Race to the MLS Playoffs: Which teams will survive the intense, crowded playoff race?

Closer look at the road ahead

With five rounds of action remaining, 16 of the league’s 19 teams are still alive for the postseason. The 4 through 8 place teams in each conference are especially tight, with just five points separating them in the East and six in the West.

That’s five clubs competing for the final two berths in each half of the league. So which of those bubble teams have the roughest roads to the playoffs?

Let’s break out the schedules:

Western Conference

Highlights: San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 Whitecaps FC

San Jose Earthquakes – 38 points
5 MLS games (2 h, 3 a) and 2 CCL matches left:
CCL: 9/17 vs. Montreal; 9/21 @ RSL; 9/29 @ Chivas USA; 10/9 vs. Colorado; 10/20 @ LA Galaxy; CCL: 10/23 vs. Heredia; 10/26 vs. FC Dallas

With an 0-2-0 record in the CCL, San Jose may not have much to play for there. At five points off the pace in the West with five games to go – all but one of them against contenders – things aren’t too much better on the domestic front.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC 38 points
6 games left (3 h, 3 a): 9/21 @ Montreal; 9/28 vs. Real Salt Lake; 10/6 vs. Portland; 10/9 @ Seattle; 10/19 @ Colorado; 10/27 vs. Colorado

That is 40 miles of rough road. The Sunday–Wednesday Cascadia rivals turnaround follows a pivotal matchup against Supporters’ Shield contenders Real Salt Lake. Buckle up, Whitecaps FC fans.

FC Dallas – 40 points
6 games left (3 h, 3 a):
9/22 @ New York; 9/29 vs. Columbus; 10/5 @ RSL; 10/12 vs. Chicago; 10/19 vs. Seattle; 10/26 @ San Jose

Schellas Hyndman’s men have six games to make up three points in the West, but they also have difficult road dates ahead at New York and Real Salt Lake, and if they move up, which team would they bounce out of the top 5?

Portland Timbers – 43 points
6 games left (4 h, 2 a):
9/20 vs. Colorado; 9/29 vs. LA Galaxy; 10/6 @ Vancouver; 10/13 vs. Seattle; 10/19 vs. RSL; 10/26 @ Chivas USA

The Timbers will have to be sharp to avoid being the answer to the above question, with Cascadia rivalry games, visits from ascendant Colorado, two-time defending champions LA, and Real Salt Lake, who’ve tied and beaten them this year. They really could have used the two points they dropped against Chivas this week.

LA Galaxy – 44 points
6 MLS games (4 h, 2 a) and three CCL matches (1 h, 2 a):
CCL: 9/18 vs. Isidro Metapán; 9/21 vs. Seattle; CCL: 9/25 @ Cartaginés; 9/29 @ Portland; 10/6 vs. Chivas USA; 10/16 vs. Montreal; 10/20 vs. San Jose; CCL: 10/24 @ Isidro Metapán; 10/27 @ Seattle.

Whew. Nine games and two trips to Central America await the Galaxy, who want to advance in the CCL as much as they want to win a third straight MLS title. They have their work cut out for them.
 

Eastern Conference

Columbus Crew – 35 points
5 games left (3 home, 2 away)
: 9/21 vs. Chicago; 9/29 @ FC Dallas; 10/5 vs. Sporting Kansas City; 10/19 @ New England; 10/27 vs. New England

At four games below .500, the Crew have almost no margin for error. They also have five tough games remaining. But three are at home, and well, stranger things have happened in MLS.

New England Revolution – 37 points
6 games left (3 h, 3 a)
: 9/21 vs. D.C. United; 9/28 vs. Houston; 10/5 @ New York; 10/12 @ Montreal; 10/19 vs. Columbus; 10/27 @ Columbus

Road games against New York and Montreal, where they’ll be eager to avenge a lopsided loss in April and a controversial one in Week 28. But first they’ll need to take care of business at home against lowly D.C. and fellow strivers Houston.

Philadelphia Union – 39 points
5 games left (2 h, 3 a)
: 9/27 @ Sporting Kansas City; 10/5 vs. Toronto FC; 10/12 @ D.C. United; 10/19 @ Montreal; 10/26 vs. Sporting Kansas City

The good news? Games against both conference stragglers, Toronto and D.C. The bad? Two games against last year's top conference finisher SKC, and a visit to Montreal, where the Impact are 9-2-3 and where Philly lost 5-3 in May.

Chicago Fire – 39 points
6 games left (2 h, 4 a):
9/21 @ Columbus; 9/28 vs. Montreal; 10/4 @ D.C. United; 10/12 @ FC Dallas; 10/19 vs. Toronto; 10/27 @ New York

The Fire have gone 9-4-5 in their last 18, with just two losses in their last 10. They’ll need to keep the momentum going, starting with three points at Columbus.

Houston Dynamo – 40 points
6 MLS games (4 h, 2 a), and two CCL matches (1 h, 1 a) left
: 9/21 vs. Chivas USA; CCL: 9/25 vs. W Connection; 9/28 @ New England; 10/4 vs. Montreal; 10/9 vs. Sporting Kansas City; 10/20 vs. New York; CCL: 10/24 @ Árabe Unido, Panama; 10/27 @ D.C. United

The slumping Dynamo traded Adam Moffat, a stalwart of their past two Eastern Conference championship teams, then edged Philadelphia 1-0 for their first win in six games. Houston are going to need goals to stay in the top 5, though, and those have been hard for them to come by lately. That Oct. 24 CCL fixture will be tricky, too.