The 2023 Major League Soccer season has entered the second half of the campaign and the playoff picture is beginning to look a little clearer, although there is still plenty left to play for.
Saturday was another busy day with 26 of the division's 29 teams involved and there was plenty to take away from the action.
Nashville SC are in fine form in the East and they managed to close the gap on leaders Cincinnati on Saturday, while Western Conference leaders St Louis City appear to have come through a rough spell after recording a second successive win.
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|Saturday February 25th - Saturday October 21st (regular season) & Wednesday October 25th - Saturday December 9th (playoffs)
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|FC Cincinnati +400, Los Angeles FC +500, Philadelphia Union +700, Nashville SC +900, New England Revolution +1100
FC Cincinnati boast the best overall record in MLS and they have a healthy lead at the top of the Eastern Conference but they dropped points on Saturday.
Dominique Badji had an eventful day as he opened the scoring for Cincinnati early on against key rivals New England Revolution, but then cancelled out his strike by putting the ball into his own net soon after.
The Revs held a 2-1 lead at the end of the first half thanks to a goal from Argentine Gustavo Bou, but Badji grabbed his second of the game early in the second period to restore parity.
There were no further goals as the two sides had to settle for a point apiece, meaning New England remain seven points behind Cincinnati in the standings.
The Eastern Conference pacesetters have now managed just one win in their last four games and that has allowed Nashville to close the gap to just six points.
The Coyotes moved ahead of New England into second place in the East with a 2-0 win over DC United thanks to a first half double from Randall Leal and they managed to hold on for the win despite the second half dismissal of Walker Zimmerman after he picked up a second booking.
Nashville head to Cincinnati in mid-July in what could prove to be a key clash in the battle for supremacy in the East.
St Louis City made the most of home advantage as they overcame Colorado Rapids 2-0 to retain their place at the top of the Western Conference.
While the East looks to be a three-way fight for top spot, the West is far closer and just 11 points separate St Louis from Minnesota United in 11th spot.
City had hit a tough period as they managed just one point from four games, but back-to-back wins mean they hold a three-point lead over closest rivals Los Angeles FC and Seattle Sounders, although the former have played a game less.
LAFC dominated the Western Conference before going on to secure MLS Cup glory last season but they find themselves playing catch-up this term.
The Falcons slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Dallas on Saturday and have won just two of their last seven league assignments, losing four of those games, but nevertheless they remain well placed in their conference and are just three points behind St Louis with a game in hand.
Minnesota United sit outside the postseason spots in the West but they’re only a point behind Vancouver Whitecaps in ninth and three adrift of Houston Dynamo in seventh as they seek to break into those playoff places.
United have found wins hard to come by at home but they managed an impressive 4-1 victory over Portland Timbers at their Allianz Field base to record a second home victory of the season thanks to a brace from Emanuel Reynoso.
Minnesota have also only lost once at home, drawing five games, and if they can find a way to turn those stalemates into wins they could yet challenge in a competitive West.
Sporting Kansas City are level with Minnesota on 24 points and they gave their own playoff hopes a huge boost on Saturday with a 3-0 win over Vancouver.