State of the MLS Run In: 9 Weeks To Go

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

In this edition Vancouver falls, and they fall hard. Montreal claws their way back towards the top, but it looks like the Supporters Shield race will come down to two teams out West.

Previous Edition

Down to single digits weeks and this playoff race remains tight. That's in stark comparison to the same time last year, when we basically already knew the playoff teams and the only question left was the seeding.

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, earning a (US) CCL bid, and winning the MLS Cup based on simulating the remainder of the season 10,000 times. A fuller explanation of the methodology is available here.

Avg Pts Playoff % Diff Top 3 % MLS Cup % Shield % CCL %
Real Salt Lake W 56.9 98.8 +0.9 85.7 21.5 30.6 94.0
Los Angeles W 56.4 98.1 +13.0 82.9 14.4 29.5 67.9
Montreal E 53.5 90.9 +16.5 71.9 7.6 9.4 0.0
Seattle W 53.5 89.1 +1.5 52.6 8.7 10.0 39.6
Portland W 53.5 89.1 -2.2 56.2 10.8 11.1 44.5
Sporting KC E 51.3 82.7 -12.3 53.6 8.3 1.9 28.3
New York E 51.3 80.5 -11.8 50.5 5.8 2.5 26.7
Houston E 50.2 67.6 -4.7 37.6 3.7 1.8 18.4
New England E 50.1 69.5 +27.9 37.4 7.1 1.4 22.9
Philadelphia 50.0 68.5 -11.4 34.5 4.6 0.7 16.7
Colorado W 49.3 55.7 +17.3 12.8 3.9 0.7 11.6
FC Dallas 47.4 32.7 +5.5 4.6 1.1 0.2 3.9
Chicago 47.4 37.7 -3.9 14.1 1.5 0.2 6.9
Vancouver 46.9 27.7 -40.6 4.5 1.0 0.2 0.0
San Jose 44.1 7.6 +3.5 0.6 0.1 0.0 0.5
Columbus 40.6 2.6 -0.3 0.4 0.1 0.0 0.2
Toronto FC 31.6 0.0 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Chivas USA 29.6 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
DC United 23.1 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0 0.0 18.1
Avg Pts for Playoffs (W) 49.9
Avg Pts for Playoffs (E) 49.1

Note that in this update I'm simulating the USOC final based on team performance (and home field advantage, etc) rather than just giving each team a 50/50 chance to advance. Which is why DC United's chance of a CCL spot dropped rather dramatically from around 50% to a more reasonable 18%. That trickles down to give the top teams better odds.

In terms of playoff odds, Montreal saw a big jump as they got two wins and all of the teams around them in playoff position in the East got beaten. . some destroyed (some destroyed by Montreal). But the biggest jump is by New England, who not only benefited from the bloodbath at the top of the East, but they had a lot more room to rise. Last week we had them out of a playoff spot and now they're nearly 70% likely to make the postseason, mostly at the expense of Philadelphia — the team they played out of the park this weekend.

In the other direction, Vancouver have tumbled far after only one win in their last six and two of the few home losses in the entire league in the last month or so. Their next three games are against struggling teams and they need to go on a run against them to get some momentum back in their playoff race.

Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles are pulling away a bit in the Supporters Shield competition, with basically an equal chance of finishing on top and a better than 50/50 chance that one of those two win. RSL probably isn't much of a surprise given that they currently lead the standings (if you ignore games in hand). LA is further back but their odds make more sense when you get a look at their remaining schedule (more on that in the strength of schedule section).

Teams Eliminated

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

This is the first update with eliminated teams added. I won't belabor the point, but mathematical elimination is really hard. Chivas USA isn't even mathematically eliminated from winning the Supporters Shield, much less the playoffs. I've made the cutoff for Effective Elimination 45 points — since I'm pretty confident the playoff cutoff will be at least that this season in both Conferences — and that means DCU is the first team eliminated by that standard, since they can max out at 41 if they win out.

  • Mathematical Elimination (Unable to make the playoffs in any scenario)
    None
  • Effective Elimination (Unable to make 45 points even with perfect play)
    DC United (new)
  • Projected Elimination (less than 1% chance of making the playoffs in simulation)
    DC United (new), Chivas USA (new), Toronto FC (new)

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.

LA already had the easiest remaining schedule in the last update and then after getting a win over RSL and an away win over Vancouver out of the way it's gotten even more extreme, to the point that the gap between them and the team in second is the largest I've ever seen. Six of their remaining nine games are at home and one of those three remaining away games is at DC United. So they should be expected to rack up some points over the next few weeks, which is why they're so competitive in the Supporters Shield predictions at this point.

Elsewhere, Colorado and Vancouver have the toughest schedules and they may be working through those schedules fighting each other for the last remaining playoff spot in the West after Seattle has come close to locking down at least a 4th place finish. Montreal also has a tough schedule, which is probably a lot of why we're projecting them to not be as competitive as the top West teams in the Shield race even though they're currently at the top by points per game.

Avg Team Points Matches Pts / Match
Los Angeles 14.781 9 1.642
New York 11.943 8 1.493
Portland 13.076 9 1.453
Real Salt Lake 10.08 7 1.44
Houston 14.369 10 1.437
Sporting KC 11.476 8 1.434
Toronto FC 12.795 9 1.422
Philadelphia 11.339 8 1.417
New England 12.74 9 1.416
Seattle 15.374 11 1.398
Columbus 12.575 9 1.397
DC United 12.419 9 1.38
FC Dallas 10.907 8 1.363
Chicago 13.606 10 1.361
San Jose 10.686 8 1.336
Chivas USA 11.436 9 1.271
Montreal 12.665 10 1.266
Vancouver 11.143 9 1.238
Colorado 9.604 8 1.2

Cascadia Cup Odds

Well, this weekend was certainly a massive one in the Cascadia Cup race. Seattle's close home win cements them as firm favorites and knocks the Cup-defending Timbers down behind the Whitecaps. The schedule is now perfectly balanced for the rest of the season, with each team having two remaining games — one home and one away. Seattle can clinch the cup with a home win over the 'Caps on October 9 no matter what happens in the other games. For the Timbers to defend their title they need to beat Vancouver away, beat Seattle at Jeld-Wen, and have the Sounders not beat the Whitecaps — all results that are certainly possible, but needing them all to come off explains their long odds.

Odds
Seattle 79.2%
Vancouver 15.4%
Portland 5.4%
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