Week 22 MLS Power Rankings: NYCFC back on top, Philadelphia slip

How the rankings work

These power rankings aren’t a subjective result of one person’s opinion, but use a stats-based model for each team to get a more in-depth look at where clubs actually stand. The model weighs points per game and strength of schedule most heavily, with goal difference and expected goal difference weighted incrementally less. This is an attempt to show not just how teams have done in the table, but how they’ve played on the field. If you’re interested in the methodology, the full model can be viewed here.

These power rankings aren’t an attempt to predict the final table, just to provide readers with a different angle from which to judge teams. A helpful way to think of it is if a team is significantly higher in the rankings than they are in the table, they’re probably underperforming. If they’re significantly lower in the rankings than in the table, they’re overperforming.

Week 21 power rankings

  1. NYCFC (↑2)
  2. Sporting KC (↑2)
  3. New England Revolution (↓1)
  4. Seattle Sounders (↓3)
  5. Nashville SC (-)
  6. Colorado Rapids (-)
  7. LA Galaxy (-)
  8. DC United (↑3)
  9. Minnesota United (-)
  10. Orlando City (↑2)
  11. Philadelphia Union (↓3)
  12. CF Montréal (↑3)
  13. Real Salt Lake (↓3)
  14. LAFC (↓1)
  15. FC Dallas (↑2)
  16. New York Red Bulls (↓2)
  17. Atlanta United (↓1)
  18. Vancouver Whitecaps (↑3)
  19. San Jose Earthquakes (↓1)
  20. Columbus Crew (-)
  21. Portland Timbers (-)
  22. Chicago Fire (↑2)
  23. Austin FC (-)
  24. Inter Miami CF (↑1)
  25. Houston Dynamo (↓2)
  26. FC Cincinnati (-)
  27. Toronto FC (-)

* Note: a typo in last week’s rankings had Chicago Fire in 19th place with 3.54 points. They should have been listed in 24th place with 2.54 points.

NYCFC and New England went head to head in one of the best on-paper matchups of the season, and the better team won. Granted, New England were missing up to five starters, and even when healthy there’s not shame in losing to NYCFC, but New York tore them apart. They’ve played the best soccer of anyone in MLS for long stretches of the season, and the numbers back it up.

New England look like they’re about to get Carles Gil back, and adding the MVP frontrunner back to a healthy team is a scary proposition that may make their fans happier, but probably won’t.

Seattle Sounders drop three spots after a 2-0 loss to Portland Timbers. Seattle created plenty of chances, hitting the post twice, and while they’ll be frustrated not to beat their rival, the loss isn’t a sign of any long-term issues; they’re still the best in the West, and will only continue to improve as they return to health.

Sporting KC and Colorado Rapids drew 1-1 in a wildly entertaining match. Sporting have been at or near the top for much of the season, but Colorado are one of the more unheralded and impressive teams in the league, especially with their relatively low spending. More on them in a bit…

DC United and Philadelphia Union move up and down three spots, respectively. DC took it to the Union, winning 3-1. They’ve improved dramatically under Hernán Losada, and have played some of the more attractive soccer in MLS this season. Now they’re getting the results to match.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, haven’t often been beat like that.

I don’t think there’s much to worry about long-term with Philadelphia, but it was a strange sight to see one of the more consistent teams in the league over the last three years outplayed to such a drastic extent.

Projected standings

These projections are created by taking each sides home and away form and factoring them out across their remaining matches.

These projections will change significantly over the course of the season as teams get larger sample sizes at home and on the road (for example, Nashville’s spot in the power rankings is boosted by their home form, while their projections are hampered by projecting their poor road form over the rest of their schedule). And they’re not a concrete attempt to predict the final table, but rather to show each team’s trajectory based on current form.

Nashville SC get a huge boost in the projections with their first away win of the season, beating Atlanta 2-0 on the road. Their away points per game went up from 0.71 to 1.00 as a result, which obviously significantly improves their trajectory. They’ll take on NYCFC at home on Friday, which will could have significant implications on the final table.

Out West, Colorado are projected to finish two points ahead of Seattle and win the conference. It’s crazy how quietly they’ve improved, and are in great position to finish strong, with seven of their remaining 14 matches at home. They’re truly one of the stories of the season.

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