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MLS Power Rankings: How far can NYCFC and Vancouver fall as Atlanta and Charlotte climb?

Published on: 12 September 2022

Alert: the playoff race in Major League Soccer is actually narrowing.

It came about a month late, but we finally have some sort of idea of what the playoff race looks like. The bottom teams are, if not mathematically eliminated, realistically eliminated and we know who is really fighting for a postseason berth.

In the East, the New England Revolution have a great chance to jump above the line and Inter Miami are still clinging to their puncher's chance. In the West, the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders are desperately trying to make their way into the playoffs and might just do it.

That is the playoff race. It makes sense. It is reasonable to track. It doesn't require hundreds of permutations. It's a proper fight. Finally, we understand what it looks like. As for, well, the entire league? Let's rank 'em.

- MLS on ESPN+: Stream LIVE games, replays (U.S.)
- Soccer on ESPN+: FC Daily | Futbol Americas

1. Philadelphia Union

Previous ranking: 1

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Atlanta United, 3:30 p.m. ET

Only scoring five goals to beat Orlando? They're slipping.

2. CF Montreal

Previous ranking: 2

Next MLS match: Tuesday vs. Chicago Fire, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Another week, another comeback, this time against Columbus for a draw. But if they wanted to stop needing comebacks so often, that'd probably be a good idea.

3. LAFC

Previous ranking: 3

Next MLS match: Tuesday vs. Minnesota, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

LAFC lost, again. And that's bad. But the only thing you can really take from their defeat in Dallas is that getting a 13th minute red card is not a good move because that basically decided the match right there. So no more 13th minute red cards, OK?

4. FC Dallas

Previous ranking: 5

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. San Jose, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Paul Arriola, rightly, got a ton of credit for his clever quick free kick to set up Dallas' equalizer in their 2-1 win over LAFC, but, man, is Jesús Ferreira's finish absurdly good. He's at that place now where he's finishing with such ease that you sometimes miss how difficult some of it is.

play1:44Jesus Ferreira's 2 goals lead FC Dallas to victory

Jesus Ferreira nets two goals to lead FC Dallas to a 2-1 victory over LAFC.

5. Austin FC

Previous ranking: 4

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. RSL, 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Remember when Verde solidified their standing as cup contenders by annihilating LAFC? They've lost three in a row since by a combined score of 8-1, after Seattle handled them over the weekend. That's not very contender-y.

6. Minnesota United

Previous ranking: 6

Next MLS match: Tuesday vs. LAFC, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Losing in Portland is not worrying, especially with Emanuel Reynoso out, but three straight losses -- all without a goal -- is.

7. New York Red Bulls

Previous ranking: 7

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. NYCFC, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN+

While the spotlight is on the red hot Union, the Red Bulls have been quietly hitting their stride too. An ultra rare home win over the Revs gives them 13 points from their last six matches.

8. Nashville SC

Previous ranking: 8

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Austin, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Straight up, NSC got beat bad by the Galaxy, but sometimes teams are in great form so the gods look kindly upon them and bequeath to the team an undeserved point. Nashville are the proud owners of one right now.

9. Real Salt Lake

Previous ranking: 9

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. Austin, 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The problem with being the team that magicks wins is sometimes your powers forsake you so you draw D.C. at home.

10. Portland Timbers

Previous ranking: 13

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2 Related

Next MLS match: Sunday vs. Columbus, 1 p.m. ET

Are the Timbers the team that has won four straight and are picking up the best results in the West? Or are they the team constantly in close games riding an unsustainable string of one-goal victories? After beating Minnesota, 1-0, what they are is not only a playoff team, but with a chance to grab home-field to open the playoffs.

11. Orlando City

Previous ranking: 10

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. Atlanta, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+

There's no good way to lose 5-1, but they were in Philly so it was really a question of what level of pain would the Lions be dealt.

play0:34Mikkel Uhre goal 43rd minute Philadelphia Union 2-0 Orlando City SC

Mikkel Uhre goal 43rd minute Philadelphia Union 2-0 Orlando City SC

12. Columbus Crew

Previous ranking: 11

Next MLS match: Tuesday vs. Inter Miami, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Getting a point in Montreál? Excellent. Blowing a late two-goal lead? Very bad. Split the difference and the Crew get a passing grade that their parents have made clear is not good enough.

13. Toronto FC

Previous ranking: 12

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Orlando, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

It was always likely going to be too little, too late when TFC signed Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne. Not only did they have a giant hole to climb out of in the East, the defense sure as hell wasn't going to help build the ladder. And after losing to Atlanta, 4-2, we can safely say that TFC are done.

