There has been lots of talk, some of it by people who actually matter (Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, Real Salt Lake GM Garth Lagerwey), about how the Supporters' Shield means so much less with this year's format change to an unbalanced schedule.
All nine Western Conference teams are from decent to really good. Four of them won't make the playoffs. One of them will finish last. The East? Not nearly so much talent. With all teams playing three games against conference rivals and just once against clubs from the other division, the East's beasts won't play nearly as difficult a slate as the best in the West.
What Sporting Kansas City is doing could render such logic faulty. Peter Vermes' side is 4-0-0, atop the overall standings and -- for the first time -- atop our Major League Soccer Power Rankings.
It's the first time an Eastern team has been in the top spot. Real Salt Lake was No. 1 the first nine weeks last year, and the Galaxy was in the primary slot the rest of the way and in this year's preseason rankings. Seattle was No. 1 the past three weeks.
What's more, Eastern clubs take three of the top five slots, with the New York Red Bulls up to fourth (and they might be No. 1 at some point) and the Houston Dynamo still fifth.
The Galaxy? They're down to No. 9, lowest ever but on Saturday likely will present K.C. its stiffest test yet this season. Chivas USA is still No. 15.
The regular season isn't over until the end of October, so the order will change again and again. No surprise if the top team at the end is from the East.
Here are this week's power rankings:
1. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-0-0, 12 points), LW: 2
Week 4: Graham Zusi does all the work, C.J. Sapong gets the goal in 1-0 victory at Chivas USA.
Latest: Only one team in MLS has a perfect record. “It's good to be 4-0, better than being 0-4 -- that's for sure,” says Peter Vermes. “For us, it's really just maintaining the idea that we have another 30 games left.”
Mascot: Dynamo Dragon, a sort-of-Barney in green, was killed when the Wizards rebranded as Sporting. No replacement.
Next: Sunday vs. Galaxy, 1 p.m. (ESPN and ESPN Deportes).
2. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (2-1-0, 6 points), Last Week: 1
Week 4: Chris Wondolowski's contested penalty all San Jose needs for a 1-0 win.
Latest: Rookie Babayele Sodade is done -- ACL tear. But Steve Zakuani sees action in Sounders' reserves game against Gonzaga University, says he has “found my first passion again.”
Mascot: Not a one, but there's a fan from the Gorilla FC supporters group who dresses as a gorilla.
Next: Saturday at D.C. United, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
3. REAL SALT LAKE (3-1-0, 9 points), LW: 3
Week 4: Late goals by Jonny Steele and Kyle Beckerman vault RSL to a 3-2 triumph at Portland.
Latest: Javier Morales, Alvaro Saborio and Nat Borchers return to starting XI, Will Johnson comes off the bench.
Mascot: Leo the Lion is a regal feline dressed in the club's “Claret and Cobalt,” or, as we like to say, red and blue.
Next: Wednesday vs. Montreal, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday vs. Colorado, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
4. NEW YORK RED BULLS (2-2-0, 6 points), LW: 6
Week 4: Thierry Henry repeats as MLS Player of the Week after his hat trick and nifty assist lead Bulls to 5-2 rout of Montreal.
Latest: Luke Rodgers' visa is denied, so his contract is terminated and he signs with Lillestrom and scores in his first Norwegian match.
Mascot: None. A red bull seems a natural. Or a can of Red Bull.
Next: Saturday at Columbus, noon (Galavision).
5. HOUSTON DYNAMO (2-1-0, 6 points), LW: 5
Week 4: Idle.
Latest: Josue Soto asks for, is granted a loan to NASL newcomers San Antonio Scorpions.
Mascot: Dynamo Diesel, an orange fox (in the Dynamo's orange shirt) with frightening blue eyes.
Next: April 15 at Chicago, 4 p.m. (Galavision)
6. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (3-1-0, 9 points), LW: 9
Week 4: Yorba Linda's Steven Lenhart draws a penalty kick -- and some verbal abuse -- after giving Quakes a 1-0 win at Seattle.
Latest: Seattle's Marc Burch, after he was whistled for the foul vs. Lenhart: “It’s just his mind games. That’s his thing, that’s what he does. I don’t think he got in my head, I just think I made a play and he dove.”
Mascot: The very blue Q looks like he stepped out of a Muppets movie.
Next: Saturday vs. Vanccouver, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
7. COLORADO RAPIDS (3-1-0, 9 points), LW: 10
Week 4: Omar Cummings, Kamani Hill goals topple Chicago, 2-0.
Latest: Concussion could end Rapids legend Pablo Mastroeni's career. “Absolutely, there's worry,” he says. “I have a wife and kids. ... Worry, definitely, it's there every day. It's there every morning.”
Mascot: One mascot? Rapids have four: Edson the Eagle, Marco Van Bison, Jorge El Mapache (a raccoon) and Franz the Fox.
Next: Saturday at Real Salt Lake, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
8. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (2-0-2, 8 points), LW: 7
Week 4: 'Caps still haven't conceded, after four games. Haven't scored in two following 0-0 draw at Philadelphia.
Latest: Just 62 more shutout minutes to exceed New York's 2007 start-of-the-season record of 421.
