MLS, like every league, has good teams, bad teams and teams in the middle. But thanks to the league’s parity, travel, sometimes odd scheduling, midseason transfer window and general penchant for chaos, those teams at the bottom sure seem to screw things up for the rest with delightful regularity.
Take Sporting Kansas City, who have been last in the Western Conference for nearly the entire season. Sprinkle in a great summer signing like William Agada, who is already second on the team in goals after five games, and all of a sudden this bottom-dweller is beating playoff hopefuls LA Galaxy and Portland Timbers in consecutive home games. Wait, check that, they absolutely obliterated LA and Portland.
The playoff race is as much about which team on the outside looking in is going to ruin a team’s season, just for the fun of it. And that is a sight to behold.
So about that top, middle and bottom. Let’s find out who is where.
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Previous ranking: 1
Next MLS game: Friday at Austin FC, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Black and Gold had a difficult week, only by their standards, with an unremarkable win over DC and loss to San Jose, so of course they also clinched a playoff spot. Even when it doesn’t go well, LAFC still have something to celebrate this year.
Previous ranking: 4
Next MLS game: Saturday at Chicago Fire FC, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+
The attack was the problem and they were too dependent on Djordje Mihailovic, was the thinking. So with Mihailovic maybe on the move to the Netherlands and out of the lineup, they obliterate New England, 4-0. At least for now, there’s nothing to doubt in Montreal.
Previous ranking: 2
Next MLS game: Saturday vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Philly has scored at least six goals in a game three times since July 7 after smoking DC 6-0, so you’ll excuse us if we’re willing to throw the 1-0 loss to Dallas on Wednesday out of the window.
Previous ranking: 3
Next MLS game: Friday vs. LAFC, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Losing in Minnesota isn’t really reason for worry, but giving up 12 goals in the past five games is. The problem with the Austin defense playing like they want to see Sebastian Driussi play superhero, which we appreciate, but it may get the Argentina knocked out of the playoffs early, which we would not appreciate.
Franco Fragapane goal 62nd minute Minnesota United FC 2-1 Austin FC
Previous ranking: 8
Next MLS game: Saturday vs. Houston Dynamo FC, 3:30 p.m. ET
This is the ideal Adrian Heath team. They work their tails off, as we’ve come to expect from his sides, but they have Emanuel Reynoso to do, well, most everything else. That’s balance, in its own way, and it has them up to third in the West on points per game after beating Austin.
Previous ranking: 5
Next MLS game: Saturday vs. Real Salt Lake, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Beating Philly midweek earns you a « let’s forget this game ever happened » to use on the weekend’s defeat in Nashville.
Previous ranking: 6
Next MLS game: Saturday at FC Dallas, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Nothing about RSL games make much sense. On one hand, they’re not good enough to keep anything remotely under control. On the other hand, they come out of the chaos with points, like this weekend’s draw against Vancouver, reasonably often. They’re the world’s most pretty good pinball player.
Previous ranking: 9
Next MLS game: Saturday vs. Inter Miami CF, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+
After a win in Atlanta and a home draw to Cincy, RBNY now average 1.93 points per game (which would have them top of the East) away and 1.08 points per game (which would have them second from the bottom in the conference) at home .
Christian Fuchs slots home penalty goal vs. New York City F.C.
Previous ranking: 7
Next MLS game: Sunday at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m. ET
Beating the Fire was nice, but it doesn’t make up for allowing Charlotte to win on the road for the second time ever. The post-Valentin Castellanos world is even darker than imagined.
Previous ranking: 10
Next MLS game: Saturday vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Cincy brought Matt Miazga in to help one of the league’s worst defenses stop goals, but scoring a goal is just as good as keeping one out. Put it, and a point in New Jersey, on the board.
Previous ranking: 15
Next MLS game: Saturday at Vancouver Whitecaps, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Nashville turned around its woeful home record with a 4-0 win over Dallas in front of a shockingly small crowd. Maybe NSC are just shy.
Previous ranking: 11
Next MLS game: Saturday at FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
If Cucho Hernandez is going to score a goal a game, which he is, then maybe the Crew should be doing better than drawing Atlanta at home. If we don’t get to see Cucho in the playoffs, then we riot.
Cucho Hernández’s goal ties it up in the 66th minute
Previous ranking: 14
Next MLS game: Sunday vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
Oscar Pareja knew that Anton Walkes would miss an unchallenged clearance, and if Tesho Akindele shot it directly at the goalkeeper, the rebound would come right back to him for an easy finish. That’s tactics. And a spot above the playoff line.
