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MLS Playoff Scenarios: D.C. United Clinches Fourth Place With A Win

Its been well-reported that a tie against the Crew would clinch a playoff spot for D.C. United. But there's more to it than that. Plenty is riding on tonight's game.

Patrick McDermott

We'll all be rooting for D.C. United at RFK Stadium later tonight. Because we all know what it means. A draw for United against the Columbus Crew would clinch a return to the playoffs for the first time in five years for D.C.

But at this point of the season, we can't just be satisfied with a playoff appearance anymore, right?

That's why a win is what we should really be rooting for today. A win would clinch fourth place in the MLS Eastern Conference, meaning that United would earn at least one home playoff game in the postseason. United hasn't lost at RFK Stadium since March, so finishing in fourth place or better is vital for United's chances of advancing past just the play-in round.

Other teams around the league will be watching the DCU-CLB match intently as well. The Houston Dynamo will be watching, because a Columbus loss combined with a Dynamo win would vault Houston into a guaranteed playoff spot. The New York Red Bulls will be watching intently as well - a Columbus loss would clinch a playoff spot for the former Metrostars no matter what else happens.

With a five-game undefeated streak since last month's injury to Dwayne De Rosario, D.C. United has earned the right to control its own destiny. Even though tonight's match isn't necessarily a must-win game (the team could actually still qualify with two losses, but we won't get into that), a win would allow United to remain in control. A win would mean that the rest of the Eastern Conference will have to travel through RFK Stadium if they want to reach MLS Cup 2012.