Here we go. It all comes down to this. Well, sort of – for the teams who do not know their playoff fate, the variability is wild. For the teams who know they are in, or out, maybe not so much. But as we have said in other posts, do not assume just because a team is out of the playoffs or with a safe spot in that they won’t play hard. For example, do not expect the LA Galaxy to make anything easy for FC Dallas.
And take a look at The Line for both the East and West. Yowza doesn’t begin to describe it. In the East it is a heck of a game of musical chairs, while in the West you have three of five teams in line to make it, and the two teams currently sitting on the outside play each other, so one of the two – if not both – will not advance. Sorry Sporting and Minnesota.
In the top two tiers, there is little change. In the third tier, there is some variability, but in the fourth tier, everyone was all over the place. Sadly, at the bottom, Colorado at 28 and Toronto at 29 remain where they are.
Oh and D.C. is done, with no more games to play. Ouch.
1. FC Cincinnati (Previously 1)
Hands down the best team in MLS this season. Frankly, not much else.
2. Orlando City (2)
Pareja has The Lions playing at the highest level they have ever been at in their history, and along with FCC have to be favorites to make noise in the playoffs as they have done the Sounders Maneuver, being the hottest team in the league for the stretch run. Their 3-2 win over New England was just another brick in the wall.
3. St. Louis City SC (4)
For an expansion team, they truly shone this year. Other than the Chicago Fire, they have to be the best expansion team ever, right? And who knows how their season will end as the playoffs loom?
4. Philadelphia Union (3)
Considering other results, maybe this is a tough change, but they were tied at home by Nashville in their last game, another home tie.
5. Columbus Crew (5)
Continuing their strong run against good teams, the Crew went to Atlanta and got a 1-1 tie. Another team playing well late.
6. Atlanta United (6)
They have been more consistent of late, but still remain a talented team that has the potential to beat anyone, but have stumbled often enough that they have some vulnerability when the playoffs arrive.
7. Nashville SC (9)
They have had more dips than the teams above them, and some below them, but when strong the lads from Tennessee have been quality for lots of the season. A 0-0 tie at Philadelphia and a 3-2 win over New England illustrate the point.
8. New England Revolution (7)
For a team that was in the top 4 for much of the season, the fallout from the issues around Bruce Arena seems to be impacting their performance, including their losses to Orlando and Nashville, although note that both games were on the road.
9. Los Angeles FC (11)
Most of the times LAFC have struggled have related to multiple competitions, and when they are playing at their best, have often been in the top 3. Their play seems to be going in that direction but it isn’t clear that they are all the way back, although a 4-2 at Austin is a good sign.
10. Seattle Sounders (10)
While there have been moments of quality, they aren’t playing at the traditional Seattle Maneuver level, as evidenced by a 0-0 home tie to Vancouver.
11. Real Salt Lake (8)
So up and down. When RSL is up, watch out. When down, it is just not good. A 3-2 home loss to Sporting Kansas City is not how you want to go into the playoffs, although a 2-2 tie at the Galaxy is more like what you want to see.
12. Houston Dynamo (15)
For a team that has, like many in this group, been very up and down, the latest form from the South Texas club has been good. Compare their 5-1 win over Colorado to Dallas’ 1-1 tie to the same team.
13. Vancouver Whitecaps (13)
Definitely a team that put itself together in the second half of the season, the Whitecaps have probably found their ceiling in this neighborhood, but that is good enough to get results against good teams, like their 0-0 tie at Seattle.
14. San Jose Earthquakes (16)
Luchi Gonzalez has turned a poor team into one that can grind out results and pull off some big wins from time to time. Getting a 1-1 tie at Dallas probably cemented their spot in the playoffs.
15. FC Dallas (14)
If this team practices the hell out of their penalty kicks, they could go far in the playoffs as they seem destined to tie every game 1-1, whether against San Jose or Colorado. Maybe they are just mentally and physically at the end of their rope because they don’t seem to be able to push teams right now.
16. Sporting Kansas City (17)
For a team that was flat-out terrible for so much of the season, Peter Vermes has Sporting where they can beat Minnesota on Saturday and have a good chance of making the playoffs and that is spectacular under the circumstances. Their 3-2 win at RSL is a sign they are not one to trifle with.
17. Portland Timbers (12)
For a team that had sprung from the bottom into the mix of playoff teams, a 4-1 loss to Montreal really hurts. They may be stumbling at the wrong time.
There are a lot of changes here as many teams pulled out surprising results. Whether it is because they were still fighting for a spot in the playoffs or for jobs next season, this is when you see teams like this fight harder than expected. At least, some of them. Others, not so much. Hence the changes.
18. Charlotte FC (23)
They went to Chicago – who had been playing really well – and beat them 2-0 before going to Miami and earning a 1-1 tie.
19. New York Red Bulls (21)
For a team that played so poorly for so much of the year, the fact that they have a chance to play their way into the playoffs is surprising. With other results going the other way, a 3-0 win over Toronto moves them up.
20. Minnesota United (24)
They fired their long-time coach despite still having a shot at the playoffs. It tells you something, doesn’t it? Credit for a 5-2 win over the Galaxy.
21. CF Montreal (26)
A chance at the playoffs is probably motivating this team that did really well last year but a new coach and roster changes cost them a lot in the off-season. Their 4-1 win over Portland was a large statement.
22. Chicago Fire (20)
For a team that had really put a run together, a 2-0 home loss to Charlotte really hurts. Can they rebound? The answer to that question will probably decide their playoff fate.
23. D.C. United (27)
With no games left, it appears their season is over as they mathematically cannot maintain their place that currently is 9th in the East. Ouch. Even a 2-0 win over NYCFC couldn’t help them.
24. Inter Miami (18)
For a team that was so hot for a stretch, it has been a little surprising to see them fall this far despite the other good players who joined them besides Messi. A 1-0 loss to Cincinnati is probably understandable, but a 1-1 tie at home to Charlotte is less so.
25. New York City FC (19)
This was a recent champion, but now they are struggling to make the playoffs. Not ideal. A 2-0 loss to D.C. makes their chances closer to none than slim.
26. Austin FC (22)
For a team that returned a lot of talent, albeit one that played above that talent last year, it has been hard to see them fall this far. Yes, it was expected they would fall back to the median some, but a 4-2 home loss to LAFC is not where they should be.
27. LA Galaxy (25)
This team remains one with talent. Of that, there is no doubt. But the times they put it together is just wildly inconsistent, although Michael Barrios playing against his old FC Dallas side might help them give FCD problems.
Poor. Very Very Poor
28. Colorado Rapids (28)
Getting torn up, 5-1, by Houston is not a good sign, despite their 1-1 tie with FC Dallas.
29. Toronto FC (29)
Of all the teams on this list, TFC is the one we least expect to put up any sort of fight in their last game of the season. They have been putrid for so much of the year, almost needing their own Group – and considering how bad Colorado has been, that is really saying something.