MLS doles out its rewards for playoff seeding in twos.
The first two finishers in each conference get first-round byes. The third and fourth seeds get home-field advantage in the single-elimination play-in round. And the fifth and sixth finishers at least get their chance to play on.
Two clubs straddling one of those key dividing lines — the fourth-place Seattle Sounders and fifth-place Sporting Kansas City — meet at 2 p.m. Sunday at Sporting Park, separated by a single point in the league standings.
“We want to get ourselves … in a situation where if we have to play a play-in game, we’re at home,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “So that means we have to finish at least third or fourth.”
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With three wins in their last four games, the Sounders’ up-and-down season has begun pointing upward again. With most key players once again available, Seattle is coming off a pair of 3-0 wins against Vancouver — one in league play and one in the CONCACAF Champions League. The MLS result pulled the Sounders to within three points of the conference lead, so Schmid was asked if his team might be aiming higher: not just home-field advantage in the first round, but a bye.
“We haven’t really talked about that,” he said. “All we’ve really talked about is getting our rhythm, getting our confidence.”
Recent results have gone the other way for SKC, which is 1-5-1 over its last seven games, tumbling dangerously close to the playoff red line.
For this match, Sporting also will be without goals co-leader Benny Feilhaber and defender Matt Besler, both out due to disciplinary suspension.
“(Feilhaber) is a tremendous player, a quality guy for them, and kind of the guy who runs the engine room,” Seattle defender Zach Scott said. “I wouldn’t put it past the coaching staff there to find somebody to fit in seamlessly. But at the same time, he’s a tough guy to replace.”
Sporting also has another issue to consider: a looming Wednesday date in the U.S. Open Cup final at Philadelphia. That puts coach Peter Vermes in the position of deciding which players he wants to use in a key league game against a primary playoff rival, while also deciding who he wants to leave fresh for a nationally televised midweek match for a trophy.
“Not quite sure where they’re going to be at in terms of their mindset,” Schmid. “Obviously they took a couple of yellow cards in the last game: Besler, so he’s out; Feilhaber tried really hard to get a yellow and got his yellow at the end, so he’s out. … So it depends what group they’re going to put out, what group they’re going to try and save for the Open Cup, how important the league points are to them. But the group that they’re going to put on the field is going to be very, very competitive.”
The Sounders report that central defender Roman Torres underwent successful left knee reconstruction surgery last week. Torres, 29, suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury Sept. 12 at San Jose and is expected to be out at least six to nine months. … Schmid and former Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller of Olympia will be inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame on Oct. 3 at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. Details about public attendance have not been announced. … The inaugural Sounders 2 season came to an end Friday with a 2-0 loss at Colorado Springs in the USL playoffs. S2 ended the season with a 15-14-3 record.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808
SEATTLE SOUNDERS (14-13-3; 45 POINTS)
AT SPORTING KANSAS CITY (12-9-8; 44 POINTS)
2 p.m., Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kansas
TV: ESPN. Radio: 97.3-FM.
Head to head: Seattle leads 7-2-2 in MLS play and 4-1-0 at Kansas City. SKC’s .273 winning percentage in the series is its lowest against any opponent. The teams played to a scoreless draw May 23 at CenturyLink Field; SKC won 1-0 on a hotly contested late penalty kick at home June 6. No result has been decided by more than one goal. Five of Seattle’s wins have come in second-half stoppage time. This is the final meeting of this regular season.
Notes: The Sounders are 3-0-1 over their last four league matches, while SKC is 1-5-1 over its last seven. … SKC is 9-1-4 at home. Seattle is 4-9-2 away. … Both teams played Wednesday. Seattle beat Vancouver at home in CONCACAF Champions League play, while Sporting lost 1-0 at Houston in MLS. However, after this match the Sounders are off for a week, while SKC will play for the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday at Philadelphia. … The Sounders are in generally good health with all three designed players expected available. Coach Sigi Schmid also gave an upbeat assessment on midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who went out with an apparent leg injury last weekend at Vancouver. … SKC defender Jalil Anibaba played the 2014 season in Seattle. ... Obafemi Martins leads the Sounders with 13 goals. Dom Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber lead SKC with 10 each. … Feilhaber and defender Matt Besler are out for SKC due to disciplinary suspensions. … Oniel Fisher, Gonzalo Pineda, Andy Rose, Zach Scott and Brad Evans are each one caution away from suspension for accumulation. … The referee is Armando Villarreal.
Quotes: “Right now we’re concerned about us playing well, and we’re doing that: keeping zeros in the back and banging away goals. The West is so tightly packed that it’s anybody’s opportunity to run away with Supporters’ Shield or clinching the playoffs. Kansas City is right there. We can’t really concern ourselves with the way they’re playing, we just have to worry about us and moving forward.” — Seattle defender Zach Scott.
Next: Los Angeles Galaxy, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4, CenturyLink Field.