On Tuesday Columbus Crew midfielder Ethan Finlay informed me of point goal for the Black and Gold for the remainder of the 2014 season.
"Going forward, we have a number of points we want to hit," he said after I asked him about where the team is right now.
"Everyone on the team knows it, it's in the locker room, and that's what our complete focus is right now. With the last nine games of the season, we need to get those points and that's what matters."
As expected, Finlay would not tell me the number, simply saying, "you'll see" when I asked, but I decided to investigate further with the boss.
From head coach Gregg Berhalter, I learned of a midseason meeting of the team where they discussed their progress and how they wanted to move forward.
"We talked about how the first half of the season was geared towards teaching our system and more about our system than result orientated," Berhalter said of the meeting.
"As we got into the second half of the season, we had a meeting and regrouped and said, here's where we think we are now. Where do we want to go, that was the first thing, and then how are we going to get there? The result of that meeting was, this is how many points we're going to need and let's go after that."
So the question becomes, what is this point total the Crew are looking to reach?
At this point, Columbus has 33 points through 25 games played. As my colleague Nate Beckman pointed out in the offseason, since the league went to a 34 game schedule in 2011, 23 of 25 teams to register 50 points or more have made the playoffs (the Black and Gold were one of the teams that did not in 2012). Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said this week that their goal is 50 to make the playoffs. Could that be the benchmark for the Black and Gold?
If the Crew were able to secure wins in all of their remaining games, they would finish the season on 60 points. As that is unlikely, let's see how the Black and Gold should do to close out the year.
Today's match with the Montreal Impact should result in a W for Columbus, but all four of the Impact's wins this season have come at Stade Saputo. Let's say the Crew stay on their hot streak and get three points before returning home for Chivas USA next Sunday, which should also be a win over a struggling side.
The next week sees the Black and Gold travel to Houston. Despite defeating the Dynamo 3-0 last week, that will be a tough match to win as Houston makes a push for the playoffs. Let's say they lose that match but return home to get two wins in a row against the New England Revolution and Montreal.
That would be an optimistic 12 points from five matches putting their total to 45 on the year.
Of their final four games, only one is at home - the finale against the Philadelphia Union - and they must go to Philadelphia, New England, and New York. If they earn the win on the last day of the season, it means just two points from the three road games. Maybe draws against the Revolution and the Union?
It is almost certain it will be a more difficult road to 50 points with an unexpected loss, or losses, on the horizon. Forty-nine points was the average the last two campaigns to make the post season and it is likely that is a good ballpark number for this year.
The Crew and their fans now have the playoffs as the goal, no matter the number it takes. Reach the post season and everyone will be happy, but do so while hitting your benchmark and things are even better.