It seems silly doesn’t it that the final match of the regular season where both sides already know they are in the playoffs and whom they will face, could hold so much potential sway for a team’s future, but it does. For Real Salt Lake, this round of the Champions League ended on Tuesday night, and with it went the potential to earn some much needed allocation money. However all may not be lost, on the final weekend of the MLS regular season five teams find themselves with a chance to claim third place in the overall league table, and that could be a very precious spot to hold.
San Jose and Sporting KC will finish #1 and #2 in the overall table, and both have already secured a spot in the 2013/14 version of the CONCACAF Champions league. Should one or both of those teams advance to MLS Cup, then the team with the next best MLS record would secure one of the US’s four berths into the CCL. With a berth comes allocation money, which always plays a huge role in what teams can and can’t do with their rosters. With a number of RSL players at the end of their contracts, or on option years, we know that things will not be all sunshine and roses when it comes to building the RSL roster for 2013 and beyond.
So while each side might be tempted to rest some players heading into the playoffs, I expect that RSL will have to look at this as a time to get back on the positive side of a result after Tuesday. RSL is 4-1-2 in their last 7 league matches, having given up just 3 goals while scoring 9 in those matches. On the other side will be the Whitecaps, who have qualified for the “wildcard” match and will take on the LA Galaxy next week, the boys from Vancouver have struggled since end of July and are just 1-5-1 in their last 7 matches, while they scored 6 goals in their last 7, all of those came in a 4-0 win over Chivas and a 2-2 draw with the Rapids, they have given up 8 goals in their last 7 matches.
We know how much the salary cap will go up for 2013, just under 5%. We also know that every player gets at least that much of a raise, more depending on some other factors, then for RSL factor in the all but certain graduation of Luis Gil from the Generation Adidas program that will add him to our salary cap hit and you can see why anything less than a win, and some luck when it comes to other results, might be fatal for some players time at Real Salt Lake.
Of course for RSL the goal is to win on Saturday and then to keep on winning all the way to MLS Cup on 12-1-12, and if the cards fall right for them to host that match at Rio Tinto Stadium, yet another reason why the result of Saturday night holds so much for RSL.
It isn’t just RSL that faces these possibilities, in fact several teams (Seattle, DC United, Chicago Fire, and others) all find themselves playing for some of those same things. So while the teams making the playoffs aren’t a mystery, in the East there are still some questions about who will be facing who, every team would love to finish the season on a high note while putting themselves in the best possible position to claim both a CCL spot as well as the rights to potentially host MLS Cup.
I think no matter the result of any match between now and the start of next season, the changes are going to happen and while all of us know it at some level, few of us are ready for it.
That’s How I See It