Previous ranking: 16
Next MLS game: Saturday at New York Red Bulls, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Inter have something cooking and, after a win over Toronto, are into a playoff spot, but if they’re going to be playing at these heights, they need to figure out a shade of pink for their kits that holds up to the Florida summer sweatshirt. That gorgeous pink at kickoff is looking awfully heavy by … the 10th minute.
Previous ranking: 12
Next MLS game: Saturday at Charlotte FC, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Having to play three games in a week, capped by a three-hour flight to Florida in August? Some might call that cruel, others might just call that MLS. Shockingly, it ended with a loss in Miami.
Previous ranking: 13
Next MLS game: Saturday at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
The Dynamo have been going through a rough patch, so letting them play the last 10 minutes up a man was very kind, but the Rapids faithful would probably appreciate a playoff spot more than the Nice Guys Award. Two dropped points at home in Houston is a good way to miss the postseason.
Lalas Abubakar scores off a perfect cross from Felipe Gutierrez
Previous ranking: 17
Next MLS game: Sunday vs. LA Galaxy, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+
The Revs finally learned after a winless trip to Toronto and Montreal that you’re in trouble when your key players are all hurt. That it took them weeks to learn the lesson is a credit to Bruce Arena & Co.
Previous ranking: 24
Next MLS game: Saturday vs. Nashville SC, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+
After a 2-1 win over the Rapids and a 1-1 draw against RSL, the Caps still have a chance to make the playoffs. They’re a point from being in the postseason and have the second-worst goal difference in the Western Conference. That is an absurdity that nobody can root against.
Previous ranking: 19
Next MLS game: Friday at Portland Timbers, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
Every week feels like a game of « So do you think the Sounders are buried yet? » « How about now? » And the answer is still « no, » and not going away, after a draw in LA
Previous ranking: 20
Next MLS game: Sunday at New England Revolution, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Galaxy are, historically, the best team in MLS and the Sounders are the class of the modern era, so it only reasons that with both teams underwhelming so much that they are on the playoff bubble and in need of a win, they’d kick each other in the shines and draw.
The Galaxy and the Sounders give the fans their money’s worth in a match that comes right down to the final minutes.
Previous ranking: 21
Next MLS game: Saturday vs. Toronto FC, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+
The Crown actually won an away game, only their second ever, at NYCFC and got a real assist from Kamil Jozwiak in a loss to Orlando. That’s reason enough for a parade in Charlotte.
Previous ranking: 18
Next MLS game: Friday vs. Seattle Sounders, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Timbers are lucky you can’t take negative points from a game, because losing 4-1 to SKC would be grounds for it.
Previous ranking: 23
Next MLS game: Sunday vs. DC United, 4 p.m. ET
What’s worse when you’re in a playoff race: playing horribly, like Atlanta did in the loss to the Red Bulls, or playing phenomenally and not getting three points, like the Five Stripes did in a draw with the Crew?
Previous ranking: 25
Next MLS game: Saturday vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Sporting Park, playoff house of horrors. That doesn’t mean what it used to, with SKC far from the postseason, but if you’re a playoff contender then maybe skip the Kansas City trip. LA and Portland wish they had.
William Agada goal 75th minute Sporting Kansas City 4-0 Portland Timbers
Previous ranking: 26
Next MLS game: Saturday at Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Play Cade Cowell’s winning volley over LAFC on a loop until next February.
Previous ranking: 22
Next MLS game: Saturday vs. CF Montreal, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+
After a loss to NYCFC, it appears as if we will not get to crank up « Mr. Brightside » for a Fire playoff game at Soldier Field like it’s 2005.
Previous ranking: 28
Next MLS game: Saturday at Minnesota United, 3:30 p.m. ET
The Dynamo only needed to play 10 minutes up a man to come back for a draw in Colorado, so at least we learned that Houston is, in fact, a competitive 11-vs.-10 team.
Previous ranking: 27
Next MLS game: Sunday at Atlanta United, 4 p.m. ET
This week was less about Wayne Rooney admitting DC had no luck at the playoffs after losses to LA and Philly, and more about remembering the confidence he had just a few weeks ago when he said he thought they could still make the playoffs. That was the most convincing performance DCU has put in since 2019.