State of the MLS Run In: 3 Weeks to Go

As the regular season winds down I'm going to be posting a weekly summary of the some of the data and predictions we're generating, which should give you some context going into each week of games.

Previous Week

This one comes a day late thanks to the focus on the US Open Cup final yesterday, but the upside of that is that the game between the New York Red Bulls and the Los Angeles Galaxy last night will factor into the results.

That Galaxy loss keeps the thin thread of hope the Sounders have for winning the Supporters Shield. With a 7 point lead and three Seattle games remaining, a Galaxy win in either of their final two matches would put it out of reach. The Sounders could survive one or even two LA draws, but would have to win out their remaining three games (not out of the realm of possibility given their recent form).

The closely contested Eastern Conference continues to be a very dynamic race. Last week we had New York projected out of the playoffs, but now they're projected to skip the wild cards completely and claim the 3rd spot in the East. Their rise comes largely at the expense of DC United, who drop from a projected #2 in the East to completely out of the playoffs thanks to consecutive losses to Eastern Conference playoff rivals, and the Houston Dynamo, who have played well recently but suffered a home draw to distant playoff hopefuls Chicago Fire. And the pressure on the current wild cards has only increased as those same Fire and the Portland Timbers — two teams who have until recently been on the margins of the playoff race — have refused to fade away and continue to make a (still admittedly unlikely) case. That's also caused the number of points likely needed to make the playoffs to jump up, and it's now above 45 points for the first time all season.

Playoff & Trophy Probabilities

This is each team's up to date odds of making the playoffs, winning the Supporter's Shield, and winning the MLS Cup based on simulating the remainder of the season 10000 times.

  Avg Pos Avg Points Playoff % Change Supporters
Shield %
MLS Cup %
Los Angeles 1.04 67.13 100.0 -- 95.69 29.19
Seattle 1.97 62.01 100.0 -- 4.31 16.25
Real Salt Lake 3.03 55.43 100.0 -- 0.0 9.71
FC Dallas 5.11 50.16 99.86 -0.14 0.0 4.10
Kansas City 6.44 47.97 97.35 +4.01 0.0 10.13
Philadelphia 6.50 48.00 95.90 +8.65 0.0 8.75
Colorado 6.71 48.03 97.52 +7.35 0.0 4.05
New York 8.53 45.71 79.52 +17.11 0.0 6.05
Columbus 8.83 46.25 76.31 -10.05 0.0 4.20
Houston 9.51 45.42 65.05 -23.06 0.0 2.65
DC United 10.01 44.52 50.91 -36.50 0.0 3.80
Portland 11.28 43.65 25.68 +13.08 0.0 0.47
Chicago 12.26 41.57 11.90 +8.15 0.0 0.65
Chivas USA 13.95 38.09 0.0 -2.10 0.0 0.0
San Jose 15.15 35.50 0.0 -0.16 0.0 0.0
Toronto FC 16.05 33.60 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0
New England 16.72 31.14 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0
Vancouver 17.90 26.66 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0
Avg Pts for Playoffs 45.12

Teams Eliminated

Teams that have been eliminated by three decreasingly stringent standards. Read here for more details.

Last week the Whitecaps were the first team officially eliminated from the playoffs thanks to a home loss to the Sounders. And this weekend the New England Revolution became the second team to be eliminated when they. .wait for it. .lost at home to the Sounders. They were quickly joined by a big bundle of teams as time has quickly started to run out for teams currently outside the playoff picture.

Out Effective Elimination has, this late in the season, been rendered meaningless. It was built on the conservative estimate that at least 40 points would be needed for the playoffs, but now we already have 10 teams with at least 43 points, so I'm going to remove that standard from the report.

  • Mathematical Elimination (Unable to make the playoffs in any scenario)
    Chivas USA (new), San Jose (new), Toronto (new), New England (new), Vancouver
  • Projected Elimination (less than 1% chance of making the playoffs in simulation)
    Chivas USA (new), San Jose, New England, Toronto FC, Vancouver

Remaining Strength of Schedule

Using the same simulation, we can also determine remaining schedule strength by seeing how a league average team would do with each team's remaining schedule. Teams at the top have schedules against which an average team got the most PPG, meaning we think they have the easiest remaining schedule.

DC United may get a reprieve from their recent bad run with three of their final four matches at home, though two of those are against Portland and Chicago — the two teams trying to fight their way into the playoff picture. For United, making the playoffs probably means ending the playoff dreams of those two. The Supporters Shield race is kept slightly more interesting by the fact that Seattle has a comparatively soft schedule and the Galaxy have a tougher one, with a 'home' match against Chivas and an away match against Houston, a team still fighting for their playoff lives.

  Avg Team Points Matches Pts / Match
DC United 6.476 4 1.619
New England 4.733 3 1.578
Seattle 4.592 3 1.531
Chicago 4.473 3 1.491
Toronto FC 2.972 2 1.486
Vancouver 5.93 4 1.483
Colorado 2.951 2 1.475
Real Salt Lake 4.2 3 1.4
FC Dallas 4.171 3 1.39
Kansas City 2.702 2 1.351
San Jose 3.977 3 1.326
Philadelphia 3.893 3 1.298
Portland 3.864 3 1.288
Los Angeles 2.547 2 1.274
New York 2.513 2 1.256
Houston 2.43 2 1.215
Columbus 2.309 2 1.154
Chivas USA 2.033 2 1.016

Seattle's First Round Opponent

This is the likelihood of each team being the first playoff opponent for Seattle (either in the preliminary round or — more likely — in the Conference Semifinals).

The odds haven't changed from last week, with Real Salt Lake being the overwhelming favorite to take on Seattle in the playoffs. FC Dallas still has a slim hope to make the #3 seed.

  Matchup %
Real Salt Lake 92.62%
FC Dallas 3.62%

Cascadia Cup Odds

Seattle won the 2011 Cascadia Cup

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