Technically, the Home Depot Center hosts a play-in game between the Galaxy and the Rapids. So while the tournament does not begin tonight, it will end for at least one team.
The other MLS play-in games are a few weeks away - even the USASA qualifying games don't start for two weeks. The reason Colorado and Los Angeles are playing tonight, of course, is that the Rapids were in town on Saturday, and apparently it's cheaper to have one round trip flight plus three or four days of hotel rooms than it is to book two round trip flights. I'm reading between the lines at the official Rapids blog, and it strongly implies the team stayed the whole weekend.
As well they might have. Not only was the weather just gorgeous the past few days, but this will give the Rapids precious extra days to get acclimated to the altitude.
I'm still thankful that MLS does schedule extra games for Open Cup qualifiers. There was one year when MLS regular season games doubled as play-in games, and apparently that was sufficiently disastrous that no one has seriously suggested going back to that format. Even given the kind of attendance we're likely to see tonight.
More or less solvent teams controlling their own stadia help a great deal here. We don't have to worry about the Tampa Bay Mutiny finding the cash to rent out Raymond James Stadium. But I can't imagine tonight's game is going to make enough of a profit for AEG to justify turning the lights on.
The USL uses an efficient, but terrible, system - whoever's on top of the standings at a given point in the standings qualifies. It's terrible because a full unbalanced schedule plays havoc (say, where is Ty Keough these days?) on the standings even when it comes to deciding the Supporters Shield. So you can imagine how fans would feel if US Open Cup spots come down to who has played more games against worse teams before June 1.
The USL's meager budget demands such measures...but it isn't like MLS is run with no regard to the bottom line. I wonder if and when play-in games go the way of the shootout.
I'd go ahead and tell Rapids fans to ink in the next game against the Royals or the Acoustic Receivers, but it's possible that Colorado's bench is significantly more hilarious than the Galaxy bench. It doesn't look as if Josh will be covering the game live, so it looks like your best bet is the Galaxy blog.