MLS Playoff Power Rankings: Who is most likely to win 2015 MLS Cup?

Monday October 26th, 2015

The Major League Soccer playoff race should be as tight as any, despite two more teams getting in than last year with the format change. The matchups in the knockout round in particular should provide some drama, as some of the teams from higher up the table in the early season will now face elimination in a one-off game.

Each conference’s favorites seem easy to call, as the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas finished with a seven-point gap between them and their nearest competitors. Still, if MLS has taught fans anything in its playoff past, it’s that having a great regular season doesn’t mean much once the playoffs begin.

As the No. 1 seed in the East last year, D.C. United didn’t even make it out of its first pairing. In fact, a top-ranked team hasn’t been conference champion since the LA Galaxy did it in 2011. D.C.’s slide down the table this year has it opening up the playoffs in a midweek wildcard one-off against the New England Revolution.

The Galaxy find themselves all the way down in fifth, traveling to play the fourth-placed Seattle Sounders on Wednesday; those teams were once favored to face off in the Western Conference final. A Montreal Impact-Toronto FC rivalry game should be explosive, while the Portland Timbers will be keen to capitalize on their late-season momentum in a home match against Sporting Kansas City.

Here’s how MLS’s remaining teams stack up heading into the 2015 postseason:

1
1New York Red Bulls
last week: 1
record: 18-10-6 | Decision Day result: 2-1 at Chicago

It’s also a well-balanced team that gets production out of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan but can also lean on role players such as Mike Grella to get the job done every week. Unlike the Supporters’ Shield-winning team of two years ago, this incarnation hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down as the regular season came to a close.

1New York Red Bulls
last week: 1
record: 18-10-6 | Decision Day result: 2-1 at Chicago

It’s also a well-balanced team that gets production out of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan but can also lean on role players such as Mike Grella to get the job done every week. Unlike the Supporters’ Shield-winning team of two years ago, this incarnation hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down as the regular season came to a close.

2
2FC Dallas
last week: 2
record: 18-10-6 | Decision Day result: 2-1 vs. San Jose

 

2FC Dallas
last week: 2
record: 18-10-6 | Decision Day result: 2-1 vs. San Jose

 

3
3Columbus Crew
last week: 4
record: 15-11-8 | Decision Day result: 5-0 vs. D.C.

The Red Bulls beat Columbus twice this season and have likely ensured that the Crew still won’t be favored to get to the MLS Cup final, but that could suit this team just fine, as used to flying under the radar as it has been.

4
4Vancouver Whitecaps
last week: 11
record: 16-13-5 | Decision Day result: 2-0 vs. Houston

Carl Robinson deserves immense credit for taking a young, relatively thin squad and earning a first-round bye in the playoffs. However, the team did seem to run out of steam with multiple competitions and a good number of games under its belt as October rolled around. Making the playoffs will give Vancouver renewed energy, as will not having to play in the first round, but will that be enough to return to its early-season form?

4Vancouver Whitecaps
last week: 11
record: 16-13-5 | Decision Day result: 2-0 vs. Houston

Carl Robinson deserves immense credit for taking a young, relatively thin squad and earning a first-round bye in the playoffs. However, the team did seem to run out of steam with multiple competitions and a good number of games under its belt as October rolled around. Making the playoffs will give Vancouver renewed energy, as will not having to play in the first round, but will that be enough to return to its early-season form?

5
5Montreal Impact
last week: 6
record: 15-13-6 | Decision Day result: 2-1 vs. Toronto

Really, though, much of the credit has to go to Drogba. His 11 goals in 11 MLS games, including two on Sunday, make his presence vital alongside Ignacio Piatti in attack for Montreal to have a good chance in the playoffs. He seemed to come through a late injury scare relatively unscathed against Toronto, running off a dead leg, but his fitness will undoubtedly be closely monitored with a quick turnaround.

