When former NFL head coach Jim Mora began his now famous "PLAYOFFS!?" rant, he wasn't discussing the Indianapolis Colts actually making the playoffs, he was ranting about the media even thinking about that happening. In the case of the Philadelphia Union, the outcry of the similar high pitched, cracking voice that accompanies the three or four "PLAYOFFS!" comes from the team clinching its first ever playoff birth.
The Union took a point from their game against Toronto FC yesterday, but had clinched the playoffs a couple of minutes before the game was whistled dead by referee Silviu Petrescu. The New York Red Bulls had already dropped a 2-0 decision to Sporting Kansas City, who also clinched a playoff berth on Saturday.
After a disheartening month for Philadelphia sports fans, as the Philadelphia Phillies were eliminated from the playoffs, the Philadelphia Eagles started off the NFL season 1-4 and the Philadelphia 76ers might now play until 2012 because of the NBA labor dispute, the Union have a chance to pick up the spirits of the city. Alongside of the Philadelphia Flyers, the Union are the next 'hope' for a championship in a city that loves winners, though until this decade there weren't so many to love.
The Union have a chance to regain first place in the Eastern Conference on Thursday against the Red Bulls, and potentially knock their rivals out of a playoff spot while doing so. Philadelphia has to finish with either more points than Kansas City, or with a better goal differential, because Sporting currently has five more goals scored than the Union and holds that tiebreaker (the first one used if points and goal differential are tied).