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State of the MLS Run In: 5 Weeks To Go

As the regular season winds down I'm going to be posting a weekly summary of the some of the data and predictions we're generating, which should give you some context going into each week of games.

Previous Week

The Portland Timbers have been quietly climbing up the playoff probability standings over the last few weeks, thanks to their own good run and the collapse of the teams around them. The runs of Chivas USA and the Chicago Fire have largely ended (though don't tell that to Fire fans) and the current picture is that the New York Red Bulls, the Houston Dynamo, and the Timbers are fighting for the final playoff spot. Houston's victory over San Jose and New York's win over FC Dallas ended a bad run for both teams and slowed Portland's momentum. Still, the Timbers have improved their chances again over last week with another big home win. Dallas' loss marks the continuation of a difficult streak (which some clever people predicated when they saw how many minutes their key players were logging) and they are now well behind RSL in the Western Conference.

The big gainers on the week were Houston, who needed a win to keep their head above Portland in the race to unseat New York from that last spot. The biggest fallers were DC United, who could be expected to lose in Seattle, but lost so abjectly that there's now a real possibility they miss out on the playoffs and open up a spot for Houston or Portland.

LA continues to have a greater than 90% chance at the Supporters' Shield and show no signs of the big stumble that would be required for the Seattle Sounders or Real Salt Lake to overtake them. That may be the first trophy (out of 5 possible) that the Sounders have to give up on for this season. This is also the first iteration in which I'm marking the MLS Cup final as a home match for the Galaxy, since it'll be at the Home Depot Center. That gives them a healthy bump in their MLS Cup odds and a proportional decrease for everyone else.

Playoff & Trophy Probabilities

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

Avg Pos Avg Points Playoff % Change Supporters
Shield %
MLS Cup %
Los Angeles 1.12 65.70 100.0 -- 90.01 29.58
Seattle 2.40 59.15 100.0 -- 5.24 13.23
Real Salt Lake 2.70 57.84 100.0 -- 4.75 11.56
FC Dallas 4.29 53.24 100.0 -- 0.00 5.84
Kansas City 6.91 47.85 93.34 -3.82 0.0 9.39
Colorado 7.34 47.50 93.07 -4.65 0.00 3.31
Columbus 7.87 47.17 86.36 -9.98 0.00 6.15
Philadelphia 7.88 46.61 84.16 +7.45 0.00 6.96
DC United 8.54 46.04 87.86 -15.25 0.00 6.50
New York 9.01 44.93 69.30 +8.06 0.0 4.78
Houston 10.07 44.07 54.28 +12.17 0.0 1.78
Portland 10.65 42.10 43.42 +10.18 0.0 0.69
Chicago 13.76 37.85 3.75 +0.86 0.0 0.14
Chivas USA 13.92 37.48 2.51 -7.26 0.0 0.07
San Jose 15.19 35.48 0.58 -2.31 0.0 0.02
Toronto FC 15.53 35.26 0.02 -0.02 0.0 0.0
New England 16.23 33.37 0.0 -0.46 0.0 0.0
Vancouver 17.59 29.65 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0
Avg Pts for Playoffs 44.09

Teams Eliminated

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

Somewhat surprisingly, no teams have yet reached Effective or Mathematical elimination. But that probably ends this week as Vancouver needs a win to avoid Effective elimination and may even be the first team to be Mathematically eliminated if New York picks up points. New England and Toronto will also be Effectively eliminated with a loss.

  • 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)
    San Jose, New England, Toronto FC, Vancouver

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.

Los Angeles now moves to the 2nd most difficult schedule, with 3 of their remaining 5 away from home and one of their home games against RSL. Kansas City's and Philadelphia's relative schedule difficulty might make the difference for two teams currently right next to each other in the table.

Avg Team Points Matches Pts / Match
Colorado 6.495 4 1.624
Vancouver 9.155 6 1.526
DC United 11.978 8 1.497
Kansas City 7.303 5 1.461
New England 7.294 5 1.459
Toronto FC 5.83 4 1.458
New York 8.647 6 1.441
Seattle 7.187 5 1.437
FC Dallas 7.13 5 1.426
Chivas USA 6.894 5 1.379
Chicago 8.117 6 1.353
Portland 8.021 6 1.337
Houston 5.156 4 1.289
Real Salt Lake 8.713 7 1.245
Philadelphia 7.462 6 1.244
San Jose 7.444 6 1.241
Los Angeles 6.093 5 1.219
Columbus 6.084 5 1.217

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).

With FC Dallas dropping off the map and RSL's strong play, it now looks like the Lakers are very likely to be Seattle's playoff opponent from either the #2 or #3 seed.

Matchup %
Real Salt Lake 75.4%
FC Dallas 10.4%
Los Angeles 4.4%
Colorado 3.1%

Cascadia Cup Odds

This is the % chance for each of the Cascadia teams of winning the rivalry cup.

Seattle 64.82
Portland 19.77
Vancouver 15.41

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