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 which teams are 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.
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1. Philadelphia Union
Previous ranking: 1
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Atlanta United, 3:30 p.m. ET
Scoring only 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 it wanted to stop needing comebacks so often, that'd probably be a good idea.
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 its 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 its 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.
5. Austin FC
Previous ranking: 4
Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. Real Salt Lake, 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Remember when the Verde solidified their standing as cup contenders by overwhelming 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 worrisome, 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 past six matches.
8. Nashville SC
Previous ranking: 8
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Austin, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Straight up, NSC got beat badly by the Galaxy, but sometimes teams are in great form, so the gods look kindly upon them and bequeath to the teams an undeserved point. Nashville is the proud owner 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 conjures up wins is sometimes your powers forsake you, so you draw D.C. at home.
10. Portland Timbers
Previous ranking: 13
Next MLS match: Sunday vs. Columbus, 1 p.m. ET
Are the Timbers the team that has won four straight and is 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 one with a chance to grab home-field advantage 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.
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 it have a giant hole to climb out of in the East, the defense sure wasn't about to help build the ladder. And after losing to Atlanta 4-2, we can safely say that TFC is 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.
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 and 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 past 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.
19. Sporting Kansas City
Previous ranking: 20
Next MLS match: Tuesday vs. D.C., 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
There's something in SKC having its 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 SKC 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 is not going to make the playoffs, but there are four games left in a season that saw its manager basically throw the roster under the bus in preseason, every designated player underperform, a midseason managerial change and a complete inability to play away from home, and it is still mathematically alive for the postseason after beating NYCFC. Charlotte's 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 center-back becoming the goal scorer you've been searching for with a hat trick to beat Toronto.
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 noncontenders, 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. Well, 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 the 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.