MLS Power Rankings: Where Teams Stand 3 Weeks Until Decision Day
The heavyweight clash of the 2020 Major League Soccer season takes place Saturday.
Toronto FC and the Philadelphia Union face off at Subaru Park in a battle of teams with the two highest points totals.
In a normal season, the Eastern Conference foes would be fighting for the Supporters' Shield, which is awarded to the club with the most regular-season points.
However, the Supporters' Shield foundation announced Saturday that the trophy would not be handed out this season. The decision caught many across the league by surprise, and a solution from MLS has not been put forward as of Tuesday morning.
Even if a trophy is not on the line Saturday, the match will be a showcase of the two most consistent teams this season.
The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers can make a case to be the best team in MLS from the Western Conference, but their respective points totals are 10 points lower than Toronto FC's.
The Pacific Northwest rivals will be in the mix for the MLS Cup, and they would have to wait until then to hoist a piece of hardware.
Seattle and Portland sit beneath Toronto and Philadelphia in our MLS Power Rankings, but they likely will not reach the top two unless the East powers significantly slip up before the November 8 regular-season finale.
Nos. 26-21: Atlanta United Struggling to Score
26. FC Cincinnati (Previous Ranking: 23)
FC Cincinnati are going through their worst run of form of the regular season.
Jaap Stam's side lost five of its last six contests, with the lone success coming in the Hell is Real derby over the Columbus Crew.
If there is any positive news from the latest run, the second-year side scored in consecutive matches for the first time since September 12 and 19.
25. D.C. United (Previous Ranking: 26)
D.C. United have begun to show some life under interim manager Chad Ashton by picking up four points from the last two games.
The Black and Red could have had two wins in a row for the first time in 2020, but they conceded a late equalizer to Philadelphia's Mark McKenzie last Wednesday.
D.C. sits one point back of FC Cincinnati in last place in the East, but its recent form suggests it may pull itself out of the basement by season's end.
24. Montreal Impact (Previous Ranking: 25)
Two weeks ago, the Montreal Impact appeared to earn a momentum-swinging win over Columbus.
Since the October 7 triumph, Thierry Henry's side has won one of its last three contests.
The Impact will be short-handed for the rest of the season since Lassi Lappalainen recently underwent surgery and Saphir Taider was sold last week.
23. Vancouver Whitecaps (Previous Ranking: 24)
Vancouver busted a four-game losing streak by taking back-to-back 2-1 victories over Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles FC.
But the Whitecaps went back to their losing ways Sunday in a 1-0 defeat to the struggling LA Galaxy.
Since September 23, the Whitecaps have lost five of seven games and could face a tough finish to the season with San Jose, Portland, Seattle and the Galaxy ahead.
22. Atlanta United (Previous Ranking: 20)
Even though Atlanta United have one victory since the start of October, they are one point out of the Eastern Conference playoff positions.
That speaks to the inability of teams around the red line to create separation to stake their claim as one of the 10 teams coming into the postseason from the East.
To leap over Chicago and/or Nashville, Atlanta needs to find the back of the net with more regularity. The Five Stripes have a single goal in their last 360 minutes.
21. Houston Dynamo (Previous Ranking: 17)
At least the Houston Dynamo are scoring goals.
Tab Ramos' side scored on three occasions over its last two games, which resulted in a loss to Nashville and a draw with Minnesota.
The Dynamo have earned six points since September 12 and are down to 1.05 points per game, which is the lowest total in the West.
Nos. 20-16: Chicago Holding On to Last East Playoff Spot
20. LA Galaxy (Previous Ranking: 18)
The 13-point stretch over the five games after the MLS is Back tournament is far in the past for the LA Galaxy.
Since that incredible run of form, the Galaxy have earned three points over six contests. The lone victory came through a 90th-minute game-winner from Kai Koreniuk on Sunday at home against Vancouver.
Although the Galaxy have struggled to produce results, they have at least found the back of the net. The Los Angeles side scored five goals in its last four defeats, including three in a nine-goal thriller with Portland on October 7.
19. Inter Miami (Previous Ranking: 22)
Inter Miami are trending in the right direction, which is something that can't be said for most of the teams outside of the playoff spots.
The expansion side won back-to-back games over the New York Red Bulls and Houston and then drew with Atlanta United. The club's three-match unbeaten run ended Saturday at the hands of the Impact.
