It was an abbreviated week in MLS. With most teams opting to break during the international window, there was just a single midweek game, and only five matches on Saturday night. As a result, we’re not going to look so much at this week’s results. Instead, I’m going to break down all 29 teams into tiers so far.
As always, the best was to change my mind is to yell at me on social media. Angry replies are good. Hateful DMs are best. It’s a proven way to effect cha… *puts hand to ear* Hang on, I’m getting word from our producers that this isn’t the case. Apparently if you’re upset you can just move on. Wild.
As a reminder, here’s how the OPI (Overall Performance Index) 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%
Matchday 19 Power Rankings
|RANK||TEAM||SCORE||RANK CHANGE||SCORE CHANGE|
|5||ST. Louis CITY SC||20.82||-1||-1.92|
|8||New England Revolution||19.36||—||+2.09|
|11||Orlando City SC||12.89||—||-1.27|
|14||San Jose Earthquakes||9.81||—||-0.22|
|15||New York Red Bulls||9.31||—||—|
|19||New York City FC||6.10||+1||+1.04|
|21||Real Salt Lake||4.81||+1||+1.25|
|29||Inter Miami CF||-2.57||—||—|
Tier 1: The elite
1: Nashville SC (27.29)
Nashville pulled ahead of FC Cincinnati this weekend. They beat St. Louis 3-1 with another Hany Mukhtar hat trick, and are now unbeaten in their last 10 league games. They’re still five points behind Cincinnati in the Shield race, but it looks set to be a close race. Their +15 goal difference leads the league, and they’ve allowed a league-best 13 goals. Hany Mukhtar is having another MVP season, and they’ll sign a DP striker early in the summer window, potentially more.
2: FC Cincinnati (25.97)
Despite their ranking, Cincinnati are the clear supporters shield frontrunners. With a game in hand and a five point lead, they should move back up into first place this week barring disaster. They’ve won all nine games they’ve played at home, have the second-best defense in the league, and just signed a DP striker. They could get even better.
3: LAFC (22.70)
LAFC struggled a bit in the midst of a run to the Concacaf Champions League final, but they got back on track with a win over Sporting KC this weekend. Despite their six match winless streak, they’re still fourth in the league with 1.81 points per game, and have games in hand on everyone around them. Like Nashville and Cincinnati, they have an open DP spot to work with in the summer and have been aggressive in past summer transfer windows. Don’t be surprised if they hit another gear after the Leagues Cup break.
4: Philadelphia Union (22.51)
After really struggling during CCL, Philadelphia have quietly snuck back up the table. Only Nashville and Cincinnati have earned more points over the last five matches. Julian Carranza is fifth in the Golden Boot race, and Daniel Gazdag is second on the assists chart. They’re getting production from their top attackers and remain one of the elite defensive sides in the league. There’s potential for them to lose players in the summer, though. If they can keep their squad in tact, they’ll be towards the top of the table in October.
Tier 2: The not elite but still really good
5: St. Louis CITY SC (20.82)
St. Louis started off the year on historic pace, winning their first five matches and setting records for an expansion team. They’re still top of the Western Conference, but they’ve slowed down to start the summer, averaging just 1.4 points from their last five games. Losing João Klauss and Eduard Löwen for over a month each has taken a toll.
They’ve conceded 20 goals, a solid defensive number, but they’ve also allowed the 11th-highest xG against in MLS, and have over performed their xG difference more than any other team in MLS. They’re still a very, very good team, but their early-season pace looks to have been unsustainable.
6: Seattle Sounders (19.99)
Like St. Louis, Seattle have slowed down significantly, averaging just one point from their last five. They’re still in third place in the West, but have played more games than any other team in the conference and will be without several of their top players for nearly a month during the Gold Cup break. They’ll still be in the playoffs, and as they’ve done countless times before, watch out if they get hot in September.
7: Columbus Crew (19.94)
Columbus have had a different trajectory, starting slowly and getting hot as the season progresses. Lucas Zeleráyan remains one of the most exciting attackers in MLS, and Cucho Hernandez has been incredibly effective without finding the net as much as he did last season. Wilfried Nancy has done a fantastic job already with this team, and they’re one of my top teams to watch during the playoffs. They also might be the most watchable team in the league.
