BARCELONA – Sporting Kansas City knows it can't afford to slip up over its final three games if it wants to remain atop the crowded Eastern Conference race.
The San Jose Earthquakes are in a much more dire situation.
San Jose looks to maintain its slim playoff hopes as it hosts first-place Kansas City on Saturday night.
The Earthquakes (6-11-13) are eight points back of the final wild-card spot and likely need to win their final four games to have a shot at qualifying for the postseason. A loss, combined with two victories Saturday among Philadelphia, New York and D.C. United, would eliminate San Jose. A draw and wins by all three also would knock out the Earthquakes.
"Numerically, we're still in it," defender Steven Beitashour told the team's official website. "There's a bunch of teams sitting on the playoff bubble at the bottom of the pack. Just having that slight possibility keeps us going.
"The players, the coaches won't let us quit. Even if we were out of it, don't think the personnel would quit."
San Jose has won only once - Sept. 10 against Chicago - over its last 17 games after a 1-all draw with Colorado last Saturday. Chris Wondolowski's 11th goal of the season tied Landon Donovan for second place on San Jose's all-time scoring list with 32.
"I really wish I could have gotten another or a win," Wondolowski said. "I would take a win over that any day."
The Earthquakes' slide began with a 1-0 loss to Kansas City (11-9-11) on June 17, part of a 14-game unbeaten streak from May 28-Aug. 3 for Sporting KC.
Sporting KC has continued that surge for much of the season, moving into first place in September for the first time since finishing with the Western Conference's best record in 2004 following a 2-1 victory over Columbus on Wednesday.
Kansas City, though, has plenty of work to do in order to remain in the top spot. Philadelphia is one point back with a game in hand, Houston is two points behind while Columbus lurks three back.
Also, Sporting KC is only five points clear of the final wild-card spot. The top three finishers in each conference automatically qualify for the playoffs.
"We haven't achieved anything yet," coach Peter Vermes said. "We have San Jose in front of us we have to get prepared for."
Kei Kamara scored on a penalty kick Wednesday, and captain Davy Arnaud was in the starting lineup for the first time in 17 games after recovering from sports hernia surgery.
"Being in first feels good, but at the end of the day we have got to turn around because we have another game on Saturday," Arnaud said. "It was really important that if we want to get where we want to be that ... we've got to get back to work tomorrow."
San Jose has won eight of the last 12 meetings at Buck Shaw Stadium.