Eastern Conference Roundup: September 23
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Saturday's match crucial heading into bye week

Saturday marks the regular-season series finale between the Columbus Crew (12-14-5, 41 points) and Sporting Kansas City (14-10-6, 48 points). More than just a grudge match against a team that has beaten the Black & Gold twice this season, the contest could determine whether the Crew breaks through to the playoffs or is left at home come November.

Columbus’ month of September – from beginning to end – was a tale of two extremes as Interim Head Coach Brian Bliss took over for an 8-13-5 club and put it into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The team has won four of its last five matches and is currently riding a three-game winning streak with wins over Montreal, Chicago and FC Dallas.

As crucial as Saturday’s bout with Sporting KC is to the Black & Gold’s playoff plans, next week’s bye week might be just as important as Philadelphia, Chicago and New England have a game in hand, essentially all having played one fewer match than the Crew.

Here is the breakdown of each team’s remaining schedule heading into MLS play this weekend:

New England Revolution (11-11-8, 7th place, 41 points)

New England is tied in points and sits one game back of Columbus in the win column due to a difference in games played. New England is coming off of a 1-1 tie at home against Houston and will travel to New York (1st place in East) and Montreal (3rd place in East) in the next two weeks before a crucial home-and-home series with the Crew on October 20 and 27.

What it means for the Crew:

Even if the Black & Gold lose Saturday against Kansas City and New England goes on to beat New York and Montreal, the Crew would still have an opportunity to pass the Revolution in the win column with two wins to end the season.

Chicago Fire (11-12-7, 8th place, 40 points)

Chicago also poses a threat to Columbus’ playoff hopes. The Fire currently trails both the Crew and the Revolution by one point in the standings with one fewer game played than Columbus and is an additional loss behind New England. Chicago has a great shot at making a move in the playoff picture with upcoming matches at D.C. United (October 4), at FC Dallas (October 12) and at home versus Toronto FC (October 19) – teams all towards the bottom of the MLS standings and two of which (D.C. United and Toronto FC) are out of playoff contention.

What it means for the Crew:

The Fire’s remaining three games – two of which are against teams out of the playoff fold -- present an opportunity to make up some ground on Columbus and New England as they will face-off the last two weeks of the regular season. If the Fire win two of its next three games, Chicago will most certainly be in the thick of it heading into the regular-season finale in New York.

Philadelphia Union (11-9-10, 5th place, 42 points)

The team all three squads are chasing is the Philadelphia Union, which heads into this weekend’s matchup with Toronto the sole owner of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot. Over the next two weeks, Philadelphia has the potential to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack with upcoming matches against D.C. United and Toronto FC. From there, Philadelphia’s schedule becomes particularly challenging as it finishes the regular season at Montreal (October 19) home versus Kansas City (October 26) in the final weekend of the regular-season. 

What it means for the Crew:

Philadelphia really helped its own cause with a 1-0 win on the road at Sporting Park last week and now controls its own destiny as it tries to stay ahead of Columbus. With the Black & Gold bye week coming up, the difference between a Union win or a loss against D.C. United next weekend could mean as much as a six-point swing. To keep pace with Philadelphia, the Crew needs three points from Saturday’s match lest it rely on Philadelphia dropping points in multiple matches down the stretch

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