8: New England Revolution (19.36)
Third place in the Eastern Conference, New England are a good team with potential to get a whole lot better in the summer window. Only four teams have scored more than Bruce Arena’s team, and Carles Gil has already contributed the second-most assists in MLS and the second-most key passes. They’ve set a strong foundation already and look in prime position to move up the rankings and the table.
Tier 3: Good, not great
9: Vancouver Whitecaps (16.93)
The underlying numbers love Vancouver, while the table is quite meh on them. They’re in eighth place in the West and 18th in the Supporters’ Shield race.
On xG terms, they’ve created the most chances in the league and have been fairly solid defensively, but they’ve struggled to convert chances at times and have certainly underperformed their expected points. To me, they’re the hardest team to predict at this stage of the season. They could begin to capitalize on their performances and move up the table quickly, or they could drop of significantly. If they actually start getting results away from home, watch out.
10: Atlanta United (16.65)
I just said Vancouver were the hardest team to predict. Now I’m re-thinking that with Atlanta. They’re losing Luis Araujo in the summer, could potentially lose Thiago Almada, and have Miles Robinson in the final six months of his contract. They have scored the second-most goals in the league while also conceding the second-most. They might score three every game, but will concede at least two. For all their flair, they struggle to control games, and look vulnerable against moderately good teams. They have a massive transfer window on the horizon.
11: Orlando City (12.89)
Orlando have been exceptional on the road and awful at home. They should have a fairly functional team, and certainly have some pieces in place to be better than they are. But man, their home form is dragging them down.
12: FC Dallas (12.41)
Dallas have flown under the radar a bit this season. They’re just three points behind first-place St. Louis in the Western Conference and are getting another spectacular season from DP striker Jesús Ferreira, whose 10 goals are second in the Golden Boot race. They’ve been sub-par in recent weeks, though, winning just one of their last five, and they don’t have the high-end pieces needed to challenge for Supporters’ Shield. They’re certainly in the mix for the playoffs, and anything can happen after that.
13: DC United (11.05)
Wayne Rooney’s side started really poorly, but they’ve improved significantly. It’s still hard to call them anything other than a slightly above-average side, but they’ve been bolstered by a impressive season from DP striker Christian Benteke. They’re suspect defensively, though, and are probably set to hover right around the playoff line for the rest of the season.
Tier 4: Low key mid
14: San Jose Earthquakes (9.81)
San Jose are on a nice little five match unbeaten run, are in fourth place in the table, and have beaten LAFC, Seattle and Philadelphia already this year. Their attack has been middling at best, though, scoring just 21, and they’ve conceded 20. The margins are super, super thin with this team. They got a boost from Cristian Espinoza’s early-season MVP form, but he hasn’t scored or assisted in seven matches. Without him or Jeremy Ebobisse in Best XI form, it’s hard to think San Jose are more than a mid-table playoff team.
15: New York Red Bulls (9.31)
The Red Bulls are under-performing, according to the OPI. They’re in 24th in the Supporters’ Shield standings, have the fifth-best xG differential in the league, and have the best G+ differential in the league.
Their finishing has killed them. It’s been atrocious. They’ve scored a league-worst 11 goals against a decent 22.46 xG. It’s hard to be an effective team while struggling to finish chances at this rate. The positive is that they’re creating chances. If they can figure out how to finish them, they could actually be good.
16: Houston Dynamo (8.98)
Houston have climbed the rankings significantly over the last month, capped off with back-to-back wins over LAFC. They were also beaten 6-2 in Vancouver, emphasizing their defensive frailty and lack of consistency. They can beat any team in MLS on their day. They could also lose 4-0. It’s hard to tell.
17: Minnesota United (8.18)
Talk about inconsistent. The Loons have won consecutive games just once this season. Their attack has struggled massively without Emanuel Reynoso and their defense isn’t good enough to win games on its own. They’ve set themselves up to make moves in the summer, though, and getting Reynoso back has the type of impact that can take a team from mid-table to really good quickly.
Tier 5: Kinda sus
18: Portland Timbers (6.75)
As are all the teams in this range, the Timbers are inconsistent. They’ve had plenty of injuries to deal with, but don’t create consistently. Only four teams in MLS have a lower xG total, and Providence Park hasn’t been the fortress it normally is this season. They’ve won just four of their eight home matches.
