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State of the MLS Run In: 6 Weeks to Go

CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Robbie Keane #14 of the Los Angeles Galaxy poses for a portrait following the 2011 MLS Cup at The Home Depot Center on November 20, 2011 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 20: Robbie Keane #14 of the Los Angeles Galaxy poses for a portrait following the 2011 MLS Cup at The Home Depot Center on November 20, 2011 in Carson, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Previous Week

Thanks to the international break, we skipped a week of SotRI and now we're down to a mere half dozen weeks remaining in the regular season. And some teams are down to only 4 games remaining. Coincidentally, those are two of the teams trying to make a run at the playoffs and their games not-in-hand are confusing a lot of observers into giving them better chances than they have. Montreal has a less than 1% chance and Dallas kept their hopes alive with a last second winner against plummeting Vancouver, but still have only a 13% chance to make it. The most interesting race continues to be the one between Columbus and DC United for the last spot in the East and after a Columbus loss and United win we're back to Columbus being on the outside looking in.

The Galaxy have finally nosed ahead of Real Salt Lake for the third spot in the West, which obviously has big implications for both teams as well as for the Sounders' likely first round playoff opponent. The Supporters Shield race is nearly wrapped up, and if some team does make a historic run to steal it from San Jose (who'd also have to do a lot of losing) it'll almost certainly be a team from the East. Seattle is the only Western team with a shot and at under 3% that shot's pretty slim.

Toronto is running away with the Wooden Spoon, which after the first couple of months of the season looked inevitable but was a closer race up until the last few weeks.

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 65.8 100.0 -- 100.0 86.3 20.0
Chicago 59.1 99.2 +5.3 87.5 3.4 11.5
Kansas City 58.8 99.5 -0.1 83.7 5.0 12.4
New York 58.3 99.4 +2.0 83.3 2.6 8.8
Seattle 58.1 100.0 -- 93.9 2.6 14.7
Houston 54.6 94.4 +8.8 31.1 0.0 7.2
Los Angeles 53.9 100.0 -- 61.6 0.0 15.1
Real Salt Lake 53.3 100.0 -- 44.2 0.0 5.4
DC United 51.9 65.6 +17.9 9.5 0.0 2.3
Columbus 50.6 41.2 -32.4 5.1 0.0 1.6
Vancouver 45.2 85.0 -1.8 0.2 0.0 0.8
Montreal 44.4 0.7 -1.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
FC Dallas 40.7 12.7 +6.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Philadelphia 37.0 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0 0.0
Chivas USA 35.9 1.6 -3.9 0.0 0.0 0.0
Colorado 35.8 0.7 +0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
New England 33.8 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0 0.0
Portland 33.3 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0 0.0
Toronto FC 27.4 0.0 -- 0.0 0.0 0.0
Avg Pts for Playoffs (W) 45.4
Avg Pts for Playoffs (E) 52.2

Teams Eliminated

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

Toronto and New England are the first teams to be officially eliminated from 2012 playoff contention, but it's notable that both would still be mathematically alive in the West. Nobody joins the ranks of the effectively eliminated (which is the same two teams), but Montreal enters Projected Elimination with a less than 1% chance at the playoffs.

  • Mathematical Elimination (Unable to make the playoffs in any scenario)
    New England (new), Toronto FC (new)
  • Effective Elimination (Unable to make 41(W)/47(E) points even with perfect play)
    Toronto FC, New England
  • Projected Elimination (less than 1% chance of making the playoffs in simulation)
    Montreal (new), Colorado, Philadelphia, New England, 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.

Vancouver retains the easiest schedule, but they need to start taking advantage of it quickly if they want to put to rest any concerns about FC Dallas overtaking them. Seattle moves into a top 3 schedule with a lot of home matches coming up, though the long trip to Honduras isn't included in these rankings.

Avg Team Points Matches Pts / Match
Vancouver 8.484 5 1.697
Houston 7.775 5 1.555
Seattle 9.099 6 1.517
Colorado 7.402 5 1.48
Real Salt Lake 7.211 5 1.442
New York 8.606 6 1.434
Columbus 8.571 6 1.429
Los Angeles 6.923 5 1.385
Philadelphia 10.988 8 1.373
Chicago 8.23 6 1.372
San Jose 8.218 6 1.37
Montreal 5.462 4 1.366
Chivas USA 9.493 7 1.356
Toronto FC 6.511 5 1.302
DC United 7.703 6 1.284
New England 6.07 5 1.214
FC Dallas 4.789 4 1.197
Portland 6.815 6 1.136
Kansas City 6.731 6 1.122

Seattle's First Round Opponent

LA has moved ahead of RSL as they look nearly unbeatable these days. Kind of a bad time for them to be peaking if you're not a Galaxy fan. And it looks more and more likely that we'll be reprising the 2010 playoffs, but this time the Sounders trounced LA in the regular season.

Matchup %
Los Angeles 53.9%
Real Salt Lake 38.7%
Vancouver 6.1%

Cascadia Cup Odds

The draw at Portland kept the cup out of the Timbers' hands and now their home schedule is complete. Still, their 3 point lead gives them the edge as we go into the final 3 games.

Portland 68.9%
Seattle 30.6%
Vancouver 0.5%

Champions League Odds


Seattle's odds are pretty stable, which is a bit of a surprise given how many East teams have nosed ahead of Seattle in the final projected standings. Kansas City is irrelevant since they've already secured a spot, but Chicago and New York are both in position to pick up any extra slots due to league position. Seattle's best chance is to just make the final, but in the simulation they get in as the 4th team pretty often. Their biggest advantage is that there's a pretty significant gap between Seattle and Houston in 6th.

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