14. FC Cincinnati

Previous ranking: 14

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Luciano Acosta scored, which was nice, but more impressive were his three assists in a 6-0 win over San Jose that took him up to 18 on the season.

play1:01Brenner completes the hat trick!

FC Cincinnati's Brenner finishes the match with three goals in the second half.

15. LA Galaxy

Previous ranking: 15

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. Whitecaps, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Chicharito is, statistically, an indefensibly bad penalty taker. A week ago, the Galaxy missed out on three points because of a hilariously badly taken panenka. So what did they do this week? They let him take another one. That is why they left Nashville with one point instead of three and they could be watching the playoffs from home because they kept letting Chicahrito take penalties they knew he shouldn't be taking.

16. Seattle Sounders

Previous ranking: 18

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Vancouver, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Just when you think you're finally out on the 2022 Sounders, they whoop Austin and suck you right back in.

17. Inter Miami CF

Previous ranking: 16

Next MLS match: Tuesday vs. Columbus Crew, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Inter's abysmal away record took another hit, this time in the hostile environs of Chicago's SeatGeek Stadium.

18. New England Revolution

Previous ranking: 17

Next MLS match: Tuesday vs. Houston, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The Revs' playoff chances took a big blow with their loss to the Red Bulls, but three of their last four games are against teams out of the playoff race and the fourth is at home. Three points out with four to play and they're the favorites to get in? Honestly, they might be.

play0:22Lewis Morgan scores penalty goal vs. New England Revolution

Lewis Morgan scores penalty goal to give the Red Bulls the lead in the 78th minute.

19. Sporting Kansas City

Previous ranking: 20

Next MLS match: Tuesday vs. D.C., 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

There's something there in SKC having their worst season ever under Peter Vermes and traveling to Houston for the first game since the Dynamo fired Paulo Nagamura, Jimmy Nielsen and Chris Martinez, all of whom had extensive history with Vermes in Kansas City. I have no idea what that something is, but the uninspiring scoreless draw that they played to is probably part of it too.

20. Charlotte FC

Previous ranking: 22

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Chicago, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

To be clear, Charlotte are not going to make the playoffs, but there are four games left in a season that saw their manager basically throw the roster under the bus in preseason, every Designated Player underperform, a midseason managerial chance and a complete inability to play away from home, and they are still mathematically alive for the postseason after beating NYCFC. Their kids are going to play in late season, meaningful games. As far as disaster seasons go, this one is distinctly un-disastrous.

21. Atlanta United FC

Previous ranking: 23

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. Orlando, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The answer to the Five Stripes long standing problem of, "Who will be the ace goal scorer?" is... JJ Purata? Nothing says a season of confusion like your centerback becoming the goal scorer you've been searching for with a hat trick to beat Toronto.

play1:39Juan José Purata fuels Atlanta United FC with hat trick

Juan José Purata fuels Atlanta United FC with hat trick

22. Colorado Rapids

Previous ranking: 24

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. San Jose, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The Rapids beat the 'Caps and confirmed that if they could play every game at home against non-contenders, they'd be a pretty competitive team.

23. Vancouver Whitecaps

Previous ranking: 19

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. LA Galaxy, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Credit to the 'Caps, who have not been afraid to try a lot of things this season. Players, formations, styles -- they've tried it all. Unfortunately, none of them have worked very well, just like nothing worked in a loss to Colorado.

24. New York City FC

Previous ranking: 21

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Red Bulls, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN+

In another edition of "It's A Shame They Did So Well To Start The Season Because This Team Absolutely Does Not Deserve A Playoff Spot," NYCFC lost to a Charlotte team that played more than a half-hour with 10 men.

25. Chicago Fire

Previous ranking: 26

Next MLS match: Tuesday vs. CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

They beat Miami and are technically still in the playoff race. That's pretty good. But they also avoided playing a day later while Chicago was flooding. That's very good.

26. San Jose Earthquakes

Previous ranking: 25

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. Colorado, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The Quakes are (and have been) at the point in the season where you just hope their losses are competitive. 6-0 to Cincy is not competitive.

27. Houston Dynamo

Previous ranking: 27

Next MLS match: Tuesday vs. Revs, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

For years, Houston vs. Kansas City was a battle for a spot in MLS Cup. On Saturday, it was a chance to create a very long list of what Pat Onstad got wrong in 2022; a list that was not yet complete when the referee blew the whistle on a scoreless draw.

28. D.C. United

Previous ranking: 28

Next MLS match: Tuesday vs. Kansas City, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

After a draw at RSL, D.C.'s results aren't really any better under Wayne Rooney than they were before, but it just feels better, doesn't it? And after the way the season started, better vibes matter.

Source: espn.co.uk

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