19: New York City FC (6.10)
The Pigeons have been terrible away from home. They’ve struggled to score goals. They let a lot of players go in the winter and never really replaced them. Fans better hope they do something big in the summer, because it’s hard to see a lot of positives in this current side.
20: Toronto FC (5.50)
For all the money they’ve spent, Toronto should be in the top tier. They’ve impressively underwhelmed this year. They don’t create much, and they struggle to convert the chances they do create. We’ve been waiting for them to click all year, and it hasn’t happened.
21: Real Salt Lake (4.81)
Only Atlanta and Charlotte have allowed more goals. G+ at least likes how their team plays, and they’ve managed to stay competitive in the playoff race, despite a negative eight goal differential. That’s a positive for a team that just signed Chicho Arango, one of the best goal-scorers in MLS over the last few seasons, and are close to adding U-22 midfielder Nelson Palacio. They’ve shown a lot of ambition this transfer window, and that often pays off in a league with this much parity.
22: Sporting KC (3.69)
Sporting were the worst team in MLS until about Week 14. They’ve been really good since, aside from a 4-0 loss in St. Louis that wasn’t quite as bad as the score suggested. Since the beginning of May, they’ve won five, drawn two, and lost three. Alan Pulido is scoring goals, Gadi Kinda is back, and they’ve pushed into a point of the playoff positions. They look like they’re back.
23: CF Montréal (3.12)
Like Sporting KC, Montréal were dreadful initially. It makes sense. They changed managers in the winter, overhauled their squad, and played on the road for five of their first six matches. It took them time to get up and running, but they’ve been much improved, winning six of their last 10.
Their chance creation has been among the worst in the league, though, and they score even less. Their -19 goal difference on the road is the worst in MLS, and they haven’t shown much ambition with their roster build. They’re improving, but their ceiling doesn’t look super high.
24: Chicago Fire (2.98)
Only Miami have created fewer chances than Chicago. They’ve already fired their manager this season, they’re conceding 1.6 goals a game, and have the second-lowest G+ score. Shaqiri hasn’t come close to justifying his price tag. At least 20-year-old Brian Gutiérrez is awesome.
25: Austin FC (2.41)
Talk about regressing. Last year Austin were a Supporters’ Shield contender. This year, they’ve won just five matches, are scoring less than a goal per game, and have three wins at home all season. It’s hard to think of a positive from their 2023 season so far. At least Sebastian Driussi is still good, but he’s not close to his 2022 levels.
Tier 6: The actively bad
26: Charlotte FC (1.53)
Conceding the most goals in MLS is a surefire way to land in this tier. Being bad at home doesn’t help. Struggling to create chances is also not good. Karol Swiderski is still a good attacker, but he’s taken a step back this year and has no real help to speak of. For a team that showed real improvement last season, 2023 has been the opposite.
27: LA Galaxy (1.20)
Woof. There’s nothing good to say about LA Galaxy. Even Riqui Puig, one of the most talented and most entertaining players in the league, can’t elevate this team. They’ve only won three games all year!!! They don’t score. They’re one of the worst defensive units in the league. They just lost Chicharito for the season. Oh, yeah, and they can’t sign anyone this summer. It’s a big ole “yikes” from me.
28: Colorado Rapids (-1.43)
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Here’s your first negative score!
Colorado haven’t won a home game all season. They’ve won just two of their 18 games for 0.72 points per game. They’ve barely scored a goal per game. They have a league-worst -13 goal differential. They’ve been shut out 10 times this year. And they have little to no investment from their ownership. Not great.
29: Inter Miami CF (-2.57)
Inter Miami is giving us MLS sickos a real-life chance to see what would happen if you took Lionel Messi, the greatest player to ever walk the planet, and put him on the worst team in MLS.
Make no mistake, Miami are the worst team in MLS. Worst xG for in the league. Most xG allowed in the league. Last in the Eastern Conference. Six consecutive losses in league play.
The craziest part is that they’re still just seven points out of a playoff spot. They have two good strikers in Leo Campana and Josef Martínez. Signing Kamal Miller improved their defense dramatically. Despite some devastating injuries in midfield, they have a trio of young homegrown midfielders who do a lot of running and dirty work. Maybe plugging in the single greatest attacker in the history of the game to do nothing but create chances will actually work…
To all of you who read this whole thing, thank you! I’ll be back next week with a much, much shorter version.