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State of the MLS Run In: 11 Weeks To Go

Frankie Hejduk won't be kissing the MLS Cup again this season, but Landon Donovan's going to be looking for a second date
Frankie Hejduk won't be kissing the MLS Cup again this season, but Landon Donovan's going to be looking for a second date

Previous Week

(Update: Tweed Thornton of Hot Time In Old Town caught some funny results with the Chicago Fire probabilities and it turns out that I'd misentered a result earlier in the season for a Chicago/Kansas City game. And in fixing that I found a Portland/Montreal result I'd also misentered. Whoops. I've updated the data below with the corrected values. The major upshot is that KC is much less likely to win the Shield than I had shown previously, and Chicago is much safer from a run from Columbus. Sorry about that.)

Despite the ESPN announcers perversely going on about Chivas making a run at the playoffs despite a heavy loss to the Galaxy, the jockeying at this point continues to be more about seeding than about the playoff participants. Chicago is starting to run away with the last slot in the East. That's largely at the expense of Columbus, though a run from Montreal gives them a shot at being the beneficiaries if the Fire falter.

The New York win over Houston has given them an inside track on a Top 3 spot in the West at the expense of DC United (who the crunchy power rankings have always been suspicious of). Otherwise the Top3 predictions remain the same. The Wooden Spoon race may come down to the wire between Portland and Toronto, as we project them to finish within fractions of a point of each other.

One interesting Sounders-related nugget is that they have the 3rd best chance of winning MLS Cup despite projecting to 7th in overall points. I haven't dug deeply into the numbers to figure out why, but I suspect it's because Seattle is generally a very good road team and a team that rarely loses (tied for 2nd fewest losses) so have a better shot of pulling out road results and/or going to penalties if necessary (what exactly happens when they get to penalties isn't something the simulation covers, mercifully).

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.

Avg Points Playoff % Change Top 3 % Supporters
Shield %
MLS Cup %
San Jose 63.4 100.0 -- 99.6 64.5 19.0
Kansas City 58.0 97.7 +0.1 74.4 12.7 11.9
Houston 57.2 97.7 -1.4 73.2 8.7 12.1
New York 56.2 96.2 +1.3 61.7 4.3 6.8
Real Salt Lake 55.2 99.4 -0.2 73.5 1.9 7.6
Seattle 54.5 98.6 -0.8 65.7 2.5 12.1
DC United 54.5 89.9 -6.4 43.3 2.0 7.5
Chicago 54.5 88.9 *** 42.7 2.6 6.7
Vancouver 51.8 98.2 +4.8 34.7 0.6 4.8
Los Angeles 50.6 93.8 +8.5 25.7 0.1 9.9
Columbus 47.3 25.3 -17.0 4.7 0.1 1.3
Montreal 43.2 3.3 ** 0.1 0.0 0.0
Chivas USA 41.3 9.8 -6.8 0.7 0.0 0.0
Philadelphia 39.0 0.8 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.0
Colorado 37.5 1.7 -3.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
New England 35.9 0.2 -2.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
FC Dallas 35.4 0.4 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Toronto FC 33.3 0.0 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Portland 31.9 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0 0.0
Avg Pts for Playoffs (W) 48.5
Avg Pts for Playoffs (E) 51.5

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)
    New England (new), Philadelphia (new), 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.

The West playoff race is rendered even less exciting by the fact that the Galaxy have the easiest remaining schedule, with 6 of their final 9 games at home. They're on a good enough run that such an easy schedule gives them a good shot at a top 3 spot, even though every team ahead of them has points and games in hand. The toughest schedule among the playoff teams belongs to Kansas City, which will make their run at San Jose for the Supporters Shield tougher than it may look.

Avg Team Points Matches Pts / Match
Los Angeles 13.72 9 1.524
Houston 15.018 10 1.502
Seattle 16.36 11 1.487
San Jose 14.551 10 1.455
Chicago 15.856 11 1.441
Vancouver 14.296 10 1.43
Real Salt Lake 12.64 9 1.404
New York 14.034 10 1.403
DC United 16.696 12 1.391
Colorado 13.825 10 1.382
Kansas City 13.816 10 1.382
Toronto FC 16.53 12 1.377
Columbus 19.21 14 1.372
Philadelphia 17.497 13 1.346
Montreal 10.673 8 1.334
New England 14.098 11 1.282
Portland 15.304 12 1.275
Chivas USA 16.506 13 1.27
FC Dallas 10.805 9 1.201

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). Real Salt Lake continues to be the strong favorite, with LA in second. Our best chance to face a team we haven't already seen (and been beaten by) in the playoffs is Vancouver.

Matchup %
Real Salt Lake 43.3%
Los Angeles 27.9%
Vancouver 23.3%
San Jose 3.4%

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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