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Major League Soccer Power Rankings - The race to the playoffs

So it has been a while since I have been able to post my power rankings but with most teams having just 2-3 matches left in their season I thought it would be interesting to take a look. So this weekend a lot of teams could have sent a strong message about wanting to secure their spot in the post season, but only one really did and that was more of a wimper than a statement.

Here is what we know 3 teams are in and 3 teams are out, so that means that 12 teams are fighting for 7 spots and the most contested spots are still those in the Eastern Conference, where teams 1-7 are separated by just 8 points. The 3 teams locked into a playoff spot are all in the West as the LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, and Real Salt Lake all have punched their ticket for the post season, now the only question is where they all will land. Likely they will occupy the top 3 spots in the West, while others fight for the wildcard spots. So I am going to give them the top 3 spots:

1. Los Angeles Galaxy

Listen while they were gifted a pair of goals in their 2-1 win over RSL, the reality is that they have done what it takes to prove they are the top team in MLS for the second year running. With more travel and a busy schedule Bruce Arena will need to continue to rotate players if he wants to make it out of Champions League group play and have success in the MLS Playoffs.

2. Seattle Sounders

While I don't think they can catch LA in the regular season standings, they surpassed them by being the first MLS team to secure a place in the Champions League knockout rounds, and they will play for their 3rd straight US Open Cup title this week. I have to expect that Sigi might try to rest some players after this week to get ready for the playoffs.

3. Real Salt Lake

You hate going into the playoffs with so many questions, what will Kyle Beckerman's status be, can Javier Morales find match fitness and his touch before the playoffs? Can the once dominant defense keep anyone from scoring? Yeah not exactly what I had hoped for, but you have to wonder which team will show up for the post season? One that posted 5 straight wins - enough to claim MLS Cup, or the one with 3 straight losses - more than enough to end the post season.

the rest of my rankings after the jump:

So beyond the 3 teams that have locked up playoff spots you have some teams that are doing their best it seems to not make the playoffs, or at least not doing enough to lock into a spot. To be honest I don't think RSL are playing as the 3rd best team in MLS, but nobody other than LA, Seattle (and Chicago) are playing well. No other team than those 3 have 3 wins in their last 5 so while RSL gets credit for locking up a space the next 5-6 spots are really a hodge podge of who goes in what order.

4. Philadelphia Union

So they beat DC United a great game a big 6 pointer in the Eastern Conference and then they lay a egg at Chivas USA by giving up a stoppage time goal to only get a point and not take 1st place in the Eastern Conference. Upside they should be able to get results in 2 of their last 3 matches and that might be enough for a playoff spot, maybe even the top spot in the East.

5. Sporting Kansas City

The fact that Sporting was able to rebound from a grueling 10 match road trip to start the year and sit at the top of the Eastern Conference at this point of the season is simply impressive. They have shown they can score with and on anyone in MLS, but they still haven't shown they can play good enough defense to win in the playoffs. This is going to be a dangerous team if they make it out of the first round.

6. FC Dallas

They simply have stunk lately with 4 straight losses, and they haven't scored a goal since August. They get a week off before they head to Chicago, and if they can figure out what is wrong this could be a very dangerous team, but only if they can get it figured out in their next 3 matches.

7. Columbus Crew

They got a 2-1 win over DC this weekend but weren't very convincing. Considering the lowered expectations this year for a team that in the offseason cut players that accounted for more than 50% of their minutes in 2010, to be sitting in 3rd place in the East with two matches to go isn't bad. I don't think there is enough consistency with this group to make them a real threat in the post season but the wacky format means anything can happen, especially in the East.

8. Colorado Rapids

The defending champs are being forced to do some soul searching after their coach sent a bunch of second stringers and asst coaches to Central America for a Champions League match and they looked better than the first team has in weeks. That and a very lack luster win over FC Dallas this weekend and you have to wonder what it will take to get the defending Champions motivated enough to secure a spot in the post season? Two matches left, and they are just 5 points ahead of the two closest teams chasing their playoff spot, oh and each of those two have a match in hand. Could RSL ruin their post season dreams in a couple weeks? Wouldn't be the first time.

