Mathematically, the Colorado Rapids need to wait until next week to officially clinch (and celebrate) a berth in the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs. But realistically, the team clinched a spot Sunday night after the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes played to a scoreless draw.
The tie between the two California teams officially put LA and the Seattle Sounders into the postseason since, with one game left, San Jose can't catch the Galaxy on points and would lose the first tie-breaker with the Sounders. Portland and Real Salt Lake had claimed the first two West playoff spots on Saturday night, while Dallas, Vancouver, and Chivas USA are no longer in contention.
Here's the situation: San Jose (13-11-9, 48), could technically still catch Colorado (14-10-9, 51 points) on points - if the Earthquakes defeat Dallas and Colorado loses to Vancouver next weekend. However, it's the tie-breakers that are on Colorado's side in the event of being level on points.
The first tie-breaker is wins. In the case above, both the Rapids and Earthquakes would be tied at 51 points and 14 wins.
The second tie-breaker is goals for. San Jose has scored 33 goals this year; Colorado has scored 45.
The third tie-breaker is Goal Differential (GD). San Jose has a -8 GD; the Rapids are at +10.
Put it all together and the only way the Rapids miss out on the fifth and final Western Conference Playoff berth is:
If San Jose defeats Dallas by 12 goals...AND...if Colorado loses to Vancouver by at least six goals in order to win the fourth tie-breaker. (If that's not ridiculous enough, SJ also gets in if they win 13-0 and the Rapids lose by any result, or any combination of the 12-6 difference mentioned above).
While that scenario is unlikely, there are multiple scenarios that could see any of the five teams finish anywhere from 1st to 5th in the West.
One scenario that will be fun to watch:
The Rapids would finish first in the West IF:
- Real Salt Lake and Portland each lose to Chivas USA
- LA Galaxy - Seattle Sounders tie
- Colorado defeats Vancouver.
One thing is for sure: if the Rapids beat the Whitecaps next Sunday (6 p.m. MT, Altitude TV), Colorado will be assured a home playoff game, be it as host of the Knockout game as the fourth place team or directly into the home-and-away Conference Semifinals. The reason is because a win would lift Colorado to 54 points. The Galaxy (52 pts) and Sounders (51) square off shortly after the COL-VAN match begins. Playoff tickets are already on sale.