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MLS Western Conference Update: Paths to the Playoffs

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Four games remain for most of the teams in the Western Conference, and four of the playoff spots are a lock. The Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Dallas will battle it out for the final spot.

Cooper Neill - Getty Images

Vancouver currently sits at 38 points in 30 matches, while FC Dallas is just below the cutoff now at 36 points in 30 matches. In spite of the advantage Vancouver currently has, my table projector stubbornly refuses to give up on Dallas. That's in large part because Dallas have lost just one in their last seven, while the Whitecaps have won just one in their last seven.

So what's it going to take for each team to get there? Here's the breakdown, with odds for each match drawn from my MLS table projector.

FC Dallas

Match 31: September 29 at San Jose Earthquakes
47% chance of a loss

Match 32: October 7 at Chivas USA
74% chance of a win

Match 33: October 21 at Seattle Sounders
49% chance of a loss

Match 34: October 28 vs Chivas USA
71% chance of a win

Vancouver Whitecaps

Match 31: September 29 vs Seattle Sounders
72% chance of a loss

Match 32: October 3 vs Chivas USA
60% chance of a win

Match 33: October 21 vs Portland Timbers
35% chance of a win

Match 34: October 27 at Real Salt Lake
59% chance of a loss

The simple math: whichever team has the most games remaining against Chivas USA will advance to the playoffs. On that front FC Dallas definitely has a leg up.

But Dallas will have to play their next three games on the road -- including one each in Seattle and San Jose. Yes, the other game is against the worst home team in MLS this year, but considering Vancouver might well outdo their recent performances, Dallas may need to take a point or two from those difficult stadiums.

Dallas does, however, have two distinct advantages: 1) four more goals scored than Vancouver (the first tie-break), and 2) the potential to have full control of their fate on October 28th, with only the lowly Chivas to conquer.

In the case of Vancouver, during their recent five-game losing streak, the Whitecaps played four on the road. Their next three games will be played at BC Place, including two against Cascadia rivals and one against Chivas. They will have one of MLS' most vocal crowds behind them for those games.

The Caps will want to use that home crowd to their advantage and snuff out any chance Dallas has at the playoffs before they travel to Utah.

Finally, here it is -- your projected Western Conference table.