The past couple of years, the 'magic number' for MLS teams to get into the playoffs has usually been 40, with teams that had more than 40 snagging a playoff berth and teams who had fewer missing out. Obviously, teams that have landed on 40 exactly have had mixed results, like when Real Salt Lake, DC United and Colorado all ended with 40 and the playoff berth wound up going to Salt Lake on a myriad of tiebreakers.
This season, four more games have been added to the schedule along with more teams and so the magic number has shifted a bit, with a bunch of teams already at 40 including our own Colorado Rapids. I'm thinking that 45 will be the new magic number, so with the Rapids currently at 41 total with five matches to go, they'll need to snag four points out of a fairly tough upcoming schedule in league matches.
Discounting the upcoming CCL matches, there are five games left in the league for the Rapids, with two of them probably being classified as 'difficult' matches for Colorado, against top teams. To be fair, both the Real Salt Lake game and the FC Dallas match are at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, but those are games that you know will be played very, very hard and will likely end in draws at best if the Rapids current form continues.
The Quakes match will probably be the easiest one of the group, not only at home but against a weak and defeated San Jose team that is seemingly playing out the string at this point in the season. With the Rapids 4 points away from that automatic playoff berth, that will likely be the game that Gary Smith sends the strongest squad out against alongside the Real Salt Lake game simply because of the rivalry factor present. With that in mind, the three points to start off the four will probably be there.
In short, after a lot of speculation about the Rapids playoff chances since that Los Angeles game we're here to tell you that you probably shouldn't worry as much as you think. Four points in three winnable games should be easy enough for the Rapids to accomplish - while it might not be the top 3 playoff seed we were hoping for at the start of the season, last year proved that even with a low seed anything can happen in MLS.