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Playoff Math: Where Do Things Stand for Sporting KC?

With three games to go and everything to play for, what needs to happen for Sporting Kansas City to make the playoffs?



Credit: Thad Bell

Win. Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Win.

That’s Sporting Kansas City’s form (most recent to oldest) in the last six MLS league games since the team returned from Leagues Cup play. That is one of the best records in the league in that time. However, before the Leagues Cup, Sporting KC were 1-3-3 in the seven games leading up to the stop in play (in the eight before that they were 5-1-2 and let’s not talk about those first 10 games).

All that up and down play leaves Sporting KC sitting in 10th in the Western Conference. One point out of the play-in game. With three games to go they can finish with anywhere from 38 points (where they are now) all the way up to 47 points. According to Jeff Rueter of The Athletic and Ben Wright of Speedway Soccer, it’ll probably take 44 points to get to 9th place based on current projections. Two wins in the next three.

That 44-point target leaves everyone in the West alive except the lowly Colorado Rapids who have just 22-points through 29 games (see, it could be worse Sporting KC fans). The fact that nine teams get into the playoffs (or are we saying eight after the play-in game?) is both stupid, because a team like SKC can get no wins for 10-games and still be in it, and fun because a team like Sporting KC can get no wins in 10 and still be in it.

So, let’s take a look at Sporting Kansas City’s schedule, as well as the schedule of the teams around them in the standings, to see how likely all of this playoff math is to play out.

The Easiest Solution

If Sporting KC win all three of their remaining games, they’ll almost certainly get into the playoffs. It’s simple and in that way, they control their own destiny. They also do so on full rest for all three games (a real issue they’ve had to overcome). Two of the three are on the road and all but one is against current playoff teams.

  • Sat. Sept. 30th @ St. Louis City SC
  • Sat. Oct. 7th @ Real Salt Lake
  • Sat. Oct. 21st vs. Minnesota United

Sporting are 0-1 against St. Louis on the road. They are historically quite bad against RSL in Utah. And they are decent at home this year and traditionally do well against Minnesota (including two prior wins in 2023).

The math says they only need two of these, but that’s if it plays out perfect. A loss or a draw leaves no margin of error going forward. Winning all three feels like a big climb, but the team knows the math. After the loss to Nashville SC, Tim Melia told us they needed three of four. They got the first one when they beat the fourth place Houston Dynamo.

The Targets

Not to say a team can’t come from behind Kansas City (Portland have won five of six to go all the way up to 6th place), but the main focus are the teams that SKC need to leap over. We can’t ignore almost anyone though because of games in hand. Sporting KC have played 31 games but are one of only four teams in the 14 team Western Conference to do so. It’s absolutely wide open from 2nd to 13th with only St. Louis mostly feeling secure at the top (though Seattle and LAFC have paths to catch them).

Let’s go team-by-team, look at their points, schedule and possible point totals. We’ll leave out St. Louis, who can’t be caught, and Colorado, who are eliminated.

Sporting KC are Chasing…


Current Points: 45 (2nd)

Possible Points: 57

Schedule: Real Salt Lake, Minnesota United, @ Austin FC, @ Vancouver Whitecaps

Sporting KC can technically catch LAFC, but they mostly want these other teams closer to them to lose. Root for LAFC against all those teams (and hell, maybe they’ll catch and pass St. Louis).

Seattle Sounders

Current Points: 45 (3rd)

Possible Points: 57

Schedule: @ Nashville SC, LA Galaxy, Vancouver Whitecaps, @ St. Louis

Same as LAFC. They can catch them, but really, they’d like their help. Root for Nashville, but otherwise Seattle would be helping KC to put those teams down.

Houston Dynamo

Current Points: 43 (4th)

Possible Points: 55

Schedule: FC Dallas, @ CF Montreal, Colorado Rapids, @ Portland Timbers

Houston also play a US Open Cup final today against Miami. That puts them on short-rest against Dallas, which are a much more likely target for SKC to catch. Houston beating Portland on Decision Day would be a big help too (as of today).

