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The Union’s best possible playoff berth could give them the worst possible opponent: Wayne Rooney’s D.C. United

If the Union get to third place in the East, they'd likely face Major League Soccer's hottest team in the first round of the playoffs.

Thanks to Wayne Rooney, D.C. United hasn't lost in Major League Soccer since the Philadelphia Union beat them in late August.
Thanks to Wayne Rooney, D.C. United hasn't lost in Major League Soccer since the Philadelphia Union beat them in late August.Read moreNick Wass / AP file photo

Union manager Jim Curtin has noted a few times lately that if his team wins its two remaining regular-season games, it will finish third in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference.

In theory, this would be a great thing. The Union would add their best finish in the standings to the points (50) and wins (15) records they've already set.

In practice, though, it might be a trap.

The way things look right now, whichever team finishes third would likely host Wayne Rooney and D.C. United, MLS's hottest team, in the playoffs' one-game opening round.

Rooney's goals and the comforts of a new home stadium have helped D.C. run off a seven-game unbeaten streak. Its last loss, in fact, was to the Union on Aug. 29. Even more impressively, D.C. has lost just three of its 18 games since the start of July.

D.C. has three games left, including two at home in the next six days. If it wins both of those, a playoff spot will be all but assured. In fact, if not for fifth-place Columbus' weak schedule, United would have decent odds of jumping over its old rivals from MLS' early years.

If you're a Union fan, would you rather face D.C. or Columbus?

Here's a look at the past week's results, and what's to come this week.


Home teams listed first.

Seattle Sounders 4, Houston Dynamo 1 (Houston was eliminated from playoff contention)
Los Angeles FC 4, Houston Dynamo 2
Minnesota United 0, Colorado Rapids 2
D.C. United 1, FC Dallas 0
New England Revolution 2, Orlando City 0 (New England was eliminated from playoff contention because of D.C.'s win)

Eastern Conference standings

Teams are listed with their total points, then the first three tiebreakers in order: wins, goal difference and goals scored. Click here for the full order of tiebreakers.

Clinched a first-round bye

1. Atlanta United: 66 points, 20 wins, +28 GD, 67 GS (32 games played)
2. New York Red Bulls: 65 points, 20 wins, +27 GD, 60 GS (32 games played)

Clinched a playoff berth

3. New York City FC: 53 points, 15 wins, +14 GD, 55 GS (32 games played)
4. Philadelphia Union: 50 points, 15 wins,  +2 GD, 48 GS (32 games played)

Still alive

5. Columbus Crew: 48 points, 13 wins, -2 GD, 39 GS (32 games played)
6. D.C. United: 44 points, 12 wins, +7 GD, 56 GS (31 games played)

7. Montreal Impact: 43 points, 13 wins, -7 GD, 45 GS (32 games played)


8. New England Revolution: 38 points
9. Toronto FC:
33 points
10. Chicago Fire: 31 points
11. Orlando City: 25 points

Western Conference standings

Clinched a playoff berth

1. FC Dallas: 57 points, 16 wins, +12 GD, 51 GS (32 games played)
2. Los Angeles FC: 56 points, 16 wins, +17 GD, 65 GS (32 games played)
3. Sporting Kansas City: 53 points, 15 wins, +18 GD, 56 GS (31 games played)

Still alive

4. Portland Timbers: 51 points, 14 wins, +4 GD, 50 GS (32 games played)
5. Seattle Sounders: 50 points, 15 wins, +12 GD, 45 GS (31 games played)
6. Real Salt Lake: 46 points, 13 wins, -3 GD, 51 GS (32 games played)

7. Los Angeles Galaxy: 45 points, 12 wins, +1 GD, 61 GS (32 games played)
8. Vancouver Whitecaps: 43 points, 12 wins, -11 GD, 49 GS (31 games played)


9. Minnesota United: 36 points
10. Houston Dynamo: 35 points
11. Colorado Rapids: 27 points
12. San Jose Earthquakes: 20 points

This week’s games

In the last two weeks of the season, MLS adds to the drama by adopting the global tradition of simultaneous kickoffs. This Sunday, all the Eastern Conference games will kick off at 3:15 p.m. and all the Western Conference games will kick off at 5:25 p.m. ESPN will televise a game in each window, with its broadcast starting at 3 p.m. Next Sunday, all games leaguewide will kick off just after 4 p.m., with coverage on Fox Sports 1.