Just a note here, that if we were using the same playoff rules as last year (I wish we were) then nobody below this line would be in as of today. Looking at the teams and their performances you can see why I think 8 teams is plenty in the MLS playoffs

9. Houston Dynamo

Yeah what can you say, average on a good day, and they will need to be really good to hang on to a playoff spot as they have two matches left, on the road at Portland and home to the Galaxy. Neither of those will be easy and Houston may find themselves on the out side of the playoffs if they can't sneak in a win, even in the soft East and expanded playoff field.

10. Portland Timbers

Valiant effort from an expansion team, very good at home and a couple of wins on the road. Clearly they have build a solid team, a good home stadium and have great fans. They leveraged their history and their coaches knowledge of MLS to build a solid team. Two of their final 3 matches are against teams that are fighting for a playoff spot, this is a team that could upset some people if they can find a couple of wins down this final stretch.

11. New York Red Bulls

They hold the final wildcard playoff spot by goal differential, the only things of note with them are they have the highest payroll in MLS history, and they are tied with the Chicago Fire as all time MLS leaders in draws with 16 so far this year. I will be honest they have 3 tough matches left on their schedule, home against the LA Galaxy, away at Sporting KC, and home against Philly and I don't see them winning any of them if their opponents do as much as show up. Perhaps the biggest disappointment in MLS history.

12. DC United

Perhaps the team with the best chance to still crash the playoff picture, if Dwayne De Rosario shows up every match. They aren't going to get enough points in their final 4 matches unless he does more than just 1 assist like he did against Columbus. He must do as he has done before with teams, put them on his back and carry them to glory. You saw what he can do in the match against RSL, if that De Ro shows up there aren't many teams who can stop him. If he doesn't then they will fall short of the post season yet again.

13. Chicago Fire

A little too little a little too late, that will be the final story told about the Chicago Fire this year. Only the LA Galaxy have been better over their last 4 matches, but too many draws to start the year has left them likely on the outside looking in at the post season. If they can get a win at Seattle in the Open Cup final, maybe they can find a way to pull off a miracle but it will require other teams falter. Their destiny is no longer in their own hands.

14. Chivas USA

Well for a team that was clearly in rebuilding mode, the playoffs were a lofty goal to start with. With two matches remaining they are not eliminated from the playoffs, but they would need to win both of their remaining matches, then have Portland, New York, and DC United all fall flat on their faces. Sorry goats your season is over.

15. Toronto FC

You are once again eliminated and despite not playing horrible at the end of the year after going out and getting a couple more DP's perhaps the mad science experiment that is this team and organization will not take the scrap everything and start over approach again. Maybe this time the organization will support their coach, help him make a few more roster moves, and then get some new people in your front office to get your fans back after a year of treating them poorly.

16. San Jose Earthquakes

There will be no late season run, there was nobody brought in after the all star match to save you this year. Nope and when your stars go missing, Dawkins, Wondolowski, Lenhart, well there isn't much left. This is a team in need of a major rebuild, if they are going to get a new stadium the fans will probably demand a much better team at some point as well. The big question is will Yallop be there in 2012?

17. New England Revolution

Your problems started in the preseason and well to be honest continued all year, your team and your organization (from top to bottom) owes your fans more than you have given them. You can only live on the legacy of Tyler and Deuce for so long, and as much as it pains me to say this it is time for a lot of changes including one of my favorite coaches.

18. Vancouver Whitecaps

Welcome to MLS, as you might have noticed your issues are plenty and they start at the top with a boss that still refuses to take blame for the only match in MLS history cancelled for rain, no not a hurricane, just a normal rain storm. You have some talented players but there is more needed in MLS than a couple of good players, you need a team and as far as I can tell your team still needs a leader and some more depth at every position. I can't remember the last time a team didn't win at least one match on the road? Don't worry next year you can beat up on Montreal.

Well there you go my version of a power rankings, if I could I would have simply made LA #1 and everyone else tied for #18.