Ranking The Shield Contenders

Rankings are fun. Rankings breed discussion and arbitrary discussion is what makes the long week between games bearable. But rankings teams also brings the problem of having to put very similar teams over one another. Being a big fantasy football guy, I've always favored tiers instead of outright by-the-numbers rankings. I feel like it gives a more accurate picture of "hey, any team in this tier has this much of a shot". So, with that in mind, here are your Supporters Shield contenders, ranked, as we head in to the stretch run.

Tier 1

FC Dallas

Current Position: 1st, 51 points

Remaining Games: @ NYCFC, @ RSL, Club Deportivo (CCL), LA Galaxy, Seattle, @ Club Deportivo (CCL), @ LA Galaxy

Toughest remaining game: @ LA Galaxy

Dallas has to be in Tier 1 because they're currently the Shield leaders, holding a four point advantage over LA. This team is deep, talented, and I have to believe the organization wants to go for the domestic treble after Tuesday's US Open Cup win. But, make no mistake, if it weren't for that pour point lead, FCD would be a Tier 2 contender. Dallas has the toughest stretch of any contender on this list. NYCFC plays much better at home on its tiny field, RSL hasn't lost a home game this year, Seattle is surging, and desperately needing points out of all its remaining games. And then there's the season-ender against the Galaxy in Carson. How good is Bruce Arena's team at home?

Yeah. Combine that with a Thursday trip to Guatemala for a CONCACAF Champions League game and it starts to look real tough for Dallas assuming Oscar Parjea doesn’t want to put CCL on the backburner. Dallas has the depth to do it, but it won’t be easy.

Toronto FC

Current Position: 3rd (tied with Colorado), 46 points

Remaining Games: RBNY, Philly, Orlando, DCU, @ Montreal, Chicago

Toughest Remaining Game: @ Montreal

If I had to put money on a Shield winner I’d bet on Toronto. Thanks to a stadium renovation at the beginning of the year, TFC has a back loaded home schedule, and not a very tough one at that. Unlike Dallas, Toronto has no other competitions to worry about and only one midweek game. Jozy Altidore is absolutely balling out at the moment and star forward Sebastian Giovinco is expected back within the next few weeks - just in time for that showdown with the Montreal Impact.

Colorado Rapids

Current Position: 3rd (toed with Toronto), 46 points

Remaining Games: San Jose, @ Vancouver, Portland, @ Houston, San Jose, @ Portland, Houston

Toughest Remaining Game: @Portland

Colorado is the forgotten team in the Shield picture. The Rapids surprised out of the gate this season and held on at the top of the table for a long time. They’ve slipped since then, but still have a very legitimate shot at the Shield. Colorado actually looks to have the easiest remaining schedule of any contender. Only Portland is currently in a playoff spot and Houston is currently tied for last in the league. What really pushes the Rapids into Tier 1 are the two games they have in hand on the rest of the field. If Pablo Mastroeni’s squad can capitalize on those and get a draw at Portland, they could potentially play a shield-clincher at home against one of the worst teams in MLS.

Tier 2

LA Galaxy

Current Position: 2nd, 47 points

Remaining Games: @Sporting KC, Seattle, @ Dallas, @ Houston, Dallas

Toughest Remaining Game: @FC Dallas

Like Dallas, LA controls its own destiny. Win both those games against Dallas and there’s a very good chance the Galaxy are heading into the playoffs with a No. 1 seed. But something feels off with this year’s Galaxy. The team was sluggish through August, so much so Bruce Arena felt the need to drag Landon Donovan out of retirement for the stretch run. Robbie Keane has missed a lot of time due to injury and international duty and the team might actually play better without him. Back to back games in the Texas heat worries me. However, Giovani dos Santos is making a late MVP push and he’s talented enough to carry this team to a Shield. Maybe Gio’s stellar play combined with Donovan’s fresh legs is enough, but we’ve seen Arena in past years sacrifice a shot at the Shield to rest his guys heading into the postseason.

New York Red Bulls

Current Position: 5th (tied w/ RSL and NYCFC), 44 points

Remaining Games: Alianza Futbol Club (CCL), @ Toronto, Montreal, @ Antigua Guatemala (CCL), Philadelphia, Columbus, @ Philadelphia

Toughest Remaining Game: @ Toronto

Another team facing midweek CCL games in the thick of the Shield chase. The Red Bulls are a very good team and a legitimate MLS Cup contender out of the East, but I think the slow start to season will come back to bit them. Toronto is the toughest game left here, if New York loses that one TFC should have no problem winning the East. Philly is in the midst of a great season and won’t be easy to take points off of in either game.

Tier 3

Real Salt Lake

Current Position: 6th (tied with RBNY and NYCFC), 44 points

Remaining Games: Houston, Dallas, @ San Jose, Sporting KC, @ Seattle

Toughest Remaining Game: @ Seattle

If there’s a “dark horse” in this race, it’s probably RSL. The attack is firing on all cylinders now that Yura Movsisyan, Joao Plata and Burrito Martinez are healthy. RSL has been unbeatable at home so I like them to take something from what will be a monster showdown with Dallas. The Seattle game to end the season is probably the biggest hurdle to a Shield. RSL doesn’t have any margin for error with seven points to make up and Seattle could be making a final desperation play for a postseason spot.  

NYCFC

Current Position: 7th (tied w/ RBNY and RSL), 44 points

Remaining Games: Dallas, Chicago, @ Houston, @ DC United, Columbus

Toughest Remaining Game: Dallas

What Patrick Vieria has done in his first year is nothing short of remarkable. NYCFC belongs in this conversation and the schedule actually doesn't look bad. The problem? This is a different team away from home. Houston and DC shouldn't be overly tough games, but the key word is "shouldn't". This defense still needs a major overhaul in the offseason and I don't trust it to hold up in key situations down the stretch. Fix the defense, and NYCFC could easily find itself in the first tier of Supporters Shield contenders this time next year.