29 games have been played for most of the clubs.With five games remaining, every single team in the league is still mathematically eligible to make the playoffs. Six clubs are still at 27 played, but still have enough points that, if they were at 29, would still have a chance to nab the 6th seed. Actually, every team at 29GP would still have a shot at the 5th seed!
To offer some perspective on why this collective effort from the lower rungs of MLS is so surprising, one only has to look back to 2014 to see that, at 29 games played, Chivas USA and Montreal Impact had already been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, and Colorado, Chicago, and San Jose were clinging for life. Currently, Houston, the team with the least amount of points from getting knocked out, mathematically, is still nine points away from being eliminated...and 8 points from being unable to achieve the fifth seed. In the east, based on simple math (and not the convoluted method of figuring out how each team could conceivably get the fewest amount of points from their remaining matches), Columbus Crew could still finish on top!
Looking ahead now, specifically in the West, this week spells trouble for two teams in the Northwest. Both Portland and Vancouver, two teams fighting for anything they can get, see themselves traveling for CONCACAF Champions League fixtures against Saprissa and Sporting Kansas City respectively. Caleb Porter and Carl Robinson will have to prioritize each competition and decide on where to sacrifice. The Whitecaps then have to visit the Sounders, who are also looking to scrape away three points to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in their MLS history. The Timbers host the Philadelphia Union - a club who has placed themselves comfortably in the playoff race in the East for the first time since their inaugural year - who are currently a pedestrian 1-1-1 on turf this year and 1-5-2 against opponents in the West.
Atop the standings is a new face, the club from Colorado. Taking full advantage of the “Jermaine Jones Effect,” the Rapids have found themselves in a position to take the West by force given their games in hand over FC Dallas and the fact that FCD are likely placing more emphasis on the midweek matchup against New England for the Lamar Hunt trophy. Dallas’ difficulties continue through the weekend when they travel to Yankee Stadium to face NYCFC, a team that hasn’t lost in the Bronx since June 2nd. Meanwhile, Colorado host San Jose, a team looking to upset all of Cascadia, but has only won a single road match all season.
This week’s magic number is: 3
Three is the number of points every single team can conceivably achieve this week. Three is also the number of teams in the East that are battling for the 6th seed Saturday.