MLS Playoff Watch (Through Week 24)

LjungbergCronin (ISIphotos.com) 

                                                                     Photo by ISIphotos.com

By TRAVIS CLARK

The cooler temperatures of September hit on Tuesday, and with it marks the home stretch of the regular season in MLS. The last two months of the season will be worth keeping an eye on, with 11 teams fighting for the eight playoffs spots.

Further increasing competition, substantial leads have disappeared for Columbus and Houston, as both Chicago and Los Angeles find themselves right on the heels of the conference leaders. With three three wins in a row, New England has thrown itself back in the mix.

Over in the West, six of the eight teams have more than 33 points. Given the playoff format this year (top two teams in each conference qualify, then the next four based on point total), it's going to be a tense and heated battle that should last to the end of the day.

Head-to-head matches in the month of September will be even bigger. Starting this weekend, Colorado takes on Toronto in the first of back-to-back matches that could leave the loser in a big hole. Seattle has a big test on September 12 in D.C., while Columbus and Chicago meet on September 20.

A point to consider is the number of games each club has played. New England still has nine games left, having played four less than Houston and two less than Columbus. With a healthy roster, the Revolution are in good shape.

Since not all teams have played the same number of matches, the best way to calculate where teams stand now is to figure out what each team's points-per-game average is. This was the average used by MLS in 2001 to determine playoff positioning after the 9/11 terrorist attacks caused the cancellation of the remainder of the regular season

How does the playoff race look once we calculate points per game? Here's a rundown:

Eastern Conference

Columbus………..1.69 points per match (ppm); 39 points from 23 matches

Chicago………….1.58 ppm; 38 points from 24 matches

Western Conference

Houston………….1.6 ppm; 40 points from 25 matches

Los Angeles………1.58 ppm; 38 points from 24 matches

Wild Card Playoff Slots

New England…….1.57 ppm; 33 from 21 matches

Colorado………..1.5 ppm; 33 pts from 22 matches

Chivas USA……..1.5 ppm; 33 pts from 22 matches

Seattle………….1.41 ppm; 34 pts from 24 matches

Playoff Contenders

D.C. United……..1.39 ppm; 32 points from 23 matches

Real Salt Lake…..1.37 ppm; 33 points from 24 matches

Toronto…………1.34 ppm; 31 points from 23 matches

Current First-Round Playoff Pairings

Columbus Crew vs. Seattle Sounders

Houston Dynamo vs. Chivas USA

Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution

Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Colorado Rapids

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Yes, that is Seattle holding down the final playoff spot while New England, which has played three fewer games than the Sounders, settles in at No. 5. D.C. United and Real Salt Lake are both within striking distance of Seattle, Colorado and Chivas USA for the final playoff spots, while Toronto FC needs to start winning some games to be a serious threat. For those wondering, Colorado is head of Chivas USA on goal differential.

Which teams do you see making late moves in the standings? Which clubs do you see fading? 

Share your thoughts below.

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23 Responses to MLS Playoff Watch (Through Week 24)

  1. Jeter says:

    Go Dynamo!

  2. CT says:

    If Ives is correct, the Dynamo will be up against their frequent playoff adversary, Chivas USA. Usually a blood letting. By then, both teams ought to have their Mexican mercenaries (Landin and Padilla) up to full speed. If it comes to pass it will be a great match up.

    (SBI-That would be the match-up if the season ended today. It’s definitely the best possible one for Houston from a sub-plot standpoint, though a Houston-Seattle first-round series would be great as well.)

  3. HarryO says:

    Real has a good shot at making the playoffs if they can finish the season strong. They hold goal differential against both New England and Chivas USA

  4. CT says:

    Ives, a Houston-Seattle match up would be scary to this Houston fan. For some reason, Seattle has the whammy over Houston this season. Though, I have to admit if, after the 3 previous games, Houston could prevail, it would be very satisfying. Keller v Onstad. Wow.

  5. BurlingtonChelsea says:

    Crew v Sounders would be an intriguing match up as well.

  6. MemRook says:

    I know there’s been a lot of Beckham drama lately, but it will be really good for LA and for the league if the Galaxy can, one, make the playoffs (barring a major colapse) and two, make a deep run in the playoffs. Beckham will be leaving after this season so it would seem, and Donovan will surely be leaving as well. So this might be LA’s best chance to make it to the finals in a while.

  7. Ken says:

    Honestly, I can’t see the Sounders making the playoffs at this rate. A playoff team wouldn’t have come out with that terrible display against Toronto, even if we came out of it with a lucky point.

  8. brant says:

    So Seattle as the “8” switches brackets and comes to Columbus as the “4” seed in the East… intriguing. It’s almost like the MLS set it up that way… hmmmm….

  9. giaco says:

    Would it be a post-season if there was no CHI-NE match up?!

