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MLS reset: Where things stand with the regular season coming to a close

by Joshua Doering

The most bizarre season in the 25-year history of Major League Soccer is winding down with the regular season set to end on Nov. 8. There is plenty left to determine between now and then, from the Supporters’ Shield to playoff seeding and home field advantage. 

Here is where things stand through games on Oct. 25:

Eastern Conference

Games Played Points Points Per Game Remaining Games
Philadelphia* 20 41 2.05 vs. Chicago, @ Columbus, vs. New England
Toronto* 20 41 2.05 vs. NYCFC, vs. Inter Miami, @ New York Red Bulls
Columbus* 19 35 1.84 @ D.C. United, vs. Philadelphia, @ Orlando, vs. Atlanta
Orlando* 19 32 1.68 vs. Atlanta, @ Montreal, vs. Columbus, vs. Nashville
NYCFC 20 30 1.50 @ Toronto, vs. New York Red Bulls, @ Chicago
New England 20 29 1.45 @ New York Red Bulls, vs. D.C. United, @ Philadelphia
New York Red Bulls 20 26 1.30 vs. New England, @ NYCFC, vs. Toronto
Nashville 19 25 1.32 @ Montreal, vs. Chicago, vs. Dallas, @ Orlando
Montreal 20 23 1.15 vs. Nashville, vs. Orlando, @ D.C. United
Inter Miami 20 21 1.05 @ Dallas, @ Toronto, vs. Cincinnati

Chicago 19 21 1.11 @ Philadelphia, @ Nashville, @ Minnesota, vs. NYCFC
Atlanta 20 19 0.95 @ Orlando, vs. Cincinnati, @ Columbus
D.C. United 20 18 0.90 vs. Columbus, @ New England, vs. Montreal
Cincinnati 20 16 0.80 vs. Sporting Kansas City, @ Atlanta, @ Inter Miami

* Clinched playoff spot

Western Conference

Games Played Points Points Per Game Remaining Games
Sporting Kansas City 19 33 1.74 @ Cincinnati, vs. Minnesota, @ Real Salt Lake
Seattle 18 32 1.78 @ Vancouver, @ Colorado, @ L.A. Galaxy, vs. San Jose
Portland 19 32 1.68 vs. L.A. Galaxy, vs. Vancouver, vs. Colorado, @ LAFC
LAFC 19 28 1.47 vs. Houston, @ San Jose, vs. Portland
Minnesota 18 27 1.50 vs. Colorado, @ Sporting Kansas City, vs. Chicago, vs. Dallas
Dallas 18 25 1.39 vs. Inter Miami, vs. Houston, @ Nashville, @ Minnesota
Vancouver 20 24 1.20 vs. Seattle, @ Portland, vs. L.A. Galaxy
San Jose 20 24 1.20 vs. Real Salt Lake, vs. LAFC, @ Seattle

Real Salt Lake 19 22 1.16 @ San Jose, @ L.A. Galaxy, vs. Sporting Kansas City
Houston 20 21 1.05 @ LAFC, @ Dallas, vs. Colorado
Colorado 14 19 1.36 @ Minnesota, vs. Seattle, @ Portland, @ Houston
L.A. Galaxy 18 18 1.00 @ Portland, vs. Real Salt Lake, vs. Seattle, @ Vancouver

If the playoffs started today:

– The New York Red Bulls, Nashville SC, Montreal Impact and Inter Miami would participate in a mini play-in tournament to determine the final two participants in the first round. The Philadelphia Union would play the lower-seeded winner while Toronto would face the higher-seeded winner. The Columbus Crew would host the New England Revolution and Orlando City would host NYCFC like normal.

– The top eight teams in the Western Conference automatically advance to the first round, resulting in the following matchups: San Jose at Kansas City, Vancouver at Seattle, Dallas at Portland and Minnesota at LAFC. 

– From that point, it is a single-elimination tournament with the higher seed playing at home just like in 2019. 

The race for the Supporters’ Shield:

– After originally deciding the Supporters’ Shield (given to the team with the best record) would not be awarded, the Supporters’ Shield Foundation reversed course and announced on Oct. 23 it will be awarded after all. 

– The Union have a 59% chance of winning the Supporters’ Shield after their emphatic 5-0 win over Toronto on Oct. 24, according to FiveThirtyEight. Though the two teams are tied on points and wins (the first tiebreaker), Philadelphia has the edge thanks to a superior goal differential (the second tiebreaker). 

– Toronto (31%), Seattle (5%) and Columbus (3%) are the other teams that have at least a 1% chance of winning it. 

Injuries to note:

– Toronto were without strikers Jozy Altidore and Ayo Akinola, winger Pablo Piatti, midfielder Jonathan Osorio and defender Chris Mavinga against Philadelphia. It is possible Altidore returns before the playoffs. Akinola was listed as questionable but was not in the team. 

– Columbus got a massive boost with the return of midfield standouts Darlington Nagbe and Lucas Zelarayán in their draw with Houston on Oct. 24. Nagbe had not played since Sept. 6 and Zelarayán — who came off the bench — hasn’t played a full game since Sept. 27. 

– Portland suffered another injury blow when striker Jeremy Ebobisse had to leave their game against LAFC on Oct. 18 and he was not in the team for their draw with Seattle on Oct. 22. Ebobisse had played in 75 consecutive games across all competitions, which was the longest active streak in MLS. 

– Seattle Sounders star Raúl Ruidíaz could feature as soon as Oct. 27, according to general manager Garth Lagerway. Ruidíaz tested positive for COVID-19 while on international duty and has been isolating in his native Peru. 

LAFC gaining momentum at the right time:

As most of the league is just trying to stay healthy until the end of the regular season with so many games in such a short time frame, Bob Bradley’s team welcomed back a host of players from injury and international duty for the Oct. 25 derby with the L.A. Galaxy. Among the returnees were Bradley’s preferred attacking trio of Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Brian Rodríguez. Reigning MLS MVP Vela hadn’t seen the field since Aug. 22 and is still in the process of working himself back into game shape. LAFC are now 3-1-1 in their last five games, including a 3-1 win over Seattle and a 1-1 draw with Portland. With Vela back in the fold and LAFC rounding into form, they will be the team nobody wants to face in the postseason. 

The Colorado Rapids question:

There are currently six MLS games that were postponed due to positive COVID tests and are not scheduled to be made up. Five of those games involve the Colorado Rapids, who went over a month between games due to a coronavirus outbreak in the organization. Commissioner Don Garber has indicated MLS will go to a points per game system to determine the final standings in a situation like this. In that case, the Rapids would replace San Jose in the playoffs if the season ended today. With no clear plan to play the postponed games, it seems likely that is what will end up happening.  

Photo by SounderBruce / Wikimedia Commons

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