Sporting Kansas City’s 4-1 win over Toronto FC moved them into the lead for the Supporters’ Shield, which is awarded to the MLS team with the most points in the regular season. Outside of bragging rights, the shield awards one of the USA’s four allotted spots in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament.
The updated standings have Sporting on top in points and the goal differential tiebreaker (which is the second tiebreaker, more on that down below). Unfortunately, DC United and Seattle Sounders each have two games in hand. This means that not only are the two upcoming matches against DCU imperative to keeping hold of the shield lead, but that Sporting will have to rely on Seattle dropping timely points.
Here is the updated Supporters’ Shield standings, courtesy MLSSoccer.com
24 games played, 10 remain. The schedule is extremely favorable towards Sporting. Here is the remaing regular season schedule, courtesy SportingKC.com
Only 2 games, both against DC United (11-4-7), draw a team with a winning record. Combined, Sporting’s next 10 games feature opponents with a combined record of 48-49-64 (W-T-L). Sporting will split the remaining games at and away from Sporting Park.
The concern isn’t the MLS schedule going forward. It’s the extracurriculars that’s worrisome.
Sporting will play in four CONCACAF Champions League group stage matches between Tuesday and Oct. 23 in addition to its MLS fixtures. This will force them to undergo a brutal September, including five matches in 18 days (Aug. 19 through Sept. 6) and three in eight (Sept. 18 through Sept. 29). They’ll also close the regular season by playing three matches in eight days (Oct. 18 through Oct. 26). Depth and stamina will be tested going into the playoffs.
Seattle is in the driver’s seat despite not “technically” being in first. Its final nine opponents in these 12 games are a combined 71-63-72. They’ll face tough challenges in Real Salt Lake (twice) and traveling to Dallas, while closing out its regular season with a home-and-home against the LA Galaxy.
*Stephen A. Smith voice* HOWEVA, they’ll face the Wests’ bottom three teams on five occasions (Chivas twice, Colorado twice and San Jose once). Lucky them.
Perhaps most importantly, Seattle didn’t qualify for this year’s CCL. When a bad thing turns into a good thing…
Oh, and they happen to own the first tiebreaker for the shield, overall wins, despite having played two less games than SKC and RSL.
Real Salt Lake
Like KC, they lack the two games in hand of the Sounders. Unlike KC, have one more match against Seattle after defeating them 2-1 yesterday. What sucks for RSL fans is how the team plays six of its final 10 games on the road, including its final match with the Sounders.
The Dark Horse
United has a real opportunity to sneak in and snatch it if they can take full points in both upcoming matches against Sporting KC. They’ll need to rely on a little help from Seattle and potentially RSL, but it’s completely manageable. DC is on fire, winning four straight matches, with their last loss coming on July 11. When travel to Sporting Park on Saturday, they’ll face a Sporting team that’ll have just playing the Easts’ third best team (TFC), and a game in Nicaragua. The timing couldn’t be any better for DC United to legitimize their candidacy.