The Original MLS Power Rankings for July 4, 2023

Hello, its your friendly neighborhood Rankings writer, Kevin Lindstrom. It has been a while, but this time it is not just because life happens. This time, I took the time to detail some of our key metrics because one, in particular, seems very relevant and needs to be put under the spotlight – Pace.

I usually don’t post these because, as Buzz says, it is not really the system that matters, just that you have one that works, but recently some fanbases seem to have lost perspective that MLS is hard, especially on the road, and this is how I keep my feet on the ground, so to speak.

As you may know, these rankings began in 1996 as I tried to wrap my head around which teams really were better than others when the league was playing an unbalanced schedule in terms of opponents, but also number of games and other variables that made looking just at the standings not as helpful as you might think.

One key metric that I used was points per game. That is pretty obvious, and pretty helpful. It helped washed out the statistical anomalies of games in hand. Another, less mathematical, was looking at each teams previous oppnents.

But the one that I have used from the beginning that seems to really tell the tale is what I call the Pace. Yes, every team wants to win every game, but in a lot of places, football teams make it their goal to win at home and tie on the road. Essentially, win at home and you don’t get any points. Same for tying on the road. Lose at home and you lose three points. Win on the road and you get two points. Tie at home and you lose two points.

In MLS, that has proven very difficult. Each season, at best a small handful of teams make that happen. Right now, there is only one team in MLS above that number, and the rest are below it. Some very far below it.

So in this week’s rankings, you will see four numbers. This week’s ranking, the previous ranking (from May 30), the points per game and then the Pace. It is very telling.

Top Shelf

1. FC Cincinnati (Previously 1, 2.20, +2)

Clearly the class of the league of late and even they drop points from time to time off the Pace, like last week’s 2-2 home draw to the Revolution.

FC Cincinnati
FC Cincinnati


2. New England Revolution (5, 1.85, -3)

For a team that looked shaky a time or two in the first third of the season, they have been anything but for a while now. Tying FCC is not easy.

3. Nashville SC (4, 1.81, -5)

As you can see, even a few teams in and the Pace is hard to maintain. If you go back a few weeks, you will see Nashville lost 2 in a row, but they were on the road to an at the time resurgent Montreal and a good Columbus team.

4. Philadelphia Union (8, 1.70, -6)

Another team that started with an initial bang but then fell off, Philly has gotten back up, although their last game was a 2-0 road loss to Atlanta.

5. St. Louis City SC (3, 1.75, -7)

The expansion team continues to dominate most of MLS. Their most recent victory was a 2-0 home win over the hapless Rapids.

6. Los Angeles FC (2, 1.68, -7)

The Champions League drop in form is real, no matter how good you are. Since Cherundolo’s side lost in the CL final, they have lost a lot of places. Prior to that, they were the only team with a positive Pace for most of the season. If form holds, they will bounce back.

7. Columbus Crew (13, 1.70, -8)

After a down start, a real up peak, then a bit of a fall off, the Crew seems to have found their groove, playing above most of MLS since the beginning of May.


8. Orlando City (11, 1.55, -11)

As you can see, there are definite tiers in both Pace and Points Per Game. I typically focus on the week’s games, which teams played and where, and adjust from my previous ranking, but its good to see the numbers typically support where I have clubs. Orlando is a great example of that. Their most recent game was a 3-1 over the Fire at home.

9. Atlanta United (7, 1.52, -11)

Some teams, like Atlanta, have stayed pretty consistently in a range. As you will see below, even though it’s been a month of games, some teams stayed in the exact same place. Atlanta remains a team with the potential to be higher, and their 2-0 win over the Union shows that, but games like a home tie to NYC and a 4-0 road loss to the Red Bulls hold them back.

10. Houston Dynamo (10, 1.35, -11)

This is a team that I look closely at because the actual results can be deceiving. They started as absolute trash but got it together and have been in the top half of the league ever since. They took a home and away series from LAFC, winning both, which in other times of the year would be thunderous, except this was after LAFC had lost to Leon. The Dynamo’s loss to Seattle is an example of why I hesitate, even though it was 1-0 and on the road.

11. FC Dallas (9, 1.45, -11)

Of all the teams that are on this ranking, this is the one that the Pace speaks about. If you only look at the results, many fans would see FC Dallas as underperforming. Even recently they were struggling, in large part because of injuries, and yet they just put a 2-0 tactical win on an increasingly desperate LAFC group. They have consistently gotten better results, against better teams, than the vast majority of teams below them.

20230701_210732 Kamungo
Bernard Kamungo and his teammates celebrate the young striker’s goal in his debut start in MLS for FC Dallas, July 1, 2023. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

12. Seattle Sounders (6, 1.52, -13)

The Sounders fell a lot over the last month, and the Pace says why. Loss at home to SJ, tie at home to Portland, tie on the road the Charlotte, road loss to LAFC, home tie to Orlando, all before their 1-0 win over Houston last weekend. Between Pace and actual opponents, not good.