  10. Rory says:

    Seattle has faded away… they’re toast. Colorado and Salt Lake will pass them by and leave them in the dust. The real question is when does DC realize the Champions League is a lost cause and focus on a playoff push? The sooner the better for their odds.

    I still have that feeling that the Beckham last year magic will see LA raising the cup (like how Real Madrid won -finally- in his last year there).

  11. timmyg says:

    how can a team have three to four games in hand with a month left in the season??

    the mls seriously needs to streamline its scheduling.

  12. Colorado Rapids are looking good right now. We bounced back from the heartbreaking loss at Toyota Park last week to shut out Houston Dynamo 1-0 at home yesterday. With TFC coming to the mile-high altitude, there should be no excuse to not come away with 3 points at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday. Now, the Rapids play away from home has been poor, and BMO Field is no easy place to play for the visiting clubs.

    Thankfully, another home and away is coming up with bottom-feeders San Jose Earthquakes. Rapids close the season with games at Kansas City, home to New England, and then away at FC Dallas and RSL. On paper…one of the easier schedules to close out domestic league play. GO RAPIDS!!!!!

  13. KCB says:

    If New England, with all those games in hand, finish at the top by the end of the year, should Steve Nicol be consider Coach of the Year?

  14. Yayo says:

    Yes Brant, when MLS created this format LAST year, they envisioned this exact scenario occuring this year with Seattle facing Columbus. Everyone, let’s call it a day, Brant figured out!

  15. seth|NYC says:

    The other important consideration is upcoming schedule. DC and Colorado have what appear to be the easiest schedules going into the playoffs.

    United, for example, has 5 of their last seven at home, where they are still undefeated in MLS play. The two away games are against KC and Dallas.

  16. Rudy says:

    As a Galaxy fan, the team I don’t want to see is Colorado. For whatever reason Casey loves to play against L.A.

  17. LEE says:

    Crapids in the post- season would be horrible. did you see the attendance at the game yesterday. Horrible! Houston, LA, RSL and Chivas are the better teams in the west. I agree with the scheduling, redonkulous that some teams have 3 games in hand still at this point…

  18. ColoradoHawk says:

    Yes the Rapids have what appears to be an easy schedule, but if history is any indicator….

    The Rapids will struggle.

    Anyone bored enough to see the Rapids schedule against non playoff teams the last year?

    Let’s see last year I think they were 2-0-1 against dallas..but 0-1-1 against SJ….2 losses to TFC 1 win and 2 losses against LA.

  19. MiamiAl says:

    I think if DC wins the US Open Cup on Wednesday, and combined with the HUGE win this past weekend against Chicago in Chicago, confidence will be very high and the momentum could be lifting DC to a strong finish…RFK for 5 of the last 7 gives DC a strong shot!

  20. acj says:

    On past performance I’d expect Chivas DC, and TFC to fade. But chivas has a light schedule with 5 of 8 games at home including games against the red bulls, San Jose and Kansas City, the three worst teams in the league. Likewise DC has 5 of 7 home games left including Kansas City twice, San Jose and Dallas. All teams with nothing left to play for.

    Seattle on the other hand has 4 of 6 games on the road with 4 of the remaining games coming against teams fighting for their playoff lives. I’m afraid my sounders will be joining TFC, and RSL on an early vacation.

    That said I’m an irrational sports fan so I have a feeling we’ll squeek into 8th place.

  21. will huff says:

    Sigi sounds like he is going to field very close to his starting 11 for the Open Cup final. Why not? Sounders are a long shot to win MLS Cup if they make the playoffs. Great season, win ( Lamar Hunt ) US Open Cup, well done.

    Sounders fans have called out, as I see it, every MLS fan outside of Toronto or Los Angeles. If your team is not selling out every match and you live within driving distance of your home stadia and you are not a full season ticket holder, shame on you.

    I live over 200 miles from the nearest team and still make it a point to see a few matches every year.

  22. Leonardo says:

    I’d rather see DC make it than NE. and yes, i’d like Toronto to show up again to play my Sounders in the playoffs.

    sure, Seattle has fizzled as of late, but with Montero and Alonso fueled by Ljundy, we should get our rhythm back! it’s typical of a rookie team, right? inconsistency. but i feel we’ve played out our cold spell, so now it’s time to fire it up!

    1 more thing: I don’t want the Crew to win! no no no. they were absoutely *humiliated* by Cruz Azul! i mean c’mon do you want to say “Our MLS champion lost 5-0…” riight. no. they dont’ deserve it! i don’t care.

    Sleeper: Galaxy! i want LA to take it if Seattle won’t. Becks is on fiya, and as soon as Donovan finishes a bit more, they will be unstoppable.

  23. stephen says:

    Going to be fun watching the Revs pass Chicago for the bye.