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State of the MLS Run In: 12 Weeks to Go

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We look at the playoff and trophy odds for the first time in the 2015 season, and whoa the Sounders certainly are far down the list.

We're starting the State of the Run In a little later this season, and now there's only a dozen weeks left. For those new to the site, we simulate the remainder of the MLS season based on previous team performance in the season, split by home and road and weighted to more recent games. Our track record is pretty good. Last season with 8 weeks left we predicted 8 of the 10 playoff teams, the Cup winner, and 3 of the 4 CCL teams and were more than a few points off predicated final standings for only three teams (and by a lot for New England). But enough about last year.

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-2 % MLS Cup % Shield % CCL %
Vancouver W 56.2 98.7 -- 62.7 14.4 22.7 --
Sporting KC W 55.8 97.9 -- 61.8 14.2 25.0 75.0
FC Dallas W 54.9 97.5 -- 48.2 11.3 13.7 60.0
DC United E 54.6 99.9 -- 68.8 9.3 12.1 66.2
NYRB E 54.4 99.2 -- 61.3 16.6 13.5 62.3
Toronto FC E 52.6 98.3 -- 50.3 9.3 8.9 --
Los Angeles W 51.7 92.0 -- 16.6 8.9 2.2 29.9
Montreal E 48.4 90.8 -- 13.6 4.2 1.1 --
Portland W 48.1 73.2 -- 0.6 2.6 0.5 11.4
Seattle W 45.9 48.3 -- 2.3 1.4 0.1 4.7
Columbus E 45.7 77.8 -- 4.0 2.0 0.1 5.0
New England E 44.5 66.0 -- 1.4 1.3 -- 2.3
San Jose 43.6 27.5 -- 1.0 0.9 0.1 2.2
Houston 43.4 30.1 -- 0.1 1.2 -- 2.5
Real Salt Lake 43.0 25.7 -- 0.5 0.6 -- 26.5
Orlando 40.8 32.4 -- 0.4 1.0 -- 1.2
Colorado 40.4 9.1 -- 0.2 0.1 -- 0.4
NYCFC 39.2 22.4 -- 0.1 0.7 -- 0.8
Philadelphia 35.9 7.3 -- -- 0.1 -- 24.3
Chicago 35.5 5.9 -- -- 0.1 -- 25.3
Avg Pts for Playoffs (W) 46.9
Avg Pts for Playoffs (E) 43.9

This update sees Seattle as a coinflip to make the playoffs for the first time I can remember. But take heart Sounders fans. The sim is based on recent results and doesn't take into account factors like Obafemi Martins returning or new signings. With Clintfemi in full effect earlier in the season Sounders were the best team in the league, so I expect their playoff odds to climb. What might be slipping out of reach is the chance to avoid the play-in round. As of this season only the top 2 teams in each conference avoid the extra game and Seattle would have to go on a real tear to get back into contention for that.

The current Shield favorite is Kansas City, even though they don't average the most points (that goes to Vancouver). That can happen if a team wins more games by a narrower margin. Right now I'd say they're basically neck and neck for it, with Dallas, DC, and New York a tier below.

It's worth noting that with the extra playoff team in each conference the number of points needed has, predictably, lowered. We're predicting it'll take about 47 points to make it in the West and about 44 in the easier East. And in perhaps the greatest sign of the changing face of MLS, all three Canadian teams have over a 90% chance of making the playoffs. There's never before been a year in which more than one Canadian MLS team made the postseason (and Toronto never has).

And finally the Open Cup race this season includes three of the worst teams in league play, which gives them decent odds of making next season's Champions League.

Teams Eliminated

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

Even by our weakest standard, no teams can really consider themselves out of the playoff race at this point. But the Fire have two consecutive road games coming up, and if they don't get points in either they may drop down below that 2% probability cutoff where we we're willing to call them dead.

  • Mathematical Elimination (Unable to make the playoffs in any scenario)
    none
  • Effective Elimination (Unable to make 45 points even with perfect play)
    none
  • Projected Elimination (less than 2% chance of making the playoffs in simulation)
    none

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.

Toronto's very road-heavy early season has set them up with a home-heavy run in, which gives them by far the easiest remaining schedule. Even just an average team gets about 1.6 points per game from their schedule, and with Giovinco they're hardly an average team. Chicago has the toughest remaining schedule in the league, which will make climbing out of their standings hole even harder. Among contenders, Kansas City's schedule is particularly tough, which might make keeping up with Vancouver in the Shield race a tall order.

Toronto FC 20.846 13 1.604
NYRB 19.596 13 1.507
Vancouver 16.086 11 1.462
San Jose 18.963 13 1.459
Montreal 20.222 14 1.444
Real Salt Lake 17.325 12 1.444
Philadelphia 15.485 11 1.408
New England 14.031 10 1.403
Los Angeles 13.877 10 1.388
Orlando 15.103 11 1.373
Columbus 15.055 11 1.369
Colorado 17.696 13 1.361
Portland 14.829 11 1.348
Seattle 14.781 11 1.344
DC United 13.255 10 1.325
Houston 15.837 12 1.32
NYCFC 15.729 12 1.311
FC Dallas 15.601 12 1.3
Sporting KC 19.174 15 1.278
Chicago 15.907 13 1.224

Cascadia Cup Odds

Heading into last weekend, Seattle was a favorite in the Cascadia Cup race, needing only one win in their last two games against the Whitecaps to clinch it. But the Sounders' home collapse at the hands of those 'Caps suddenly made the odds much longer, and now it's Vancouver favored to win their 3rd in a row. The Timbers are already eliminated this season.

Odds
Vancouver 60.7%
Seattle 39.3%
Portland :(