D.C. United’s playoff picture

Everything you need to know about the Eastern Conference playoff race

With just three games remaining in the regular season for the Black-and-Red, here is everything you need to know about the Eastern Conference playoff race. One of the tightest playoff races in League history, teams are battling not only to make the post-season, but also for the best possible position. The difference between a three seed or four seed could come down to a single standings point – or even tiebreakers if two teams finish the season equal on points. Be sure you know what to watch for heading into this week's games.

EASTERN CONFERENCE STANDINGS

KC; 58 points; 31GP
NY; 53 points; 31GP
CHI; 53 points; 30GP
DC; 51 points; 31GP
HOU; 49 points; 31GP
CLB; 48 points; 31GP

IMPORTANT MATCHES THIS WEEK

10/3 at 8:30pm – Philadelphia at Chicago (MLS Live)
10/6 at 1:00pm – DC at Toronto (Comcast SportsNet)
10/6 at 3:30pm – Chicago at New York (NBC)
10/6 at 8:30pm – Montreal at Houston (MLS Live)
10/7 at 4:00pm – Kansas City at Columbus (MLS Live)

FIRST TIE BREAKER - GOALS FOR

New York Red Bulls: 54
D.C. United: 48
Chicago Fire: 42
Houston Dynamo: 44
Sporting Kansas City: 39
Columbus Crew: 39

SECOND TIE BREAKER - GOAL DIFFERENTIAL

Sporting Kansas City: +14
New York Red Bulls: +10
D.C. United: +8
Houston Dynamo: +7
Chicago Fire: +6
Columbus Crew: 0

THIRD TIE BREAKER - FEWEST DISCIPLINARY POINTS

Houston Dynamo: 391
Chicago Fire: 401
D.C. United: 443
New York Red Bulls: 449
Columbus Crew: 457
Sporting Kansas City: 478

MAGIC NUMBER:

There's a lot of talk about a magic number when it comes to sports and the playoff race. D.C. United's magic number is 7. That's either seven points gained by D.C. United or dropped by the sixth place Columbus Crew.

Because United owns every tiebreaker – by a significant margin – over the Crew, D.C.'s magic number is more likely just six standings points. The Black-and-Red has a seven goal advantage in the first tie-breaker, which means barring a record-setting goal-scoring pace by Columbus, even if the two teams finished the season equal on points, D.C. would advance because of its goals for advantage. In sum, some combination of six points gained by United or lost by the Crew would almost assuredly see the team in playoffs for the first time since 2007.

IF THE SEASON ENDED TODAY

If the season were to end today, here is how the first two rounds of the post-season would shape up:

Wild Card Match: #5 HOU at #4 DC

Conference Semifinal, Leg #1 (at lower seed):
#1 KC at #4 DC or #5 HOU
#2 NY at #3 CHI

Conference Semifinal, Leg #2 (at higher seed, OT and PKs if necessary):
#4 DC or #5 HOU at #1 KC
#3 CHI at #2 NY

The conference semifinal is a total-goals aggregate series – the team with the most goals across both legs would advance to the Eastern Conference Final.