Mascot: MLS's coolest mascot is Spike, which fans derided as a Blue Jays wannabe. Actually, compare him to some of the totem poles in Stanley Park.
Next: Saturday at San Jose, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
9. GALAXY (1-2-0, 3 points), LW: 4
Week 4: Becks subbed at halftime defines L.A.'s tepid display in 3-1 loss to New England.
Latest: Our take on why Arena pulled David Beckham? To send the message that nobody gets a pass.
Mascot: Cozmo (who followed our favorite, Mr. Twizzle) is an alien that looks a little like a frog and is, his bio claims, “universally known as a goalkeeper who can stop shots traveling at the speed of light.”
Next: Sunday at Sporting Kansas City, 1 p.m. (ESPN and ESPN Deportes).
10. D.C. UNITED (1-2-1, 4 points), LW: 17
Week 4: Maicon Santos, Dwayne De Rosario and Nick DeLeon add up to three goals, four assists in 4-1 rout of FC Dallas.
Latest: One American is headed to the Olympics. Virginia's Andy Najar headed to London with Honduras.
Mascot: The capital's team naturally employs an eagle. Talon the Eagle.
Next: Saturday vs. Seattle, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
11. PORTLAND TIMBERS (1-2-1, 4 points), LW: 12
Week 4: Darlington Nagbe nets two, but RSL's late finish takes a 3-2 decision.
Latest: Timbers Army dons hoodies to protest Trayvon Martin's death.
Mascot: Timber Joey is the only, uh, real-life mascot in MLS -- and the only mascot carrying a genuine working chainsaw.
Next: Saturday vs. Real Salt Lake, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
12. FC DALLAS (1-2-1, 4 points), LW: 8
Week 4: Hoops overrun by suddenly dynamic D.C., 4-1.
Latest: When will David Ferreira be back on the field? Could be eight weeks, after surgery for a small fracture in his right foot.
Mascot: Wonderfully named Tex Hooper is a longhorn dressed in Dallas' distinct hooped shirt.
Next: Thursday vs. New England, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
13. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (2-2-0, 6 points), LW: 18
Week 4: Kelyn Rowe and Chris Tierney strike at the start in 3-1 romp over the Galaxy.
Latest: Dallas hotel right in tornadoes' path, Revs players evacuated to the basement.
Mascot: Slyde the Fox, wearing a Revs jersey, of course.
Next: Thursday at FC Dallas, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
14. CHICAGO FIRE (1-1-1, 4 points), LW: 11
Week 4: Two second-half goals give Colorado a 2-0 triumph.
Latest: Plan for Olympic goat Sean Johnson, who hadn't played since November, is to slowly return him to the field via reserve matches.
Mascot: Sparky Dalmatian sports soccer-ball spots and sometimes is attired as a firefighter.
Next: Sunday at Colorado, 4 p.m. (Galavision).
15. CHIVAS USA (1-3-0, 3 points), LW: 13
Week 4: Great defense, little offense and another 1-0 result, with Sporting K.C. grabbing the points.
Latest: A more dynamic attack is required. Cesar Romero and Cesar Bolaños could be keys.
Mascot: ChivaFighter is the most muscular goat you'll ever come across. He wears the red-and-white and is fond of flexing.
Next: Sunday vs. Sporting Kansas City, 6 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22).
16. COLUMBUS CREW (2-1-0, 6 points), LW: 15
Week 4: Bernardo Anor lifts Crew to a 1-0 victory at Toronto FC.
Latest: Eric Gehrig makes a statement at the back.
Mascot: Crew Cat is No. 00 in a Columbus uniform -- and he wears the trademark hard hat, of course.
Next: Saturday vs. New York, noon (Galavision).
17. PHILADELPHIA UNION (0-3-1, 1 point), LW: 16
Week 4: Union finally have a point after scoreless draw with Vancouver.
Latest: UCLA's Chandler Hoffman makes his MLS debut, calls it “something to build off.”
Mascot: None, officially, although we love the fan dressed as Ben Franklin.
Next: Saturday vs. Vancouver, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
18. TORONTO FC (0-3-0, 0 points), LW: 14
Week 4: Reds notch 1-1 draw in home leg against Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, but they're the only MLS team without points after a 1-0 loss to Columbus.
Latest: Santos' American forward Herculez Gomez, heading into the second leg: “If the score was 6-1 [in the second leg against Seattle], can you imagine what we can do to Toronto? Just wait to be in Torreon.”
Mascot: Maybe one day.
Next: Wednesday in a Champions League semifinal second leg at Mexico's Santos Laguna, 5 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel and Telefutura); Saturday at Montreal, 9 a.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
19. MONTREAL IMPACT (0-3-1, 1 point), LW: 19
Week 4: Impact can't keep pace after halftime in a 5-2 loss at New York.
Latest: Some 16.75 fouls per game is four more than the average. “There's certainly no apology for having fouls,” Jesse Marsch says. “I would say it's commitment to being hard to play against.”
Mascot: Tac Tic is a dog in the Goofy tradition, wearing a beanie.
Next: Wednesday at Real Salt Lake, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday vs. Toronto FC, 9 a.m. (MLS Direct Kick).