Well, we survived the 2020 MLS regular season. Apologies for the intermittent production, but the schedule was so crammed and inconsistent it was difficult to both keep up and write in the tight windows the schedule often gave us.
That being said, here we are, at the end of the year, and some surprises have popped up, giving us some interesting dynamics. Philadelphia went on a late run, and combined with Toronto’s late fall – possibly triggered by the 5-0 loss to the Union – gave Philadelphia their first Supporters’ Shield. We also saw a strong run from NYCFC in the last few weeks.
On the other hand, a lot of other teams remained pretty much who they have been since the MLSIsBack Tournament, culminating with things like Cincinnati falling back down to the very bottom of our rankings for the second year in a row.
1. Philadelphia Union (Previously – 4)
What a run, and what a payoff! Since our last iteration of these rankings, all they did was smoke Toronto 5-0, beat Chicago, shake off a road loss at Columbus, and beat New England. Congratulations on your first Supporters’ Shield!
2. Seattle Sounders (2)
We have kept Seattle and Portland high for much of the season in large part because they have shown to be in good form and historically have been well above average. All that is still true, but the lack of quality opponents and wins is something we feel should be noted. For example, Seattle beat Vancouver on the road and San Jose at home, but lost at Colorado and tied at the LA Galaxy.
3. Portland Timbers (3)
Wins over the LA Galaxy and Vancouver are counterbalanced by a home loss to Colorado and road tie at LAFC.
4. New York City FC (7)
NYCFC is another team that went on a run since our last rankings, but the quality of the opponent isn’t enough to have us vault them over Seattle and Portland. Wins over Montreal, the New York Red Bulls, Chicago, and the slumping TFC are a sign of a team on a roll.
5. Toronto FC (1)
Well, the wheels really fell off the wagon for TFC. Three losses with a random 2-1 home win over Miami is not how you want to go into the playoffs. Then again, there is enough time between the end of the regular season and their next game to think they can get their groove back.
6. Columbus Crew (5)
A home win over Philadelphia is good, but the rest of the results for the Crew have been poor to mediocre.
7. Minnesota United (8)
The Loons got good but not results against sub-standard teams until they finished strong against a good Dallas side.
8. Sporting Kansas City (9)
We said this last time, and it remains true. “Most of their games see them beating teams they should.” It is tough to try to work off of transitive properties, but there is a quality to a run like this. They may be undervalued here.
9. Orlando City (6)
In the topsy turvy world that was the back half of the MLS season, The Lions continued to be above average and showed they have the ability to beat other good teams. They also dropped a game to Miami and Nashville, so mixed signals.
10. Colorado Rapids (13)
You have to give Robin Fraser and this team a lot of credit. We have seen COVID interruptions throw other teams into chaos, but after they lost to Sporting, they won their last four games, three of which were on the road, and three of them against quality teams, including Minnesota, Seattle, and Portland.
11. FC Dallas (11)
This is a team that has talent but is not hitting on all cylinders. In part due to new additions that haven’t been able to get into a regular run of games (as in, one game a week rather than 1.5-2), injuries to and other absences of young players the team was expecting to lean on for much of the season, and due in part to the team not fighting through all the crazy to find some regular production.
12. Los Angeles FC (10)
The talent remains, but so does the 2020 inconsistency. Everyone is beating the Galaxy and the Dynamo, but to be truly back to the top tier they would need to have beaten San Jose and Portland. They lost at the Earthquakes and tied the Timbers at home.
13. San Jose Earthquakes (14)
“What a turnaround….. (but) this may just be a hot streak.” Nope. While they probably would have preferred a tie in Vancouver, wins over RSL and LAFC mean their recovery is legitimate. The loss to Seattle keeps them from moving up much higher, though.
14. New York Red Bulls (15)
On one hand, they have righted the ship after Armas was fired. On the other hand, this is not the Cinderella story of 2020 as their last two losses show.
15. Nashville SC (16)
They have earned their way into the middle of the pack, so good for them. Not every team – and certainly not ones who start as slowly as Nashville did – gets to this level in their first season.
16. New England Revolution (12)
“Signs of progress?” No. Just moments of success against a tapestry of mediocre. To our good friends who are Revolution fans, your wait will have to continue.
17. Vancouver Whitecaps (18)
This team has just enough success that its fans have to be frustrated at being teased that the Whitecaps could actually be competitive…
18. Montreal Impact (17)
Henry’s first season in charge ends on a slightly high note, and they made the playoffs, but clearly lots of work remains.
19. Chicago Fire (20)
They remained competitive, but couldn’t find a way to get enough points. If this is a foundation they can maintain and improve on for next season, they could move up. As crazy as MLS offseasons are I’m not sure how realistic that is.
20. Real Salt Lake (19)
Last time we said, “Not a good few weeks for RSL…” and the run continued. For a team that was battling with FC Dallas to be the hot young team this time last year, they really fell back this season.
21. Inter Miami (24)
This is not what David Beckham was expecting this season. We wonder how much time he will spend trying to understand how teams like Seattle, Portland and Toronto have consistently been in the championship conversations. If not much, it could be a frustrating existence for IM fans.
22. Los Angeles Galaxy (21)
What an embarrassing season for the Galaxy. Even Inter Miami finished ahead of them on points per game.
23. D.C. United (26)
Some signs of life late, but how much of that is opponents not taking D.C. seriously? Either way, lots of work remains for one of the league’s Original Ten.
24. Atlanta United (23)
This team has truly fallen from grace.
25. Houston Dynamo (22)
This remains true, which is not a good way to end the last month or so of the season. “Very poor results for Tab et al. Maybe the talent is there, but mostly they are just not competitive.”
26. FC Cincinnati (25)
We said this last time, and it is all still true. “The bottom really has fallen out now. They are back to their old ways, and that ain’t good folks.”