State of the MLS Run In: 5 Weeks To Go

It looks like there'll be one more playoff run for this old Sounder - USA TODAY Sports

The Red Bull flavored cream rises to the top in the East. And the Philadelphia whey sinks away from the playoff redline. In the West, it's a Rave Green world.

Previous Edition

In this edition the Houston Dynamo enjoy an epic swing back into the playoff places. Two weeks ago they were about even odds to make the playoffs and now they're nearly 90%. They earned that jump with a big away win at Philadelphia — the very team most likely to compete with them for a playoff spot — and a thorough thrashing of Chivas USA at home. That home loss was Philadelphia's only match in the last two weeks, but it was important enough that they dropped from about 60% to just over 30% to give them the biggest drop of this update. Now they face Sporting KC on the road this week.

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 %
Seattle W 58.7 99.9 +1.0 95.6 16.3 54.4 78.6
New York E 55.8 99.8 +0.8 95.7 14.4 15.9 54.4
Sporting KC E 55.5 99.8 +1.0 94.6 15.4 10.2 51.8
Portland W 54.4 96.4 +4.6 69.7 13.1 9.0 43.5
Real Salt Lake W 54.2 95.6 -3.9 64.1 12.4 4.2 85.2
Los Angeles W 53.0 91.2 -3.7 47.4 8.6 3.5 25.3
Montreal E 52.2 93.4 -6.3 65.0 5.8 2.5 --
Colorado W 50.8 71.5 +4.7 17.5 4.3 0.2 10.5
Houston E 50.2 88.8 +41.5 30.4 4.1 0.2 13.2
FC Dallas 48.0 23.4 -16.5 4.0 0.6 -- 2.3
New England E 47.0 55.4 -6.3 8.6 2.7 -- 7.8
Vancouver 46.5 13.2 +10.0 1.3 0.5 -- --
San Jose 46.3 8.9 +3.7 0.4 0.1 -- 0.5
Philadelphia 45.9 32.7 -31.3 3.8 1.1 -- 3.5
Chicago 45.5 23.8 -4.6 1.8 0.5 -- 1.8
Columbus 43.0 6.4 +5.3 0.2 0.1 -- 0.4
Chivas USA 32.4 -- -- -- -- -- --
Toronto FC 27.8 -- -- -- -- -- --
DC United 20.7 -- -- -- -- -- 21.3
Avg Pts for Playoffs (W) 50.6
Avg Pts for Playoffs (E) 47.9

For Sounders fans, the most important stat will be that Shield %. Seattle's projected to finish top of the table and by a relatively large 3 points, giving them better than even odds to win the Shield. That might seem a little optimistic given that the Red Bulls are currently leading on points after their good run and still have a pretty generous schedule, but Seattle's two games in hand loom large. With only 4 games left in the Red Bulls season, the Sounders have one and a half time as much season to pick up points. And given their 1.79 PPG rate over the season and an even better recent form, it seems likely they can pick up a couple of points in two games to re-establish the lead in the Shield race. The rest of the Shield standings are falling off quickly after New York's 15%. Sporting KC and Portland still have decent chances and then it's all long shots.

Both New York and Sporting KC continue their momentum to form a clear top tier at the top of the East that's now projected to outperform everyone in the West outside of Seattle. Montreal has drifted back to hover at the edge of the top 3 but they have enough of a buffer that they're still odds on for the last top 3 spot despite their form.

In the West, Colorado is consolidating their hold on the last playoff spot thanks to their win over fellow contenders FC Dallas and Dallas' ensuing loss to New York. Now the Rapids get a long break before hosting Seattle.

Teams Eliminated

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

Chivas and Toronto confirm what we've known for most of the season and join the ranks of the Mathematically eliminated. Now that the actual playoff line in the West has reached our conservative estimate of 45, I'll retarget effective elimination at 48 there. That doesn't actually change the list of eliminated teams as everyone outside the bottom 3 still has a decent shot, so also no new teams in projected elimination. I expect we'll start getting more eliminations in the next update if Columbus and San Jose don't start racking up wins.

  • Mathematical Elimination (Unable to make the playoffs in any scenario)
    Chivas USA (new), Toronto FC (new), DC United
  • Effective Elimination (Unable to make 45(E)/48(W) points even with perfect play)
    DC United, Toronto FC, Chivas USA
  • 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.

New York gives up the top spot after riding consecutive home games against nonplayoff teams to Shield contention. Now DC United have the easiest schedule on paper, not that it will do them any good as they're close to locking in the first overall pick in the next Superdraft. Then Portland has the next easiest, and they're starting to look destined for a first round matchup with Real Salt Lake, which I will call the Mutual Admiration Society Bowl.

At the other end Vancouver gives up the hardest schedule to Montreal, who don't look like they'll be going into the playoffs with any momentum. But the Whitecaps still have the third hardest and they (and the Crew with the second hardest) aren't getting any favors in a tenuous playoff run. Seattle had the second hardest in the last update but getting that game in LA out of the way lightened things up a bit, and after this week's game against New York I suspect the schedule will drift toward the middle.

Avg Team Points Matches Pts / Match
DC United 7.588 5 1.518
Portland 7.416 5 1.483
Houston 7.387 5 1.477
Toronto FC 5.889 4 1.472
Los Angeles 7.291 5 1.458
New York 5.712 4 1.428
Chicago 7.09 5 1.418
San Jose 5.578 4 1.395
Real Salt Lake 5.532 4 1.383
FC Dallas 6.875 5 1.375
Philadelphia 6.788 5 1.358
Sporting KC 6.718 5 1.344
Chivas USA 5.337 4 1.334
Colorado 5.312 4 1.328
New England 6.543 5 1.309
Seattle 7.741 6 1.29
Vancouver 6.443 5 1.289
Columbus 5.141 4 1.285
Montreal 7.243 6 1.207

Cascadia Cup Odds

Still no Cascadia action until the Cup is decided in a couple of weeks. Vancouver picks up a few percentage points just based on recent form, mostly at Seattle's expense. But the Whitecaps' Cup run depends on getting a good result in Seattle on October 9.

Odds
Seattle 75.7%
Vancouver 17.5%
Portland 6.8%

Seattle's First Round Matchup

With the Sounders well locked into a playoff spot, we start to wonder who they'll have to face. The currently most likely result is that they'll play the winner of the 4/5 matchup, which is favored to be the Galaxy.

Odds
Los Angeles 24.8%
Colorado 22.6%
Real Salt Lake 21.4%
Portland 18.1%
FC Dallas 6.3%
Vancouver 4.1%
San Jose 2.5%
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