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State of the MLS Run In: 4 Weeks to Go

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After threatening to pull away, the Timbers drop back down into a tight race with the Whitecaps in the West. In the East, Philadelphia's season is threatening to be as over as their Open Cup campaign.

Mauro!
Mauro!
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Edition

It's lemon-booty time in Cascadia. After an awful run that looked like it was going to drop them out of playoff contention, Vancouver picked up a timely win, which — combined with a come-from-ahead road loss for Portland — has turned the race for the final playoff spot in the West back into a coin-flip. Vancouver's schedule is a little easier. Portland's the better team (except in defense). Who will survive?!

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 %
Los Angeles W 63.6 100.0 -- 99.7 30.0 55.3 99.2
Seattle W 62.3 100.0 -- 99.9 13.8 44.0 100.0
DC United E 57.1 100.0 -- 100.0 13.2 0.6 94.9
Real Salt Lake W 56.0 100.0 -- 77.5 11.2 0.1 54.6
FC Dallas W 53.7 99.7 +1.5 22.7 8.5 -- 20.7
Sporting KC E 50.7 95.2 -3.6 71.5 7.3 -- 13.1
New England E 50.7 92.5 +12.2 62.6 4.8 -- 8.0
New York E 48.1 72.9 -11.6 28.2 2.9 -- 3.2
Columbus E 47.7 64.4 +3.8 21.0 3.6 -- 3.9
Toronto FC 46.2 48.3 +16.0 13.6 1.6 -- --
Vancouver W 45.4 51.0 +26.6 -- 0.7 -- --
Portland 44.8 48.8 -27.2 0.1 1.5 -- 1.5
Philadelphia 43.8 18.7 -17.6 2.3 0.8 -- 0.8
Houston 41.8 7.9 +1.9 0.9 0.1 -- 0.1
Chicago 37.7 0.1 -1.3 -- -- -- --
Colorado 37.5 0.3 -0.7 -- -- -- --
San Jose 35.3 0.2 -0.2 -- -- -- --
Montreal 29.0 -- -- -- -- -- --
Chivas USA 28.4 -- -- -- -- -- --
Avg Pts for Playoffs (W) 46.6
Avg Pts for Playoffs (E) 47.2

In the East, it's all going wrong for the Union. They were in comfortable playoff position 3 weeks ago. But their playoff odds over consecutive weeks have been: 69.7, 57.4, 36.3, and now 18.7. Oh, and they lost a US Open Cup at home during that run. Ergh. What killed them this week is that most of their contenders for the last spots in the East did well — Toronto, New England, and Columbus all won this weekend. Their only solace is that the Red Bulls got smashed in Carson.

That smashing also had a big impact on the Supporters' Shield race. Seattle's home win over Chivas righted their ship after two road losses and could have created some space in the chase, but LA ran New York out of town and are now slight favorites for the Shield. The race will almost certainly come down to the final two-game series between the teams, and each has two games beforehand to determine what they'll need from that series. I'd give the slight schedule edge to Seattle. Both teams invite a Canadian team scrabbling for a playoff berth, but the Sounders' road game is at Colorado and the Galaxy's is at Dallas, who are a dominant home team. That LA/Dallas game may be one of the most important matches in Seattle's season.

It's also worth noting that 3 of the 4 2015 CCL spots are nearly locked up. Seattle has one and LA effectively has one (either by winning the Shield or getting the Sounders' scraps when they win it). And with a 6 point lead in the East with 4 games left, DC is closing in on the regular season conference title. That leaves just one spot left for other teams to claim, either by winning MLS Cup or getting it via trickle-down, in which case it'd likely go to RSL.

Teams Eliminated

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

Chivas USA's loss to Seattle mathematically eliminated them from the playoffs in their last season of existence. Sorry about that.

Both San Jose and Colorado give up the ghost and are Effectively Eliminated, since neither can get to 45 points. Chicago is just above that line. There aren't any new Projected Elimination teams, since Houston still has a puncher's chance to get back into the playoff race — though they'd probably have to win 4 of their last 5 games to get in.

  • Mathematical Elimination (Unable to make the playoffs in any scenario)
    Chivas (new), Montreal
  • Effective Elimination (Unable to make 45 points even with perfect play)
    Colorado (new), San Jose (new), Chivas TBD, Montreal
  • Projected Elimination (less than 2% chance of making the playoffs in simulation)
    Chicago, Colorado, San Jose, 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 hardest schedule by far goes to Columbus, who have to finish out their season almost entirely on the road. But the next two are. . LA and Seattle! Because they have to play each other! Twice! I don't run a 'except for those last two games' strength of schedule, but if I did I'm sure Seattle's schedule would be considered easier.

The easiest schedule goes to the Red Bulls who have 4 of their remaining 5 at home, and a few of those are against bad teams. So despite being barely above the red line (and in fact below it by PPG) they should cruise into the Wild Card round at Toronto's or Columbus' expense.

Avg Team Points Matches Pts / Match
New York 6.661 4 1.665
Real Salt Lake 6.508 4 1.627
Chivas USA 6.469 4 1.617
Colorado 6.093 4 1.523
Philadelphia 5.896 4 1.474
Vancouver 5.771 4 1.443
Montreal 5.755 4 1.439
Chicago 7.091 5 1.418
Sporting KC 5.596 4 1.399
Portland 5.567 4 1.392
New England 5.536 4 1.384
San Jose 6.848 5 1.37
DC United 5.458 4 1.364
Houston 6.58 5 1.316
Toronto FC 6.427 5 1.285
FC Dallas 5.092 4 1.273
Los Angeles 5.057 4 1.264
Seattle 4.892 4 1.223
Columbus 4.395 4 1.099

Cascadia Cup Odds

Holding steady here until the deciding match in a couple of weeks. Seattle's an overwhelming favorite based on home field advantage, form, and the fact that even a draw would win the Cup.

Odds
Seattle 80.9%
Vancouver 19.1%
Portland :(

Seattle's First Round Matchup

The chance of an LA matchup has all but disappeared, as the Sounders and Galaxy race for the #1 and #2 seeds. Instead we're very likely to see either a Dallas or RSL matchup. Nick Rimando again? Yaaaaaaay.

Odds
Real Salt Lake 51.9%
FC Dallas 33.4%
Portland 8.4%
Vancouver 6.0%