Real Salt Lake

Current Points: 43 (5th)

Possible Points: 55

Schedule: @ LAFC, Sporting KC, @ LA Galaxy, @ Colorado Rapids

If Colorado wasn’t terrible, three games on the road could mess RSL up. That said, the Galaxy are chasing RSL, and they are way out ahead of Sporting. As gross as it is, we probably need to root for them against the Galaxy. But if they tank, who knows. Too much weight on Colorado coming through on Decision Day.

Portland Timbers

Current Points: 42 (6th)

Possible Points: 51

Schedule: @ LA Galaxy, @ CF Montreal, Houston Dynamo

Finally, a team level on games played. They are the hottest team in the league, but this is the first team with a realistic point total SKC could run down. A draw against LA (maybe even a loss) and then losses the rest of the way would be good for SKC.

Vancouver Whitecaps

Current Points: 41 (7th)

Possible Points: 56

Schedule: @ Colorado, D.C. United, St Louis City, @ Seattle Sounders, LAFC

Vancouver has two games in hand on SKC and another on most of the rest of the West. With soft games against Colorado and DC, they are likely to be uncatchable. Them winning doesn’t help really either, so root against them, but they are in good shape.

San Jose Earthquakes

Current Points: 41 (8th)

Possible Points: 50

Schedule: @ Minnesota, @ FC Dallas, Austin FC

San Jose are on a very different 41 points than Vancouver. But they play a lot of teams right around SKC in the standings. I’ll let Mike do the playoff math when he predicts what SKC need to happen each match day, but it’s very messy with all these head-t0-head games.

FC Dallas

Current Points: 39 (9th)

Possible Points: 54

Schedule: @ Philadelphia Union, @ Houston, Colorado, San Jose, @ LA Galaxy

Dallas is in the last playoff spot but have two games in hand. Obviously, root for Philly tonight and for lowly Colorado (and probably Houston), but you can start to see why it’s going to be so hard for Sporting KC to climb into the playoffs. Dallas are in poor form lately (1-1-3 in their last five), but if they even win two games, that makes Sporting need to not lose any and get at least two wins and make up goal differential.

Sporting KC are being chased…

Minnesota United

Current Points: 37 (11th)

Possible Points: 49

Schedule: San Jose, @ LAFC, LA Galaxy, @ Sporting KC

Minnesota are in the tank lately but right on SKC’s heels with a game in hand. It’s a jumbled mess.

Austin FC

Current Points: 35 (12th)

Possible Points: 47

Schedule: @ Colorado, D.C. United, LAFC, @ San Jose Earthquakes

Colorado just isn’t going to get right and suddenly start winning games. If they do, it’d be huge (they literally only have games against teams Sporting KC are chasing). Let’s hope they run the table, but more likely hope for some draws. Austin could beat the Rapids and D.C. and still be in trouble because they basically need to win three of four to have a chance and they’ve only won nine times all year and they haven’t won in their last seven.

LA Galaxy

Current Points: 34 (13th)

Possible Points: 49

Schedule: Portland Timbers, @ Seattle, @ Minnesota, RSL, FC Dallas

Sporting KC needs the Galaxy to put down the teams they are likely to be chasing (Portland, Dallas and Minnesota) and then lose to RSL and Seattle.


How the West was won will have an all new meaning after this wild last month of the season. Sporting KC really just need to take care of business and win all their games. Relying on other teams to help them is a recipe for disaster.

Plus, if they win them all, they’ll have won four straight and be red hot coming into the playoffs. Also, winning them all could land them higher in the seeding and skip the play in game entirely if the math holds true. That would mean a guaranteed home playoff game if they land in 7th or better.

But in reality, as we’ve said since the brutal 10-game start, the odds don’t favor Kansas City. And they only have themselves to blame.

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