Thanks to the recent run of results, Diego Alonso's side is in the hunt for the No. 10 seed and sits two points back of Chicago.
18. San Jose Earthquakes (Previous Ranking: 21)
San Jose is in the middle of one of the most drastic turnarounds in recent memory.
After failing to win in their first eight games following MLS is Back, the Quakes reeled off four wins in six games to vault into seventh place in the West.
The remarkable shift is a credit to the fight of the players and manager Matias Almeyda, but in order to be contenders under their current manager, the Quakes must be more consistent over the course of the season.
17. Chicago Fire (Previous Ranking: 19)
Chicago is quietly playing some decent soccer of late.
The Fire have taken at least one point from five of their last six games and boosted themselves into the final playoff position.
Raphael Wicky's team produced at least two goals in the last five matches in which it earned points.
That is a positive sign for the Fire if they have to come back from behind, or pad a lead, to fend off their playoff challengers in the East. They are level on goal differential with 11th-place Atlanta and are six ahead of Inter Miami.
One way the Fire could prevent the playoff seeding from being determined by goal differential is to win more than the teams around them since victories serve as the first tiebreaker.
16. Colorado Rapids (Previous Ranking: 16)
The Colorado Rapids have not played since September 23 due to positive COVID-19 cases within the organization.
Their next scheduled game is October 24 against Sporting Kansas City, and no plan has been put in place to make up for the six matches that were postponed.
Nos. 15-11: Minnesota, FC Dallas Fighting for Home Playoff Game
15. Real Salt Lake (Previous Ranking: 10)
Real Salt Lake hurt its playoff chances by falling in three straight matches to LAFC, Seattle and Vancouver.
If there is anything good to take away from that stretch, it is that the Claret and Cobalt scored in each game and lost by one to the Sounders and Whitecaps to preserve their goal differential.
At minus-five, RSL has an overwhelming edge over San Jose (minus-15) and Vancouver (minus-18) if qualification comes down to that tiebreaker.
RSL could create some needed separation ahead of San Jose on October 28. Before that, they welcome FC Dallas to Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.
14. FC Dallas (Previous Ranking: 14)
FC Dallas appear to be in a perfect position to pounce for a home playoff game at Toyota Stadium.
Luchi Gonzalez's side sits in sixth place with 24 points and owns at least one game in hand over the rest of the West.
The final six games of Dallas' schedule features plenty of favorable matchups, including two games against Nashville and home clashes with Houston and Miami.
13. Nashville SC (Previous Ranking: 15)
If you compare Nashville SC's results as an expansion side to the incredibly low bar set by FC Cincinnati in 2019, 2020 is an overwhelming success for Gary Smith's team.
Nashville increased its points total in five of the last six games and earned its fifth win of the season over Houston on October 14.
Nashville has been firm in defense by conceding 17 goals over 17 games. In 2019, Cincy finished dead last in the East and allowed 75 tallies over 34 matches.
While the defensive record is commendable, Nashville needs a bit more offensive production to make waves in the postseason. It has scored 15 goals this season, with three of them in the last win over the Dynamo.
12. Minnesota United (Previous Ranking: 12)
Minnesota finds itself in a bit of a similar scenario as FC Dallas, but it has one fewer match to make up.
The Loons are one point back of LAFC for a top-four position, and they play FC Cincinnati, Colorado and Chicago in three of their next four games.
If Adrian Heath's side beats the teams it is expected to, it could set up a Decision Day showdown with FC Dallas that could be important for playoff seeding.
11. New York Red Bulls (Previous Ranking: 13)
The Red Bulls found their new manager and a vein of form in the last few weeks.
Gerhard Struber is not on the sidelines yet, but he has to like what he has seen in the last three contests.
The Red Bulls beat Atlanta and took a point from matches with Toronto FC and Orlando City to push them up to seventh place in the East.
At the moment, the Red Bulls are in line to face rival New York City FC in the opening round of the postseason.
Nos. 10-6: Columbus Falling Away from East's Top Spot
10. Sporting Kansas City (Previous Ranking: 11)
Sporting Kansas City experienced a hiccup in their form recently that kept them behind Seattle and Portland in the race for the top spot in the West.
Peter Vermes and Co. fell to FC Dallas and played to a 2-2 draw with the Fire last week to hit the 30-point mark.
