TMLS by the Numbers: The Magic Number to the Playoffs

Entering the final third of the season, coaches are studying their calendars in order to claim the most points by season’s end. In special cases, clubs are also wary of the CONCACAF Champions League and US Open Cup matches left to be played. These extra games will no doubt add an element in which the gaffer will find himself trapped in a sea of priorities and how to utilize the best of his team without wearing them out.

Clubs at the bottom of their respective conference’s tables are contemplating the best method to reach at least a wildcard spot. The ones in the middle of it all? They will have to maintain course, or hope to run hot right before the playoffs if they wish to hold off the ones nipping at prime real estate on the table.

Total MLS has compiled the numbers to offer to you a visualization of what is still possible in the league as of this week, and updates will appear every week until the last, when all playoff spots have been determined and the Supporters Shield winner has claimed their prize. Below, you will see a graph depicting the point totals and possible point totals of every MLS team, separated by conference (blue for East, purple for West). The green segments are points that are still available for claim. Every week, this table will shift, and flow into place depending on the points claimed by each team.

Here is how MLS shakes up as of this week in terms of possible points:


FC Dallas currently has a solid hold on the Supporters Shield by six points on Colorado, but the Frisco natives have also played three more games. Based on possible points available, the Rapids have the edge. The top three in the East all have the capabilities of scoring 69 points, but would still be shy of 4th place RSL in the West with a possible 70.

The playoff race is much tighter. In terms of possible points, every single team is mathematically eligible by a large margin. However, this graph allows us to narrow down exactly the magic number a team needs to claim a playoff spot, and how far off they are each week as that number will inevitably shrink over time. In the East, 72 points is needed to eclipse the New England Revolution and secure a place in the playoffs, while Vancouver’s 73 points is the benchmark in the West. San Jose Earthquakes, while currently in 8th in the West, have a better possibility (not necessarily probability) at securing home field for the wildcard match than the three clubs in front of them.

This week, Real Salt Lake has the potential to jump up to second or third in the West, and Toronto FC could meet NYCFC at the top of the East.