Looking at the standings has not been much fun this year. The Seattle Sounders lost their season opener, lost two more after that and have been looking up from at or near the bottom ever since. It's not an entirely new view, it should be said, but it's one the Sounders have never grown particularly accustomed to.
As it stands today, the Sounders are ninth in total points and eighth in points per game in the 10-team Western Conference. The Sounders are four points shy of the sixth and final playoff spot. If the season were to have ended at the Copa America break, the Sounders would have missed the playoffs for the first time in eight MLS seasons.
Of course, the season didn't end at the Copa America break. The Sounders still have 21 matches left on their schedule, having at least one game in hand on the three teams immediately ahead of them in the standings and at least two games in hand on four of the six teams directly on top of them. In other words, there's still a lot of season left to be played for the Sounders to turn around their fortunes.
For all their struggles, the Sounders aren't in such awful shape. Aside from having plenty of time left, they are still just -2 in goal-difference and within shouting distance of the pack.
Yes, the Sounders will have to play better than they have all year if they are to make the playoffs, but they don't need to suddenly become world beaters.
As it stands now, the Vancouver Whitecaps have the sixth best points per game in the West and are on pace for about 48 points. For the Sounders to reach that number, they'd need to average a perfectly doable 1.5 points per game. Even if we assume the Sounders need to get to 50 points to be safe, they'd still only need to average 1.62. To put those numbers into perspective, the Sounders have never failed to average at least 1.5 points per game over an entire season and have averaged at least 1.62 over a 21-game stretch in all but two of their seasons (2010 and 2015).
The website Sports Club Stats pegs the Sounders' chances of making the playoffs at about 28 percent (they've not actually updated it since the win over D.C. United, but they do have something that shows the percentages assuming a win in that game).
While those numbers are illustrative, it might be more helpful to look at the Sounders' remaining schedule to see how doable it really is.
June 19 at New York Red Bulls: It seemed like the Sounders really needed at least four points from their current three-game road trip. We'll stick with that, and call this a tie. (1)
June 25 vs. New York City FC: The Sounders should be pretty close to full strength and playing at home in front of a full-stadium crowd. They have to win this game to feel remotely confident. (3)
July 2 at Toronto FC: The Reds opened the season on a long road trip, leading many to think this was the year they finally lived up to their hype. But they've gone 1-1-2 at home. A draw here doesn't seem so unreasonable, especially if the Sounders are coming off a fifth round U.S. Open Cup game on June 29. (1)
July 9 vs. LA Galaxy: This will be just the second time the Sounders will have played at home in 49 days. A tie should be fine, though. (1)
July 13 vs. FC Dallas: A midweek game against one of the Supporters' Shield contenders with an extra day of rest and a short trip from San Jose. Still, it's the kind of game the Sounders need to win, especially if they don't pull out all three against the Galaxy. (3)
July 17 at Portland Timbers: The Sounders would be riding a six-game unbeaten run if all the results fall the way we've predicted, but will also be playing their third match in eight days. A loss here is not unthinkable. (0)
July 24 at Sporting Kansas City: We may have missed it with all our own self pity, but the Sporks are making a hard run at being the West's worst in 2016. The Sounders need to take advantage (while getting a measure of revenge for the past few disappointments). (3)
July 31 vs. Galaxy: There could be upwards of 55,000 fans in the stadium for this game. The Sounders will need to put on a show and get all three points. (3)
Aug. 7 at Orlando City: Traveling across the country is tough. Playing in the swamps of Florida is also tough. The good news is that the Sounders will be in good shape and can afford to drop points and can afford to focus on that Open Cup semi on Aug. 10. (0)
Aug. 14 vs. Real Salt Lake: There aren't a ton of home points left on the table, they'll need most of them, not the least of which are these. (3)
Aug. 21 vs. Timbers: Their chances of defending the Cascadia Cup might not be too high at this point, but they need the points all the same. (3)
Aug. 24 at Houston Dynamo: See Orlando City above, but a great chance to pad their points if they can get one here. (0)
Aug. 28 at Timbers: This is an almost criminal stretch of three games, having to play your biggest rival twice in a week sandwiched around a road game in hell. Someone evil made this. A loss is not unthinkable. (0)
Sept. 10 at San Jose Earthquakes: Right around now, you're probably asking yourself 'why are the Sounders taking a week off when they just squeezed in a midweek game a few weeks ago?' The answer: There's CONCACAF World Cup qualifying on Sept. 2 and 6. Good thing the Sounders took the weekend off, since they need at least a point here. (1)
Sept. 17 vs. Whitecaps: It will have been nearly a month since the last time the Sounders played at home and a full-stadium crowd will be welcoming them. Three points is a must. (3)
Sept. 25 at Galaxy: With any luck, the Sounders will be coming off a U.S. Open Cup title on Sept. 21. They can afford to bask in that glory. (0)
Sept. 28 vs. Chicago Fire: There might not be a game left on the schedule that screams THREE POINTS more than this one. (3)
Oct. 2 at Whitecaps: If all goes to plan, these teams will be neck-and-neck for the playoffs. A tie would be nice, but a loss is acceptable. (0)
Oct. 12 vs. Dynamo: I lied. Coming off an extended break against what might be the worst team in the West, this an even bigger opportunity for three points than the Fire. (3)
Oct. 16 at Dallas: The good news is that if the Sounders pile up points over the summer they can afford to drop points like they likely will here. (0)
Oct. 23 vs. RSL: Needing a result in the final game of the season at home against RSL remind you of anything? Well, if the Sounders get the same result they did last year, they should be fine. (3)
These results would leave the Sounders with exactly 50 points, which might even give them some breathing room. It would require them to go 10-7-4, which doesn't seem that crazy. The biggest ask is probably going 9-0-1 at home, but it does allow them to continue their rather awful road form. If the Sounders can just win three or four times on the road in their final 14 chances, they would likely be in position to even host a first-round game.