5Montreal Impact
last week: 6
record: 15-13-6 | Decision Day result: 2-1 vs. Toronto

Really, though, much of the credit has to go to Drogba. His 11 goals in 11 MLS games, including two on Sunday, make his presence vital alongside Ignacio Piatti in attack for Montreal to have a good chance in the playoffs. He seemed to come through a late injury scare relatively unscathed against Toronto, running off a dead leg, but his fitness will undoubtedly be closely monitored with a quick turnaround.

6
6Portland Timbers
last week: 8
record: 15-11-8 | Decision Day result: 4-1 vs. Colorado

Darlington Nagbe is heating up at just the right point of the season, scoring three goals in the last two games and setting up the third goal against the Rapids on the final day. A move into central midfield has freed him and taken a weight off his shoulders that seemed to get heavier the longer he played on the wing.

6Portland Timbers
last week: 8
record: 15-11-8 | Decision Day result: 4-1 vs. Colorado

Darlington Nagbe is heating up at just the right point of the season, scoring three goals in the last two games and setting up the third goal against the Rapids on the final day. A move into central midfield has freed him and taken a weight off his shoulders that seemed to get heavier the longer he played on the wing.

7
7Toronto FC
last week: 3
record: 15-15-4 | Decision Day result: 1-2 at Montreal

If Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco and Michael Bradley can score more goals than a suspect defense gives up, Toronto will be fine. Playoff teams won’t be that soft defensively, though, and their attacks will be salivating at the prospect of going at such a weak back line in the postseason.

7Toronto FC
last week: 3
record: 15-15-4 | Decision Day result: 1-2 at Montreal

If Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco and Michael Bradley can score more goals than a suspect defense gives up, Toronto will be fine. Playoff teams won’t be that soft defensively, though, and their attacks will be salivating at the prospect of going at such a weak back line in the postseason.

8
8Los Angeles Galaxy
last week: 5
record: 14-11-9 | Decision Day result: 1-2 at Sporting KC

That’s what opponents will have to exploit if they are to have a chance against the Galaxy: pressure the defense, push central midfielders Juninho and Steven Gerrard out of their comfort zone by making them defend and contain a couple of the league’s most dangerous forwards. Of course, that’s still a lot to do, leaving LA as a formidable foe for any opponent.

9
9Seattle Sounders
last week: 7
record: 15-13-6 | Decision Day result: 3-1 vs. Salt Lake

After Clint Dempsey’s suspension and Obafemi Martins’ injury, a team that was once favored to win it all will now have a tough time getting out of the knockout round against the Galaxy, even if Seattle is hosting the one-off against its perennial barrier to postseason success. Osvaldo Alonso also came off injured in Sunday’s game, which spelled major trouble last year heading into a playoff matchup against LA that Seattle wound up losing.

10
10New England Revolution
last week: 9
record: 14-12-8 | Decision Day result: 3-1 at NYCFC

Look no further than an eight-game unbeaten streak from mid-July to mid-September, followed by just one win in the final five matches of the season, to understand New England’s 2015. This is a team that can get going and rattle off a few wins in succession, which is helpful in the playoffs, but its inconsistency could spell trouble against top opposition.

11
11D.C. United
last week: 13
record: 15-13-6 | Decision Day result: 0-5 at Columbus

Ben Olsen’s coaching style rests on motivation and getting the most out of his players, physically and mentally, in every match. The team has just looked exhausted for the better part of the last two months, and even if it gets through the knockout round of the playoffs, a quick turnaround before the next game could spell trouble.

12
12Sporting Kansas City
last week: 14
record: 14-11-9 | Decision Day result: 2-1 vs. LA

Peter Vermes even left Benny Feilhaber, at one point an MVP candidate, on the bench for LA’s visit on Sunday. Feilhaber came off the bench and assisted the game-winning goal, but Kansas City has been awful down the stretch and will likely struggle to get past Portland in midweek.

12Sporting Kansas City
last week: 14
record: 14-11-9 | Decision Day result: 2-1 vs. LA

Peter Vermes even left Benny Feilhaber, at one point an MVP candidate, on the bench for LA’s visit on Sunday. Feilhaber came off the bench and assisted the game-winning goal, but Kansas City has been awful down the stretch and will likely struggle to get past Portland in midweek.

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