clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

State of the MLS Run In: 3 Weeks to Go

New, 25 comments

San Jose and Portland are neck and neck in the West, Montreal just has to cash in their games in hand in the East, and New Jersey is closing in on another Supporters Shield.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Edition

For all of the complaints about the MLS Playoff system, you can't argue that it doesn't keep the end of the season interesting. Going into the last three weeks of the season, only three of the 20 teams in the league are definitely out of the title race. And 8 teams are in realistic contention for a top-2 finish and that all-important bye round in the playoffs.

Playoff & Trophy Probabilities

This is each team's up to date odds of making the playoffs, earning a bye round, winning the Supporters' 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-2 % MLS Cup % Shield % CCL %
NYRB E 57.6 100.0 -- 98.9 24.5 65.2 98.2
FC Dallas W 55.6 100.0 +0.3 73.0 15.1 22.6 85.6
Los Angeles W 53.9 100.0 +1.7 39.3 11.9 2.4 66.2
Vancouver W 53.6 99.9 -- 43.0 10.2 5.6 --
Sporting KC W 52.8 99.7 +2.5 42.8 8.9 3.6 100.0
DC United E 50.8 100.0 -- 36.2 3.8 0.1 18.1
Toronto FC E 50.2 99.7 +1.3 32.8 5.6 0.5 --
New England E 50.1 99.3 -0.7 12.6 5.4 -- 9.4
Seattle W 50.0 95.3 +1.1 1.5 4.6 -- 9.6
Columbus E 49.7 99.5 -0.5 17.8 4.6 -- 8.2
Portland W 47.3 43.1 -12.7 0.2 1.2 -- 1.8
San Jose 46.5 39.1 +10.2 -- 0.9 -- 1.0
Montreal E 46.4 86.4 +4.6 0.2 2.1 -- --
Real Salt Lake 45.6 20.9 -- -- 0.6 -- 0.6
Orlando 43.7 13.6 +1.3 -- 0.4 -- 0.4
Houston 43.5 2.2 -1.8 -- -- -- --
NYCFC 39.9 0.8 -4.7 -- -- -- --
Colorado 37.6 -- -1.2 -- -- -- --
Philadelphia 36.6 -- -1.9 -- -- -- --
Chicago 32.3 -- -0.2 -- -- -- --
Avg Pts for Playoffs (W) 48.0
Avg Pts for Playoffs (E) 46.2

There weren't any huge moves over the last couple of weeks, as teams tended to get mixed results. The Red Bulls, for example, got wiped out by Orlando but then beat fellow playoff team Columbus to settle back into pole position in the Shield race. New York's two games in hand on most of the league is giving them nearly a 2/3 chance to win back the Shield. Dallas is only a point behind with the same number of games played, but has a tougher schedule.

Orlando is making a credible effort to stay relevant in the East playoffs, but they'll need the Impact to completely collapse, as Montreal is a point ahead of the Lions with two games in hand on them. The Western playoff race is where the real action is. Seattle is looking increasingly safe, leaving a single playoff spot to Portland, San Jose, and trailing Real Salt Lake, who barely stayed alive with a win over the Rapids last weekend. The race is close enough that tie-breakers start to matter, and given Portland's penchant for ties instead of wins and a much worse goal differential than San Jose, their game in hand doesn't mean as much.

The Open Cup was decided in favor of Sporting last week, which shakes up the CCL odds a bit. Philadelphia is definitely not making it, giving a big bump to Dallas and LA, since they're the teams to benefit if KC qualifies two ways. The Red Bulls' projected near-7-point lead over DC at the end makes them a near-lock to qualify as the East's representative even if they don't win the Shield.

Teams Eliminated

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

This is the first week for mathematical elimination, as Chicago, Colorado and Philadelphia are now guaranteed to not make the postseason. NYCFC jumps straight to effective elimination, as their best possible finish is 43 points, below a generous 45 point cutoff for the East playoffs. Houston looks like the next team to go, but thanks to Montreal having two games this week it might be the East that's decided earlier. If the Impact win both of their games, the Eastern playoff roster is effectively set.

  • Mathematical Elimination (Unable to make the playoffs in any scenario)
    Chicago (new), Philadelphia (new), Colorado (new)
  • Effective Elimination (Unable to make 46(W)/45(E) points even with perfect play)
    NYCFC (new), Chicago (new), Philadelphia (new), Colorado (new)
  • Projected Elimination (less than 2% chance of making the playoffs in simulation)
    NYCFC (new), Chicago, Philadelphia, Colorado

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.

We're quickly getting to the point at which strength of schedule doesn't have much meaning. But to whatever extent it does, Sporting KC is looking good. After a terrible run of form, their reserves got them great results in the league, they won the US Open Cup, and now they finish with San Jose and then their last two at home. Portland, meanwhile, has to travel to the Galaxy and RSL to try to hold onto that last playoff spot.

Avg Team Points Matches Pts / Match
Sporting KC 4.716 3 1.572
NYCFC 3.084 2 1.542
New England 3.032 2 1.516
Vancouver 4.526 3 1.509
Real Salt Lake 4.522 3 1.507
DC United 2.997 2 1.498
Orlando 2.871 2 1.435
NYRB 5.673 4 1.418
Seattle 2.823 2 1.412
Columbus 2.79 2 1.395
Los Angeles 2.774 2 1.387
Philadelphia 2.741 2 1.37
Houston 2.716 2 1.358
Toronto FC 4.027 3 1.342
Colorado 3.903 3 1.301
Chicago 2.523 2 1.262
FC Dallas 5.045 4 1.261
San Jose 2.446 2 1.223
Montreal 4.589 4 1.147
Portland 3.391 3 1.13

Cascadia Cup Odds

Congrats, Seattle

Seattle's First Round Matchup

Now that it's actually starting to look likely the Sounders make the playoffs, here are the odds on which team they could face in the first round.

Odds
Sporting KC 34.6%
Vancouver 23.7%
Los Angeles 14.0%
FC Dallas 11.2%
San Jose 5.7%
Portland 5.3%
Real Salt Lake 0.7%