13. CF Montreal (19, 1.30, -12)

Montreal made a real turnaround in June, moving up from 19 based on some great results including a 1-0 win over Nashville and a 4-0 win over Minnesota. They lost a little steam with their 1-0 home loss to NYCFC.

14. Real Salt Lake (25, 1.43, -11)

The biggest riser in the last month is easily RSL. After showing some potential with some results, but then losing ground, RSL has really changed its place in the league, with their recent road win at Toronto being a good example.

We Have Questions

15. Minnesota United (17, 1.26, -11)

Starting with the Loons, the rest of the teams just haven’t shown enough consistency at being good to be higher. Minnesota fought off some real challenges at the start of the season to be better than people expected, but they have reverted to the mean quite a bit. Their 4-1 home win over Portland is a sign they are still dangerous.

16. Vancouver Whitecaps (15, 1.32, -16)

For much of May, this team looked like they were going to make the jump along with RSL into the next tier, but then the shine of their road win over LAFC lost some luster with a closer look at LA, and then they lost 3-0 to Sporting this past weekend.

17. San Jose Earthquakes (12, 1.33, -15)

For much of the season, Luchi’s lads were right there with FC Dallas, getting results that may not look pretty but overall were better than perception – and then they were the first team to beat LAFC. Unfortunately, since then, they have really lost their form and fallen back. The difference between SJ and FCD is a great example of why you should respect what FCD has done this year.

18. Austin FC (24, 1.30, -16)

Another team that has risen a lot over the last month, Josh Wolff’s side hasn’t been as consistent as RSL in their results, but is probably a game or two from moving up as well. Their most recent result was a road tie at Miami.

19. D.C. United (16, 1.24, -15)

Another team that spent some time in the gutter, for much of the last 2 months D.C. has been flirting with the upper half of the league. A 2-0 loss at Nashville shows work remains.

20. New York City FC (14, 1.14, -15)

I will admit, I was surprised to see both NYC’s PPG and Pace when I double-checked things, but then a closer look at the actual results, and yeah, they just aren’t good. Not this year. But the potential is there, as their 1-0 road win over Montreal shows.

21. Charlotte FC (18, 1.20, -16)

The Carolina club had shown some life in May, but since then its been rough waters and they were off last weekend.

22. Sporting Kansas City (22, 1.09, -20)

Over the last month, SKC showed they really had worked their way off the bottom, but a few results here and there including a home loss to Chicago show work remains. Their last result, 3-0 over Vancouver, has to be encouraging.

23. New York Red Bulls (21, 1.15, -17)

Still trying to figure out how to dig their way out of the hole they created with poor offseason choices, their most recent game was 2-1 road loss to the Crew.

24. Chicago Fire (20, 1.15, -19)

It has been a roller-coaster for the Fire this year, with more roller than coaster. A 3-1 road loss to the Lions just adds to the headache.

25. Portland Timbers (26, 1.05, -20)

I had doubts about the age of this team coming into the season, but they also had talent and experience such that they should have gotten more out of this year than they have. They are probably the most disappointing team in the league, as a 4-1 road loss to Minnesota shows.

Very Not Good

26. LA Galaxy (29, 0.84, -19)

Oh wait, I forgot about the Galaxy. Yeah, this is the most disappointing team in the league. We are celebrating a 2-2 road tie at San Jose? Ugh.

27. Inter Miami (23, 0.84, -23)

A few runs gave us false hope, but no, Miami is not good. Not good at all, with a 1-1 home tie to Austin as the most recent failure.

Josef Martínez
Josef Martínez

28. Toronto FC (27, 0.90, -24)

As we have seen with Portland, age can be a real problem in MLS, and it has been the death knell for TFC. It cost Bob Bradley his job, and a team that was the class of Canada and at times MLS is now tied for the worst Pace in the league thanks to a 1-0 home loss to RSL.

29. Colorado Rapids (28, 0.7, -24)

I have friends who are Rapids fans, and my heart hurts for them. This is awful in ways that good fans shouldn’t have to suffer, but right now, Colorado has the worst PPG and Pace in the league, and rightfully so. They just can’t seem to get 11 MLS quality players on the field on a consistent basis. A 2-0 road loss to St. Louis is just rubbing it in.

1 Comment

  1. (+ points) Just want to verify that the only way to earn points is by winning on the road.
    (0 points) Win at home and tie on road = no points for performing as expected.
    (- points) lose or tie at home, lose or tie away.
    If that is true, please help me understand why only one outcome out of 6 possible [wlt home or wlt away] gets you positive points.

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