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State of the MLS Run In: 8 Weeks to Go

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San Jose's ascent lights the Western Conference playoff race on fire, leaving two Cascadia rivals competing for one spot.

Previous Edition

One of the consequences of using a model weighted toward more likely events is that when more probable events occur, the probabilities don't move much. That is, if a good team wins at home against a bad team, their expected points won't change by much because that was already baked into the model. So when the Sounders beat two teams at home and lose on the road since the last update, you'd expect their probabilities not to move far. But they did. They dropped quite a bit.

It turns out it wasn't because of anything Seattle did — their expected points actually rose from 46.8 to 47.1. It was because of their competition in the race. . mostly San Jose. The Earthquakes won three games by shutout, including two on the road against playoff teams. That moved them from playoff outsiders to heavy favorites to make it, and that's one less spot for the Sounders. Now it looks like Portland's spot is, perhaps poetically, the one Seattle has to target. That made this weekend's game all the more important. I don't want to alarm you, but if the Timbers had won that game, we'd have the Sounders' playoff chances at 11%.

Playoff & Trophy Probabilities

This is each team's up to date odds of making the playoffs, earning a top 3 spot, 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 57.7 100.0 -- 90.1 25.6 40.2 87.7
Vancouver W 56.9 98.9 -0.5 68.4 14.5 24.2 --
Los Angeles W 55.4 98.7 -0.6 48.0 14.4 9.4 62.8
Sporting KC W 53.8 91.9 -7.9 38.7 7.6 11.6 70.3
FC Dallas W 52.8 89.1 -4.2 24.3 5.8 5.4 33.0
DC United E 52.2 100.0 -- 41.7 5.0 2.5 31.3
Toronto FC E 51.3 99.8 +5.3 37.3 6.7 3.1 --
San Jose W 51.1 79.8 +53.6 13.3 6.3 1.8 21.8
Columbus E 50.5 99.9 +7.8 22.0 4.3 1.0 17.3
Portland W 49.3 70.6 -23.2 5.5 2.7 0.5 9.9
New England E 48.7 98.4 +13.4 8.7 3.7 0.2 7.9
Seattle 47.1 39.1 -16.5 1.6 1.2 0.1 3.2
Houston 45.1 23.2 -4.8 0.2 0.5 -- 0.9
Colorado 43.1 7.6 +6.5 0.1 0.2 -- 0.3
Montreal E 41.8 63.5 -16.9 0.3 0.9 -- --
Real Salt Lake 39.4 1.1 -2.6 -- -- -- --
Orlando 36.6 10.9 -2.8 -- 0.2 -- 0.2
NYCFC 36.4 10.0 -12.8 -- 0.1 -- 0.2
Chicago 36.0 10.6 +3.8 -- 0.2 -- 0.2
Philadelphia 35.6 7.2 +2.5 -- 0.1 -- 53.3
Avg Pts for Playoffs (W) 48.8
Avg Pts for Playoffs (E) 42.4

The biggest riser was — again — San Jose, whose ascent over the last couple of weeks has been meteoric. And now with the easiest schedule in the league (more on that later), a playoff spot is theirs for the taking. The biggest drop was Portland's, thanks to a home draw against a bad Real Salt Lake, the loss in Seattle, and a brutally competitive Western playoff race.

In the Shield race, Sporting were favorites in the last update but giving up 8 goals in their last two home games put an end to that. Now the Red Bulls are favorites to repeat their 2013 Shield and have a big lead in championship odds thanks to a weak Eastern Conference.

Teams Eliminated

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

Colorado was the first team added to the Projected Elimination watch in the last update, but they responded with three consecutive wins and are off of life support (though still incredibly unlikely to make the postseason). They're replaced by Real Salt Lake, who are finally giving up the last ghosts of the Jason Kreis era.

The East/West disparity in playoff cutoff has gotten so extreme that I'm using different cutoffs for Effective Elimination, but there are still no teams below that threshold.

  • Mathematical Elimination (Unable to make the playoffs in any scenario)
    none
  • Effective Elimination (Unable to make 46(W)/40(E) points even with perfect play)
    none
  • Projected Elimination (less than 2% chance of making the playoffs in simulation)
    Real Salt Lake (new)

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 has had the easiest schedule for months, but San Jose has surpassed them with a similar home-heavy schedule for stadium reasons. The Quakes have 6 of their 8 remaining games at home. And Vancouver somehow maneuvered their way into an easy run-in, with 5 of 7 at home, including games against NYCFC and Colorado. At the other end, Dallas has a balanced home and away schedule but a brutal lineup of opponents that includes Vancouver twice, the Galaxy, and Sporting KC. And Portland has the 4th hardest schedule, playing the Galaxy, the Red Bulls, and Sporting twice.

San Jose 12.88 8 1.61
Vancouver 10.86 7 1.551
Toronto FC 13.92 9 1.547
NYRB 13.199 9 1.467
Los Angeles 8.67 6 1.445
New England 11.492 8 1.437
Houston 10.028 7 1.433
DC United 8.556 6 1.426
Real Salt Lake 11.163 8 1.395
Seattle 9.545 7 1.364
Montreal 14.953 11 1.359
NYCFC 9.279 7 1.326
Columbus 9.227 7 1.318
Orlando 9.075 7 1.296
Philadelphia 9.061 7 1.294
Colorado 10.264 8 1.283
Portland 8.973 7 1.282
Sporting KC 12.814 10 1.281
Chicago 10.083 8 1.26
FC Dallas 11.186 9 1.243

Cascadia Cup Odds

This weekend's Seattle/Portland match was critical for its impact on the playoff race, but it also significantly affected the Cascadia Cup situation. With the win, Seattle only needs a draw in the road match at Vancouver to secure the Cup. That gives them close to even odds despite the Whitecaps' dominating play and home-field advantage.

Odds
Vancouver 56.4%
Seattle 43.6%
Portland :(