Kansas City may be at an advantage in its next two games against a Colorado team that has not seen the field in weeks, if those games are played as planned.
9. New York City FC (Previous Ranking: 7)
NYCFC wasted its chances to gain ground on the top teams in the East.
The Pigeons fell to Columbus on Sunday to extend their winless run to three games. That streak occurred at the worst possible time, as Philadelphia, Columbus and Orlando all dropped points in the last two weeks.
The dip in form pushed NYCFC under New England in the hunt for fifth place and moved them five points behind Orlando City in fourth place.
Suddenly, NYCFC are fighting to hold on to a home playoff game. Teams No. 3 through No. 6 will host matches in the East’s first round.
8. New England Revolution (Previous Ranking: 9)
New England is the best team in the second tier of the East at the moment.
The Revolution fell 2-1 to Philadelphia on Monday but remain one point above NYCFC in the fight for the No. 5 seed.
In the last four games, the Revs beat two teams beneath them in the standings and lost to Toronto and Philadelphia.
In fact, three of their four losses since returning from MLS is Back occurred against the Union and TFC.
7. Los Angeles FC (Previous Ranking: 8)
LAFC’s 1-1 draw in Portland on Sunday may be one of the more impressive results of the season given the circumstances.
Bob Bradley’s side did not fill the entire matchday squad and played without Brian Rodriguez and Diego Rossi due to international duty.
Rodriguez and Rossi could be available for the fourth installation of El Trafico on Sunday, depending on their quarantine status when they return from South America.
MLS has a 10-day quarantine period for players coming back from international duty.
6. Columbus Crew (Previous Ranking: 5)
Columbus has gone from favorite to earning the most regular-season points to seven points adrift of Toronto FC.
Caleb Porter’s side halted its four-game winless run Sunday with a 3-1 win over NYCFC, a result the club needed to stabilize its play.
During the winless run, the Crew uncharacteristically allowed nine goals in four games. Those tallies made up for 60 percent of the team’s goal concession in 2020.
No. 5: Orlando City
Previous Ranking: 4
Orlando City's 12-game unbeaten run was extended by a trio of draws against Atlanta and both New York teams.
Although the results were not ideal in the hunt for the No. 1 seed, the Lions still clinched their first playoff berth in club history.
Manager Oscar Pareja deserves plenty of credit for getting Orlando into its highest-ever finishing position in the East.
Given how well the Lions played in 2020, just qualifying for the postseason will not be good enough. They have the potential to win at least one playoff contest.
No. 4: Portland Timbers
Previous Ranking: 3
Portland has a chance to add "Western Conference regular-season champion" to a resume that already includes the MLS is Back title.
The Timbers are level on points with the Sounders but sit in second place due to the Sounders’ superior goal differential.
Unless Portland makes up 11 goals on the Sounders in the next month, it must outgain its biggest rival in points to secure the No. 1 seed.
The Timbers can gain that advantage Thursday when they visit the Sounders for their final clash in the regular season.
No. 3: Seattle Sounders
Previous Ranking: 2
Seattle does not have to worry about Portland’s surge if it beats the Timbers on Thursday.
In that case, the Sounders would have a three-point edge and a double-digit advantage in goal differential.
Brian Schmetzer’s side will be without Raul Ruidiaz, who tested positive for COVID-19 while on international duty with Peru.
Even if it does not get past Portland, Seattle faces a favorable finish against Colorado, Vancouver, San Jose and the Galaxy.
No. 2: Philadelphia Union
Previous Ranking: 6
Philadelphia had to fight for its last two results.
The Union suffered from defensive lapses against D.C. United and rescued a point through Mark McKenzie's late equalizer at Audi Field.
After going up by two goals over New England on Monday, they conceded on a rocket shot from Tajon Buchanan.
The Union held on to the three points behind seven saves from Andre Blake. That performance set up a showdown for first place with Toronto.
No. 1: Toronto FC
Previous Ranking: 1
Toronto is an unstoppable force right now.
Greg Vanney’s side has not been beaten since September 5, and it must be commended for putting up all of its results since September 19 away from Canada.
Due to the border regulations in place between the United States and Canada, the Reds are playing their home games in East Hartford, Connecticut.
One of the seven victories during their nine-game unbeaten run came against the Union on October 3.
If the Reds take their second victory against the Union in their next match, they would create six points of separation with three games to play.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Statistics obtained from MLSSoccer.com.