Greg Seltzer of MLSsoccer.com has identified eight pivotal Western Conference matches that are likely to shape the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs race.
Two of them happen to take place at world-class Children's Mercy Park as Sporting Kansas City continue their pursuit of a third first-place finish in the West over the last four seasons.
Before we dive in, take note that tickets to each of Sporting's last four regular season home matches are available at SeatGeek.com.
Additionally, now is a good time to take stock of the Western Conference standings: Sporting sit a point ahead of second-place Seattle with one game in hand, with the sides scheduled to square off nine days from now in Kansas City.
Seattle Sounders FC at Sporting Kansas City
Sunday, Sept. 26, 6 p.m. CT
This will be the first of two games remaining between the current top two in the West standings. Let's pick this one because it's sooner and we're excited. This matchup has produced a string of wild affairs in recent years, and next weekend's showdown could put a team TBD clear atop the West. Or it could further jumble a tight race for its top playoff seed (which includes Colorado) to set up a tense finish. The Sounders have been in high gear for a month, but haven't won in Kansas City since 2013. And Brian Schmetzer's team has the Leagues Cup Final against Liga MX's Club Leon to contend with midweek.
Real Salt Lake at Sporting Kansas City
Sunday, Nov. 7, 5 p.m. CT
They aren't natural geographic rivals, but there's always plenty of friction when these two meet. And chances are good both will be playing for their final table placement on Decision Day. To their credit, Real Salt Lake are 3-1-1 in the last five at Children's Mercy Park. A good idea for the visitors' closing day game plan might be to focus on denying Sporting KC the ball as much as they can. The new West leaders are 8-2-2 this season when they get 55% of possession or more and only 5-5-3 when they do not.