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July 25, 2021

Real Salt Lake's Oct. 18 postponed match with Colorado will not be made up. Here's what that means for the playoffs

SANDY — Real Salt Lake had three more matches remaining of the previously announced 23 regular-season matches to be played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Make it 22 now — for some teams.

Major League Soccer announced Thursday that a bevy of games, mostly involving the Colorado Rapids, will not be made up due to a significant number of positive results for COVID-19. That means that RSL, along with several other clubs, will only have played 22 matches through the rest of the season.

The Sandy-based club is scheduled to travel to the LA Galaxy on Sunday and will cap the regular season Nov. 8 against Sporting Kansas City at Rio Tinto Stadium (4:30 p.m. MT) — the date of MLS’s previously scheduled “Decision Day.”

The Rapids also won’t make up games against Sporting Kansas City, LAFC, LA Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders. In addition, Minnesota United’s match with FC Dallas originally scheduled for Oct. 14 won’t be made up, meaning at least eight of the league’s 26 teams won’t play the full allotment of games.

While the teams affected by the cancellations all reside in the Western Conference, the 14 teams in the East are on track to finish all 23 games, the league said.

Of course, MLS had a plan ready in case a measure was needed. As previously alluded in August, the league will determine the final league standings — and playoff positions — based on points per game rather than total points. The same metric will be used to award the league’s bid to the CONCACAF Champions League normally given to the Supporters’ Shield winner, or regular-season champion, to the highest points-per-game recipient from a U.S.-based club; the three Canadian clubs play for a separate Champions League berth via the Canadian Championship.

Due to the uneven number of teams in each conference, the top 10 teams in the East and top eight in the West will qualify for the expanded MLS Cup playoffs in 2020. Philadelphia, Toronto, Columbus, Orlando, New York City, New York Red Bulls, New England and Nashville have already clinched a postseason bid in the east, along with Sporting Kansas City, Seattle, Portland, LAFC and Minnesota in the West, based on the points-per-game metric.

The league says no team has been eliminated from postseason qualification. But several such hopes — including those of RSL — remain distant.

“We all have to play better,” RSL midfielder Albert Rusnak said after Thursday night’s loss to San Jose, “to look ourselves in the mirror and say this is far from good — this is far from the performance you need to get into the playoffs.

“Maybe it’s still mathematically (possible), but with this loss tonight we made it difficult.”

Tiebreaking procedures for the remaining bids are as follows:

  • Total number of wins per match
  • Goal Differential (GD) per match (Goals For per match minus Goals Against per match)
  • Goals For (GF) per match
  • Fewest Disciplinary Points per match
  • Away Goals Differential per Away match (Away Goals For per Away match minus Away Goals Against per Away match)
  • Away Goals For per Away match
  • Home Goals Differential per Home match (Home Goals For per Home match minus Home Goals Against per Home match)
  • Home Goals For per Home match
  • Coin Toss (tie of two clubs) or Drawing of Lots (tie of three or more clubs)

Under the new metric, no team has been eliminated from playoff contention. But RSL was dropped to 10th place in the West, with Colorado sliding into the No. 8 spot at 1.27 points per game for the final playoff berth. Vancouver is ninth at 1.14 ppg, followed by RSL (1.1), Houston (1.0) and the LA Galaxy (0.95).

Real Salt Lake is coming off back-to-back scoreless matches, including Wednesday night’s 2-0 road loss to the San Jose Earthquakes, who sit just above the Rapids in seventh place in the west.

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Sean Walker

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