State of the MLS Run In: 12 Weeks To Go

Seattle is three times as likely as LA to get this kind of photo in 2012. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

I'm going to start these a little sooner this season, in part because nothing else is going on this week (kidding!) and in part because the playoff race — at least the question of who is and who isn't in the playoffs — is resolving remarkably early this year. If we define a team as being in contention for a playoff spot if it has between a 20 and 80% chance of making it in, then our first State of the Run In last season in late August had 4 teams in contention — DC United, Houston, New York, and Chivas USA. DC and Chivas both fell off hard in the stretch and the Dynamo and Red Bulls made it in. No team with a greater than 80% chance at that point missed the playoffs and no team with a less than 20% chance made it.

I'm running the simulation 3 weeks earlier this season, but already there are only two teams in contention — Chicago and Columbus. Those two would seem to be duking it out for a single playoff spot in the East and the Western playoff teams look largely decided. It would take a dramatic run by Montreal or Chivas or an epic collapse by the Galaxy or New York to shake up the playoff roster at this point.

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. The playoff % change is based on the probabilities I ran at the halfway point of the season. The biggest leaps since that run are Houston in the East — who've charged way up into Shield contention and created a scenario in which it's unlikely that both Columbus and Chicago can make it in (resulting in a reduction in both teams' odds) — and Los Angeles in the West — who charged up from an even worse position almost entirely at the expense of Colorado, who now look to be out of it.

Avg Points Playoff % Change Top 3 % Supporters
Shield %
MLS Cup %
San Jose 62.0 100.0 +0.1 98.7 40.3 18.3
Kansas City 60.4 99.6 +0.3 90.2 27.3 14.1
Houston 58.6 99.1 +49.2 85.0 15.3 15.2
Real Salt Lake 56.1 99.6 +1.2 82.9 3.2 8.8
Seattle 55.9 99.4 +16.3 80.4 5.8 15.1
DC United 56.0 96.3 -1.7 64.0 5.0 9.5
New York 54.5 94.9 -1.3 47.7 2.7 5.6
Vancouver 50.3 93.4 -2.5 24.3 0.2 3.9
Los Angeles 48.4 85.3 +65.2 12.6 0.1 5.4
Chicago 48.0 60.9 -10.8 6.6 0.0 1.5
Columbus 47.3 42.3 -23.0 6.1 0.1 1.7
Montreal 44.3 13.9 +12.1 0.4 0.0 0.3
Chivas USA 41.1 16.6 -3.5 1.1 0.0 0.6
New England 38.4 2.4 -18.9 0.0 0.0 0.0
Colorado 38.2 4.9 -54.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Philadelphia 37.2 1.4 -5.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
FC Dallas 33.8 0.6 +0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Toronto FC 33.4 0.2 +0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Portland 33.2 0.2 -20.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Avg Pts for Playoffs (W) 43.1
Avg Pts for Playoffs (E) 47.5

Teams Eliminated

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

  • Mathematical Elimination (Unable to make the playoffs in any scenario)
  • Effective Elimination (Unable to make 40 points even with perfect play)
  • Projected Elimination (less than 1% chance of making the playoffs in simulation)
    FC Dallas, 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.

Avg Team Points Matches Pts / Match
Los Angeles 15.097 10 1.51
San Jose 16.153 11 1.468
Kansas City 15.903 11 1.446
Vancouver 15.886 11 1.444
Houston 15.844 11 1.44
New York 15.803 11 1.437
Seattle 17.121 12 1.427
Toronto FC 16.702 12 1.392
DC United 18.058 13 1.389
Columbus 19.413 14 1.387
Chicago 16.602 12 1.383
Philadelphia 19.14 14 1.367
New England 16.251 12 1.354
Colorado 14.87 11 1.352
Real Salt Lake 13.454 10 1.345
Montreal 11.631 9 1.292
Chivas USA 17.98 14 1.284
FC Dallas 12.796 10 1.28
Portland 15.345 12 1.279

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). Right now there's even odds we'll be getting a rematch with Real Salt Lake.

Matchup %
Real Salt Lake 49.1%
Los Angeles 19.4%
Vancouver 18.5%
San Jose 8.1%
Chivas USA 3.3%

Cascadia Cup Odds

This is the % chance for each of the Cascadia teams of winning the rivalry cup. This season the schedule is quite unbalanced with Seattle only getting 2 of their 6 matches at home and Portland getting 4. That plus Portland's 4 points in the bag give them big odds to win this season, though I think these might be too dependent on those first games.

Portland 80.2%
Vancouver 15.3%
Seattle 4.5%
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