have done very well on the road). So, one or two key road wins could make the difference, and our next three road games all are against beatable teams (Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, and Toronto FC).

Team Home Wins Home Losses Home Ties Home Points Away Wins Away Losses Away Ties Away Points Total Points
Sporting KC 8 3 3 27 7 4 2 23 50
New York RB 9 0 3 30 4 7 4 16 46
Chicago Fire 9 2 2 29 4 6 3 15 44
Houston 8 0 5 29 3 7 4 13 42
Columbus 8 3 2 26 4 5 4 16 42
D.C. United 9 1 4 31 3 9 1 10 41
Montreal 10 3 2 32 2 11 1 7 39
Philadelphia 5 6 2 17 2 7 3 9 26
New England 5 4 5 20 1 10 2 5 25
Toronto FC 3 7 3 12 2 9 3 9 21

2. D.C. United's next five matches are against non-playoff teams. In many ways, the playoff race for the Eastern Conference will be determined by the teams that appear to be out of it (Montreal Impact, Philadelphia Union, New England Revolution, and Toronto FC, plus a few non-playoff Western Conference teams). How will these teams perform knowing they are out of it? Perhaps Montreal could claw their way in, but with only five games remaining (the rest of the contenders have seven or eight,) it looks like a tall task. Interestingly, Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo, Columbus Crew, and D.C. United play less than half their remaining games against teams currently in a playoff position, while Houston (Real Salt Lake at home and away at Sporting Kansas City) and D.C. (Columbus Crew at home and away at Chicago Fire) only play two playoff teams down the homestretch. The next five games are all winnable against confirmed bottom feeders, and D.C. United must step up and get a lot of wins. If we do, we should be in good shape entering our last two games. If we don't, frankly we're not worthy of being a playoff team no matter what the other contenders do.

3. The final two games of the season loom large. D.C. United will host the Columbus Crew at RFK on Saturday, October 20th, and then play away at the Chicago Fire on Saturday, October 27th. Both Chicago and Columbus have games in hand right now against D.C., so their actual leads may end up being greater over United than the table above shows right now. With that said, if D.C. United can find its form against the weaker competition it will be playing from now until these final two matches, it's hard to see how playoff spots aren't on the line against the Crew and the Fire.

4. Unexpectedly, the race for the final playoff spot may come down to D.C. United vs. Houston Dynamo. If you look at the recent form of all the Eastern Conference playoff contenders, Houston and D.C. have been the worst. The two teams don't play each other again, are only separated by one point having played the same number of games, and both only have two remaining games against teams currently in a playoff position. But, in some ways, Houston has a tougher road with their next game against Real Salt Lake, and away games at Sporting Kansas City and at the Colorado Rapids (a poor team, but a tough place to win).

What about you? How do you see the rest of the season playing out? Will D.C. United make the playoffs?

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