MLS Power Rankings: Decision Day

As quickly as it came, the 2023 Major League Soccer regular season had come and gone. Like the changing leaves and cold wind herald the coming of the winter season, so the elimination of Chicago Fire from playoff contention heralds the coming of a new MLS season, full of new hopes and new dreams for all who enter.

Before that, though, there’s the small matter of the playoffs, featuring an exclusive group of the elite 62% of teams in the league that somehow managed to avoid being actively bad for most of the season. This stellar group of 18 teams will compete in a cutting-edge best-of-three Round One, a cavalcade of sport spanning 15 days, after which comes a festive 13-day break to humanely kill all momentum before squeezing the single-leg rounds into 14 rounds. Marvel at the miracle with which the schedule workers have blessed us.

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Anyway, here’s the final edition of the power rankings. If you’ve forgotten, here’s how the OPI model works:

  • Points per game – 30%
  • Goal difference – 15%
  • Form in last five games – 15%
  • Expected goal difference – 12.5%
  • Strength of schedule – 12.5%
  • Home and away form – 12.5%
  • Goals added – 2.5%
RANKTEAMSCORERANK SCORE
1s – FC Cincinnati 37.38+0.67
2x – Columbus Crew 35.71+1.72
3x – LAFC 31.69-0.72
4x – Seattle Sounders 27.38+3+1.55
5x – Philadelphia Union 27.26-1-1.31
6x – Orlando City SC 26.87+0.98
7x – Vancouver Whitecaps 25.84+1+1.19
8x – ST. Louis CITY SC 24.78-3-1.46
9x – Atlanta United 23.56-0.26
10x – Houston Dynamo 22.54+1+0.89
11x – Nashville SC 21.64-1-0.85
12x – New England Revolution 20.68+1.95
13x – New York Red Bulls 19.72+1.65
14x – FC Dallas 16.63+2+2.69
15e – Minnesota United 14.30-1-0.89
16e – DC United 14.23-1
17e – New York City FC 13.73+1.01
18x – Real Salt Lake 11.62+0.59
19x – Sporting KC 10.39+2.05
20x – San Jose Earthquakes 7.24+2+0.87
21e – Portland Timbers 6.59-1-0.94
22e – Austin FC 5.48+1-0.37
23e – LA Galaxy 4.89-2-2.22
24x – Charlotte FC 4.37+0.80
25e – CF Montréal 0.79-1.39
26e – Chicago Fire 0.54-0.62
27e – Inter Miami CF -1.85-0.03
28e – Colorado Rapids -8.70+0.10
29e – Toronto FC -18.60-1.04

FC Cincinnati couldn’t quite set the single-season points record with 69 points (nice), but they put together an unbelievably impressive 34 game regular season. They closed off their campaign with a bit of disappointment, drawing at home 2-2 to an Atlanta United side that played with 10 men for most of the second half, but will still go into the playoffs as a clear favorite.

Los Angeles FC top the Western Conference in the power rankings, despite finishing in third place in the actual table. They were by far the most lethal chance creators in the West, and only Seattle Sounders put up better defensive numbers.

St. Louis City finish the year in eighth place, despite topping the Western Conference. This discrepancy comes down to the fact that they over-achieved their underlying numbers for most of the season. It’s not to take anything away from their remarkable expansion season, but it’s impressive to see them sustain that level of over-performance for a full season. I’m really interested to see how it holds up in the playoffs

Nashville SC finish the year outside the top 10, really shooting themselves in the foot after the back half of the year. In the first half of the season, they were second in the Supporters’ Shield race, fourth in the expected points table, had the third-best xG differential in MLS, and led the league in goal difference, scoring 27 and conceding just 13 through 18 games.

Since June 17, they’ve taken 14 points from 16 games. Only Toronto FC were worse. They’ve had the 21st-worst expected points tally, the 21st-worst expected goals differential, and the fourth-worst goal differential. Only Toronto scored less than Nashville’s 11 goals in that stretch. They still had the fifth-best defensive record since June 17, but everything else was dire. Saying “they’re limping into the playoffs” is generous.

Orlando City finished as far-and-away the most dangerous team on the road, winning nine of 17 games on the road and taking a stunning 1.82 points per game away from Exploria Stadium. They’ve not been nearly as dominant at home, finishing with just 1.88 points per game. They match up really well with Nashville, and their first-round meeting should be fantastic entertainment.

Houston Dynamo sneak into the top 10, and they’re one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the entire league. They’re still pretty leaky defensively, but they’re shockingly expansive for a Ben Olsen team. Their series against Real Salt Lake could be the most fun matchup of Round One.

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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