State of the MLS Run In: 10 Weeks to Go

TORONTO ON - NOVEMBER 21: Jeff Larentowicz #4 of the Colorado Rapids poses with the Philip F. Anschutz MLS Cup trophy following the MLS Cup final at BMO Field on November 21 2010 in Toronto Canada. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Previous Week

It's been a week that would seem to dramatically shake up the playoff race, with the teams at the bottom of the playoff places in each conference struggling and teams just outside the playoff places going on great runs. And the commentary has certainly been on board. I must have read or heard at least 50 times on various media this week that Montreal, FC Dallas, Columbus, and even Chivas USA are poised at the edge of (or even, most breathlessly, odds on favorites for) the playoffs.

And while I'm sure it would be better for the league if that were the case, the fact is it would take many more weeks of such results to give the outside teams significant playoff chances. True, last week there was only one team (Columbus) outside the playoffs with at least a 10% chance of making it in, and now there are three (adding FC Dallas and Chivas), but Chivas has only risen to a 13.5% chance. Given LA's favorable schedule, arguing for a different picture in the West is effectively arguing that Vancouver won't make it, but a mere point a game pace would give them 45 points. To get to 46 (because the GF tiebreaker would certainly go to Vancouver) Chivas would also have to earn 1.6 PPG, or roughly RSL's rate for the season.

It was also an interesting week to see who pays attention to games in hand. Many commentators made something of the fact that Montreal occupied the 5th position in the West for a few days, but they had a ridiculous 5 games played more than DC United and the sim gives them a 6% at the playoffs despite being a point back of DC.

It was a great week from a Seattle perspective. On top of the Sounders' win over a playoff competitor in the West, San Jose lost and RSL lost, shooting Seattle's top3% up from 66% to 89%. Both Portland and Toronto FC lost, so the race for the Wooden Spoon remains a nailbiter.

Playoff & Trophy Probabilities

This is each team's up to date odds of making the playoffs, earning a top 3 spot, winning the Supporter's Shield, and winning the MLS Cup based on simulating the remainder of the season 10000 times.

A fuller explanation of the methodology is available here.

Avg Points Playoff % Change Top 3 % Supporters
Shield %
MLS Cup %
San Jose 61.5 100.0 -- 99.6 45.5 16.1
Kansas City 59.6 99.4 +1.7 85.4 27.3 14.0
New York 56.4 96.8 +0.6 64.7 6.9 7.5
Seattle 56.1 99.7 +1.1 88.9 7.0 15.9
Houston 56.1 97.0 -0.7 61.7 6.2 11.2
Chicago 55.8 94.1 +5.2 55.9 5.4 8.1
DC United 53.0 84.0 -5.9 29.1 1.1 5.7
Real Salt Lake 52.9 98.6 -0.8 66.1 0.6 6.7
Los Angeles 50.0 93.2 -0.6 32.4 0.0 9.9
Vancouver 47.8 82.2 -16.0 11.8 0.0 2.4
Columbus 46.9 21.5 -3.8 3.0 0.0 1.1
Montreal 44.8 6.0 +2.7 0.2 0.0 0.1
Chivas USA 41.2 13.5 +3.7 1.0 0.0 0.6
FC Dallas 40.9 11.0 +10.6 0.2 0.0 0.6
Philadelphia 39.7 1.3 +0.5 0.1 0.0 0.1
Colorado 37.1 1.7 -- 0.0 0.0 0.0
New England 34.8 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0 0.0
Portland 32.4 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0 0.0
Toronto FC 31.1 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0 0.0
Avg Pts for Playoffs (W) 47.0
Avg Pts for Playoffs (E) 51.5

Teams Eliminated

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

We actually pulled out Philadelphia and FC Dallas from projected elimination this week as they bounced back over 1%. Pretty far away from Effective or Mathematical elimination still. Even Toronto can technically get 50 points at this point.

  • Mathematical Elimination (Unable to make the playoffs in any scenario)
    None
  • Effective Elimination (Unable to make 40 points even with perfect play)
    None
  • Projected Elimination (less than 1% chance of making the playoffs in simulation)
    New England, Toronto FC, Portland

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.

The Galaxy retain the easiest schedule in the league with 6 of their last 8 at home. Chivas and FC Dallas have 2 of the 3 hardest remaining schedules, which increases the degree of difficulty for turning the West into a race. Seattle has an easier schedule and RSL one of the hardest, which should make a run at the 2nd spot easier, but San Jose's light schedule makes a run at the Supporters Shield all the more challenging.

Avg Team Points Matches Pts / Match
Los Angeles 12.537 8 1.567
Houston 13.345 9 1.483
San Jose 13.211 9 1.468
Seattle 14.505 10 1.45
Vancouver 11.485 8 1.436
Columbus 16.912 12 1.409
Chicago 14.021 10 1.402
Philadelphia 16.786 12 1.399
Colorado 12.415 9 1.379
Kansas City 12.329 9 1.37
DC United 14.879 11 1.353
Portland 13.523 10 1.352
Real Salt Lake 10.759 8 1.345
New York 11.773 9 1.308
New England 13.073 10 1.307
Montreal 9.148 7 1.307
FC Dallas 9.134 7 1.305
Toronto FC 12.908 10 1.291
Chivas USA 15.378 12 1.281

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 that we face RSL continue to slowly rise as it looks like Seattle and RSL will divide the 2 and 3 spots between them, with the Galaxy the most likely to break up that party.

Matchup %
Real Salt Lake 49.6%
Los Angeles 26.7%
Vancouver 16.4%
Chivas USA 2.5%
San Jose 2.5%
FC Dallas 1.8%

Cascadia Cup Odds

This is the % chance for each of the Cascadia teams of winning the rivalry cup. Seattle's win over Vancouver represented the first time a team had been shut out in a Cascadia Cup matchup this season. It raised Seattle's odds, but Portland's current lead plus their home-heavy schedule gives them the advantage.

Odds
Portland 86.2%
Seattle 7.3%
Vancouver 2.7%
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