Before then, there are a few other scores to settle, so that all teams get to this weekend with 32 games played.

Here's the upcoming schedule. All games are streamed live on ESPN+, except for those noted as being on national TV, or local TV in the Union's case.


Orlando City vs. Seattle Sounders (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.): Orlando has given up 33 goals under coach James O'Connor in his 14 league games so far. When Jason Kreis was fired 15 games into this season, Orlando had conceded 31 goals. "We're going to work until we get it right," O'Connor told reporters early in his tenure. "Whatever that means, that's what it means." Do we know what it means yet?

D.C. United vs. Toronto FC (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.): Rooney had eight shots in the win over Dallas, but didn't score, snapping a streak of three straight games with a goal. Lancaster native Russell Canouse stepped up to deliver the game-winner — and earned a bloody nose on the play.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Sporting Kansas City (Wednesday, 10 p.m.): The Whitecaps' last game was a win at Toronto on Oct 8. Was that a sign of life, or rigor mortis? Stay up late for this matchup to find out.

Real Salt Lake vs. New England Revolution (Thursday, 9 p.m.): A must-win for RSL if it wants to keep Zlatan Ibrahimović and the Galaxy at bay.


3:15 p.m. games

Atlanta United vs. Chicago Fire (ESPN and ESPN Deportes): As Atlanta tries to keep hold of first place in the East, keep an eye on Josef Martínez. The Venezuelan is MLS' top scorer this year by a mile with 30 goals (Zlatan is second with 21), but he has scored in only one of his last six games.

D.C. United vs. New York City FC: The game of the weekend in the East, even though it isn't the one on national TV. It's D.C.'s last home game of the regular season, and New York is still in freefall. And of course, it's a duel between Rooney and fellow superstar striker David Villa.

Union vs. New York Red Bulls (6ABC): There's a chunk of the Red Bulls' core fan base that doesn't think of this as a rivalry, and says so loudly whenever the teams meet. If you make that much noise about it, maybe it is a rivalry. Expect plenty of noise in Chester on Sunday, because this game matters plenty to both teams.

Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: As if the stakes aren't enough to motivate the Crew, this week's news that they're likely to stay in Columbus with new owners should give them even more of a spark.

Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC: This is one of MLS' fiercest rivalries, and the most-often-ignored rivalry by fans south of the U.S.-Canada border. It should get some attention Sunday as Montreal tries to get back into sixth place, and Toronto tries to play spoiler.

5:25 p.m. games

Minnesota United vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (ESPN and ESPN Deportes): This will be a great spectacle for national TV. A crowd of more than 50,000 fans awaits Zlatan as Minnesota plays its last game at TCF Bank Stadium before moving to spectacular Allianz Field next year.

FC Dallas vs. Sporting Kansas City: Even if Kansas City loses in Vancouver, this will be a meeting of two of the West's top three teams. Dallas would clinch a first-round bye with a win.

Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake: Both teams need to keep winning to be sure of clinching a playoff berth, and possibly a first-round home game. Portland still has an outside shot at a first-round bye.

Los Angeles FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps: If you're lucky enough to have an Apple TV, you can watch four ESPN feeds at once through its streaming app for the device. Sunday will be a good time to make use of that.

Seattle Sounders vs. Houston Dynamo: Seattle could finish the season with 59 points, or could finish the season out of the playoffs.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Colorado Rapids: Even the weekend's most meaningless game matters a little bit. The Earthquakes' Chris Wondolowski is one goal from tying Landon Donovan's all-time league scoring record.