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State of the MLS Run In: 9 Weeks to Go

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Now the playoff race is getting really real as we hit 9 weeks to the end of the regular season. This week's edition is dedicated to Dylan.

Jeff Gross

Previous Edition

Single digits! It's single digit weeks to go all up in here. The season is fast swirling around the toilet bowl headed for the awaiting P-trap of the playoffs.

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 % Change Top 3 % MLS Cup % Shield % CCL %
Seattle W 60.2 100.0 +0.7 92.7 15.5 39.2 81.5
Los Angeles W 58.3 99.9 +3.8 84.6 17.0 23.6 61.5
DC United E 57.9 99.9 +0.3 98.5 18.0 17.1 73.4
Sporting KC E 56.0 99.7 -0.3 96.4 12.2 7.1 50.6
Real Salt Lake W 55.6 99.2 +0.2 60.0 9.3 6.9 32.6
FC Dallas W 55.2 99.1 +3.8 57.7 12.8 5.9 34.8
Toronto FC E 48.5 82.3 -7.2 45.8 3.7 0.2 --
Vancouver W 46.9 63.8 -- 4.4 1.9 0.1 --
Columbus E 46.3 68.2 +4.0 21.0 3.2 -- 3.7
New York E 45.6 62.8 +0.9 20.1 3.0 -- 4.1
Philadelphia 43.6 42.1 +6.3 10.1 1.7 -- 55.9
Portland 43.1 22.0 -4.4 0.4 0.8 -- 0.8
New England 42.9 31.8 +6.4 6.8 0.5 -- 0.7
Colorado 40.8 9.5 -4.3 0.1 0.1 -- 0.1
Chicago 39.4 10.3 -5.3 1.3 0.2 -- 0.2
San Jose 38.9 6.2 +0.3 0.1 0.2 -- 0.2
Houston 36.7 2.8 -5.3 0.1 -- -- --
Chivas USA 34.7 0.4 -0.1 -- -- -- --
Montreal 28.1 0.0 -0.1 -- -- -- --
Avg Pts for Playoffs (W) 47.8
Avg Pts for Playoffs (E) 45.5

The only significant change in the order of finish is LA rocketing up to the #2 contender behind Seattle, thanks to their come-from-behind win over Colorado (which was inconvenient for Sounders fans in a lot of ways). And DC United's stomping of Sporting in KC pushes the up to 3rd and KC all the way down to 4th, from where their Shield odds are starting to get flimsy. If Seattle's road win over the Timbers is an indication of a return to form, it's entirely likely that the Shield will be decided by the two back-to-back games against the Galaxy to end the season.

We're predicting the same 10 playoff teams as the last update, and in fact the set of projected playoff teams hasn't changed in over three weeks. The closest team to breaking up the private party is Philadelphia, but both Columbus and New York have been playing well, which hasn't given them much of an opportunity to gain ground. In the West the top 4 are now all more than 99% likely to make the postseason, so it's likely just a question of whether anyone can pass up Vancouver for the 5th and final spot. Colorado's home loss gave an opening to Portland to make a run, but then their home loss reset the board. I'd still give the edge to the Whitecaps thanks to their stingy defense and ability to grind out road draws.

Teams Eliminated

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

Still no mathematical or effective eliminations, as even Montreal can make 47 points in the absurdly implausible event that they win their last 10 games of the season. And only the Impact and Chivas are below a 2% chance, though Houston is hovering on the edge of projected elimination and will probably get there if they lose to Sporting this week.

  • Mathematical Elimination (Unable to make the playoffs in any scenario)
    None
  • Effective Elimination (Unable to make 44(E)/47(W) points even with perfect play)
    None
  • Projected Elimination (less than 2% chance of making the playoffs in simulation)
    Chivas TBD, Montreal

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 top 5 easiest schedules are still in the East, with the easiest being the Union's, which coincides nicely with a good run of form that could get them into playoff contention after a difficult (and unlucky) start to the season. Seattle's at the hard end of the spectrum with 8 of 10 remaining games against current playoff teams, while LA has the easiest West schedule with 6 of their 11 left at home and only 2 road games left against playoff teams. That'll keep the Shield race interesting.

Avg Team Points Matches Pts / Match
Philadelphia 13.368 9 1.485
Toronto FC 16.137 11 1.467
Sporting KC 13.04 9 1.449
Columbus 12.869 9 1.43
Houston 14.23 10 1.423
Los Angeles 15.631 11 1.421
New England 14.132 10 1.413
Real Salt Lake 12.713 9 1.413
Vancouver 14.058 10 1.406
Chicago 13.964 10 1.396
New York 13.881 10 1.388
Montreal 13.716 10 1.372
Chivas USA 13.683 10 1.368
Seattle 13.647 10 1.365
Portland 11.984 9 1.332
San Jose 14.48 11 1.316
DC United 12.767 10 1.277
Colorado 11.413 9 1.268
FC Dallas 11.129 9 1.237

Cascadia Cup Odds

Big movement in the Cascadia Cup after Seattle's road win over Portland this weekend. The Timbers are eliminated from contention and Seattle now has a 1 point lead over Vancouver. The Whitecaps have 2 games in hand (a home and away series against Portland), but the fact that the final match between Seattle and Vancouver is in Seattle gives them a slight edge and the Sounders are now slightly favored to take the Cup.

Odds
Seattle 53.9%
Vancouver 46.1%
Portland :(

Seattle's First Round Matchup

Real Salt Lake has edged into position as the most likely first round matchup, as they've fallen away from the 2nd spot in the conference. That would certainly be a familiar pairing.

Odds
Real Salt Lake 30.4%
FC Dallas 27.8%
Los Angeles 17.0%
Vancouver 16.2%
Portland 5.2%
Colorado 1.8%
San Jose 1.3%