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With a one-point lead atop the Western Conference and six matches still to play, Sporting Kansas City will have its eyes continually fixed on the playoff picture between now and Decision Day on Oct. 28.


If the season ended today, Sporting KC would have the No. 1 seed in the West, a Knockout Round bye and a guaranteed home playoff match—something the club hasn’t had since lifting the 2013 MLS Cup at Children’s Mercy Park. But the season doesn't end today, of course, and there is tons to play for as the final month of the season unfolds.


To quickly review: a top-two finish guarantees a Knockout Round bye into the conference semifinals, beginning Nov. 4 on the road and ending Nov. 11 at home. Finishing third or fourth secures a home playoff game in the Knockout Round on Oct. 31 or Nov. 1. And finishing fifth or sixth, as Sporting KC has done from 2014-2017, results in a Knockout Round road trip.


In a parity-stricken league like MLS, It's hard to predict how the final standings will shake out. One useful metric in assessing the final playoff push is strength of remaining schedule.


The strength of schedule table below, provided by MLSsoccer.com, is calculated by taking the 2018 average points per game at home and on the road for each team's opponent. A higher number means the schedule is more difficult, while a lower one means it's easier.

How does Sporting KC's strength of schedule stack up during the stretch run of 2018? -

The average point value of Sporting KC's final six opponents is 1.45, tied for the eighth-lowest in the West and the 14th-lowest in MLS. According to this formula, Sporting KC's final run-in is easier than that of second-place FC Dallas (1.51) and fourth-place Real Salt Lake (1.63), but harder than that of third-place LAFC (1.16) and fifth-place Seattle (1.04).


It's quite possible that first place in the West could hinge on Sporting KC's final two games of the regular season—a visit to FC Dallas on Oct. 21 followed by a home tilt with LAFC on Oct. 28.


MLS WESTERN CONFERENCE STANDINGS (as of Sept. 18)

<strong>#</strong>
<strong>Club</strong>
<strong>PTS</strong>
<strong>GP</strong>
<b>W</b>
<b>L</b>
<b>T</b>
<b>GD</b>
<strong>Remaining SOS</strong>
1
<a href="https://www.mlssoccer.com/meta/club/sporting-kc">Sporting Kansas City</a>
51
28
15
7
6
20
1.45
2
<a href="https://www.mlssoccer.com/meta/club/fc-dallas">FC Dallas</a>
50
28
14
6
8
10
1.51
3
<a href="https://www.mlssoccer.com/meta/club/lafc">Los Angeles Football Club</a>
47
28
13
7
8
12
1.16
4
<a href="https://www.mlssoccer.com/meta/club/real-salt-lake">Real Salt Lake</a>
45
29
13
10
6
2
1.63
5
<a href="https://www.mlssoccer.com/meta/club/seattle">Seattle Sounders FC</a>
44
27
13
9
5
9
1.04
6
<a href="https://www.mlssoccer.com/meta/club/portland">Portland Timbers</a>
44
28
12
8
8
1
1.50
7
<a href="https://www.mlssoccer.com/meta/club/vancouver">Vancouver Whitecaps FC</a>
40
28
11
10
7
-8
1.51
8
<a href="https://www.mlssoccer.com/meta/club/la-galaxy">LA Galaxy</a>
38
29
10
11
8
-5
1.46
9
<a href="https://www.mlssoccer.com/meta/club/houston">Houston Dynamo</a>
31
28
8
13
7
4
1.45
10
<a href="https://www.mlssoccer.com/meta/club/minnesota">Minnesota United FC</a>
30
28
9
16
3
-15
1.23
11
e -&nbsp;<a href="https://www.mlssoccer.com/meta/club/colorado">Colorado Rapids</a>
24
28
6
16
6
-22
1.57
12
e -&nbsp;<a href="https://www.mlssoccer.com/meta/club/san-jose">San Jose Earthquakes</a>
20
28
4
16
8
-15
1.55

Sporting KC will continue their postseason pursuit Sunday with a cross-conference visit to fellow playoff chaser Philadelphia Union (12-12-4, 40 points) at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. Kickoff is set for noon CT with national television coverage on ESPN and ESPN Deportes and local radio broadcasts on Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.


All fans are invited to Sunday's official watch party at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District, featuring $4 Bud Light drafts and an all-you-can-eat buffet with bottomless domestic draft beers.