State of the MLS Run In: 7 Weeks To Go

Clive Mason

It looks as though Vancouver has completed their headlong slide out of the playoffs, to Colorado's benefit. Meanwhile, New York and KC benefit from a very unimpressive looking pack of Eastern contenders.

Previous Edition

With the midweek games kicking off any moment now, here's where we stand in the 2013 playoff race. The Whitecaps continue their fall from what looked like comfortable playoff position to single digit probability in just a month. I suggested in the last update that Vancouver needs to take advantage of weak opponents in these couple of weeks to right the ship and they did just the opposite, drawing at home to Chivas and losing on the road to FC Dallas.

In the other direction, the Sounders have ridden shorthanded lineups to 4 consecutive 1 goal victories and are now jostling at the top of the Shield odds with Real Salt Lake, the very team they meet this weekend.

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 57.9 99.5 +0.7 89.5 19.3 28.7 93.7
Seattle W 57.3 98.9 +9.7 82.3 11.7 23.9 69.2
Montreal E 57.0 99.7 +8.8 95.3 12.3 24.0 0.0
New York E 54.8 99.0 +18.5 89.1 11.2 7.4 49.7
Los Angeles W 54.4 94.9 -3.2 57.0 10.2 7.5 42.4
Sporting KC E 53.8 98.8 +16.1 85.0 11.0 3.1 41.9
Portland W 53.6 91.8 +2.7 51.2 10.4 5.0 40.2
Colorado W 50.7 66.8 +11.1 14.3 4.5 0.3 13.4
FC Dallas 48.9 39.9 +7.2 5.4 1.4 0.1 4.6
Philadelphia E 47.8 64.0 -4.5 11.8 2.7 0.0 8.6
New England E 47.5 61.7 -7.8 9.9 3.4 0.0 9.9
Houston 46.6 47.3 -20.3 6.0 0.9 0.0 4.0
Chicago 45.3 28.4 -9.3 3.4 0.8 0.0 2.7
San Jose 44.7 5.2 -2.4 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.2
Vancouver 43.3 3.2 -24.5 0.2 0.1 0.0 0.0
Columbus 39.2 1.1 -1.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1
Chivas USA 33.7 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Toronto FC 30.5 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
DC United 21.6 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0 0.0 19.4
Avg Pts for Playoffs (E) 47.7
Avg Pts for Playoffs (W) 50.6

The biggest gain was by New York, who benefited not only from their big away win over Houston, but from the collapse of the borderline playoff teams in the East. Philadelphia, New England, Houston, and Chicago all dropped in the odds and the prediction for the playoff cutoff in the East dropped a full two points to 47.7 in the last couple of weeks, to the benefit of New York and Sporting KC who are cementing themselves as the only reliable teams in the East.

Other than those two, the big riser was Colorado, who picked up a respectable away win at the Galaxy and made themselves the favorites for the last playoff team in the West. The East/West gap has now reached the point where we're predicting that the last team to not make the playoffs in the West — FC Dallas — will have more points than the bottom two Eastern playoff teams.

The Galaxy took a big hit in the Supporters Shield race with that home loss and now it looks more like a three team race between Seattle, RSL, and Montreal, with RSL getting the benefit of an easier schedule.

Teams Eliminated

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

Our first mathematical elimination! DC United will definitely not be making the playoffs this year. Everyone else technically has a shot. Toronto joins the effectively eliminated as they max out at 41 points, which won't be enough even in the weak east. And Chivas maxes out at 43, which definitely won't be enough in the West. No new teams in projected elimination — Columbus is holding on at a 1.1% chance to make the playoffs.

  • Mathematical Elimination (Unable to make the playoffs in any scenario)
    DC United (new),
  • Effective Elimination (Unable to make 45 points even with perfect play)
    DC United, Toronto FC (new), Chivas USA (new)
  • Projected Elimination (less than 1% chance of making the playoffs in simulation)
    DC United, Chivas USA, Toronto FC

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.

After about a month of LA having the easiest projected schedule, they give up the title to their fellow megalopolis New York. The Galaxy got two home games out of the way and the rest of their schedule is a little more balanced. Meanwhile, 4 of New York's 6 remaining games are at home, including three home games against mediocre (or just bad, in Toronto's case) East opponents.

Seattle moves up to the second hardest schedule after gutting out a lot of points against the soft part of their remaining schedule. Now the Sounders face a run of RSL, the Galaxy, the Red Bulls, and the Rapids away. If they can get through that gauntlet in good shape, they'll have proven they really deserve to be Shield contenders.

The actual hardest schedule is Vancouver's, which is why even though they're only 5 points out of the playoffs in the standings the sim is giving them almost no shot to get back in the playoff picture. If they have any shot, a weird two game home-and-home series with Colorado to end the season may decide the final playoff spot in the West.

Avg Team Points Matches Pts / Match
New York 9.161 6 1.527
Los Angeles 10.523 7 1.503
Houston 10.392 7 1.485
Toronto FC 10.345 7 1.478
DC United 10.294 7 1.471
Portland 10.26 7 1.466
Philadelphia 8.56 6 1.427
Montreal 11.297 8 1.412
Real Salt Lake 8.37 6 1.395
New England 9.616 7 1.374
San Jose 8.21 6 1.368
Colorado 8.111 6 1.352
Chicago 10.802 8 1.35
Chivas USA 8.062 6 1.344
Sporting KC 7.966 6 1.328
Columbus 7.919 6 1.32
FC Dallas 9.015 7 1.288
Seattle 10.284 8 1.285
Vancouver 8.024 7 1.146

Cascadia Cup Odds

All quiet on the Cascadia Cup front since the last update. And there won't be any real action until the first weeks of October, when the Cup will be decided in a flurry of Cascadia matches. For now the odds just shift based on the form of the teams, and that means Seattle's odds climb a couple of percentage points while Vancouver's fall a couple.

Odds
Seattle 80.5%
Vancouver 13.6%
Portland 5.9%
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