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Making a push: A closer look at the MLS playoff race

New York Red Bulls v Atlanta United FC

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 05: Midfielder Yamil Asad #11 of Atlanta United (right) celebrates with midfielder Miguel Almiron #10 after Asad scores the first goal of the game, and the first goal in Atlanta United history, during the game against the New York Red Bulls at Bobby Dodd Stadium on March 5, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

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The MLS Cup playoffs are right around the corner, and with Toronto FC the only club to have booked its place thus far, it’s always fun to guess which other teams will make the postseason.

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There’s one actual “lock” with a little over a month remaining in the season, however, there’s a pretty good gauge of which teams will be postseason-bound -- particularly in the Eastern Conference.

The West, on the other hand, is congested, with the top eight teams separated by a mere nine points.

To put things into perspective, TFC holds a 20-point advantage over sixth-place Atlanta United in the East. However, Atlanta holds three games in hand, so that gap could dwindle slightly.

It’s been pretty straight forward in the East for much of the season, with TFC, NYCFC, the Fire and the Red Bulls steady throughout 2017. Atlanta can be thrown in that category as well, but their busy schedule the rest of the way will certainly make things interesting.

Although perennial playoff teams like the Seattle Sounders and Sporting KC appear to be en route for bonus soccer once again this season, the West is intriguing for one team in particular.

FC Dallas -- a team many thought would contend for MLS Cup in 2017 -- hasn’t won a match since July 22 and has fallen from first to sixth place. Meanwhile, the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake sit hot on their heels, which could actually mean Oscar Pareja and Co. somehow miss out on the playoffs altogether.

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Here’s a look at how I see the current state of the playoff races in the Eastern and Western Conferences with

Eastern Conference

Locks: Toronto FC, NYCFC, Chicago Fire, New York Red Bulls

They’re not in yet... but they will be: Atlanta United

Hanging on: Columbus Crew

So you’re saying there’s a chance: Montreal Impact, New England Revolution

Long shot: Orlando City, Philadelphia Union

Western Conference

Locks: Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps, Portland Timbers, Sporting KC

They’re not in yet... but they will be: Houston Dynamo

Hanging on: FC Dallas

So you’re saying there’s a chance: San Jose Earthquakes

Long shot: Real Salt Lake