The soccer news starts by asking which team could shake up the Eastern Conference standings in MLS? Only a point separates the top three, with Atlanta in 1st-place with 48 points from 24 games. The Red Bulls are tied on points with 3rd-place NYCFC, but have the lead on total wins 15 to 14 and goal difference +22 to +17. Total wins is the first tiebreaker in MLS, but the more important stat right now is games played. That's also in favor of the Red Bulls, 23 games to NYCFC's 24. There's now an eight-point gap between 3rd and 4th-place Columbus, something that almost looks insurmountable by MLS standards. Is it?
Since Columbus is nine points ahead of 5th-place Philadelphia and 6th-place Montreal, it's the Crew in position to disrupt the top three. Since losing to the Galaxy and then NYCFC in July, Columbus has put together a three-game win streak that includes beating the Red Bulls. If they can get anything at Atlanta on Sunday, they've got a good shot at closing out their three-game August schedule undefeated. September looms, starting the month hosting NYCFC and then playing Western Conference contenders FC Dallas and Portland.
It's not just navigating that schedule when trailing one of the two automatic semifinal places by eight points. It's needing other results to create that opportunity higher up the table. It's certainly worth pointing out that Columbus would have the 3rd-best record in the Western Conference, tied on points for 2nd-place and three points out of the top spot. That conference disparity has the Crew 6th in the overall table, counting for nothing in MLS.
At the other end of the Eastern Conference, DC United's potential games played advantage is turning into an easy excuse. Having a home field has them at 20 games played, the lowest in MLS but now only three or four behind most of the East. Turning a point into three over the weekend was a big deal, the kind of thing that might eventually move them up the table. As it stands, they're a last-place team two points behind the three teams tied at 23 points. The problem is the difference between 8th and 7th-place in the East.
It's a six-point gap between 7th-place New England and Orlando City, Toronto FC, and Chicago. While there's little doubt that Chicago is the worst team in the Eastern Conference at 25 games played, there's also little reason to think that any of those teams will jump New England and challenge for the final playoff spot. Columbus pushing into the top tier seems more likely than 8th through 11th-place mounting a playoff challenge.
SI.com's MLSsoccer.com's Brian Straus lists his picks for emerging USMNT players at European clubs. James Grossi on David Villa's return from injury for NYCFC. The Toronto Sun's Ryan Wolstat with Toronto FC dropping points in the East. SBI Soccer's Carl Setterlund highlights New England's defensive issues. Soccer America's Paul Gardner takes issue with instant replay during DC's win over Orlando City. The Guardian's Graham Ruthven looks at the attendances for European club friendlies in the United States over the summer.
BBC Sport has Spurs scheduling more games at Wembley while waiting for their new stadium to open. The Daily Record's Duncan Castles examines recruitment at Manchester United. Bundesliga Fanatic's Gareth McKnight previews the Bundesliga season with a look at the teams in contention for the four Champions League places. World Soccer's Paddy Agnew looks at Juventus with Cristiano Ronaldo. Keir Radnedge on FIFA's response to corruption in their revised code of ethics.
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