MLS Power Rankings: LAFC, Philadelphia battle for Shield; playoff hopes dim for Revs, Sounders

Take a deep breath. It's time for the international break, and everyone (except for the LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes, FC Cincinnati and Seattle Sounders -- surprise!) gets to relax.

Let's take stock of where we stand: Six teams have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, six teams have clinched playoff spots, LAFC has clinched the No. 1 seed in the West and three teams have a chance to win the Supporters Shield.

That leaves only a few hundred permutations of ways for the season to finish. That break could not have come at a better time, but before we all try to reset our overwhelmed brains, let's rank some teams.

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1. Philadelphia Union

Previous ranking: 1

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. Charlotte, 5:30 p.m. ET

They ... didn't ... score? That's allowed? Of course, they also kept a clean sheet, so they came back from Atlanta with a point.

2. CF Montreal

Previous ranking: 2

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. D.C., 7:30 p.m. ET

It shouldn't be so hard to beat Chicago and New England, but we're at the "wow, you didn't win by more while clinching a top-two seed?" stage in Montreal's rise. Let's fast-forward to the playoffs and see these guys cook.


Previous ranking: 3

Next MLS match: Oct. 2 vs. Portland, 3 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN Deportes

A draw in Minnesota and a win over Houston have the Black and Gold in the pole position for the Shield with two weeks to go, but do you trust them to win their last two and hold off Philly?

4. Austin FC

Previous ranking: 5

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. Vancouver, 10 p.m. ET

They limited Hany Mukhtar to just one goal this time around and got a point for their efforts.

5. FC Dallas

Previous ranking: 4

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. Colorado, 3:30 p.m. ET

After a season full of games in which it controlled things but couldn't close it out for full points, Dallas went to San Jose and stole a point in a match that it spent on its heels. Look at Dallas adding a fun new tool to its belt.

6. Nashville SC

Previous ranking: 8

Next MLS match: Oct. 2 vs. Houston, 8:30 p.m. ET

Nashville will feel like it deserved three points, not one, against Austin, but that point is good enough to have it in position for a home playoff game. Open up those shiny GEODIS Park gates for a playoff game and grime the place up a bit.

7. New York Red Bulls

Previous ranking: 7

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m. ET

The hostile environs of Yankee Stadium were just too much for MLS's best road team.

8. Portland Timbers

Previous ranking: 10

Next MLS match: Oct. 2 vs. LAFC, 3 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN Deportes

Santiago Moreno's 95th-minute equalizer was a rush of ecstasy and yet the Timbers are still about as likely to miss the playoffs as they are to host a playoff game. How is every Portland fan not perpetually exhausted?

9. Minnesota United

Previous ranking: 6

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. San Jose, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

A draw against LAFC and loss to SKC stretched their winless streak to six. Playing San Jose and Vancouver to finish the season should solve those problems, but it might also be the path to an all-time collapse.

10. Orlando City

Previous ranking: 11

Next MLS match: Oct. 2 vs. NYCFC, 1 p.m. ET

If they could have flipped results and beaten Atlanta and then lost to Toronto, they would have, but three points is three points.

11. FC Cincinnati

Previous ranking: 14

Next MLS match: Sept. 27 vs. Seattle,10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

They won in Salt Lake and maybe picked up another win on the week when the USMNT called up Jordan Morris, but they left Brandon Vazquez home for their Sept. 27 meeting with Seattle.

12. Real Salt Lake

Previous ranking: 9

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m. ET

Losses to Austin and Cincy are big blows to their playoff hopes, but they are still within three points of Portland, which they play on the last day of the season. All we're rooting for is that to be a de facto play-in game for a playoff spot and pure chaos.

13. Columbus Crew

Previous ranking: 12

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m. ET

The Crew have conceded 26 goals this season and, after allowing a late winner to Miami and stoppage-time equalizer against Portland, 15 of them have come from a points position after the 75th minute. That's the season, right there.

14. Inter Miami CF

Previous ranking: 17

Next MLS match: Sept. 30 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Were their wins over Columbus and D.C. pretty? Not really, but through the magic of do-everything, hard-working Gonzalo Higuain, they are in position to make the playoffs.

15. LA Galaxy

Previous ranking: 15

Next MLS match: Sept. 24 vs. San Jose, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The Galaxy got smoked in Vancouver but beat Colorado, so where does that leave them? In control of their own playoff destiny, with a season finale against the Dynamo. Terrifying.

16. Sporting Kansas City

Previous ranking: 19

Next MLS match: Oct. 2 vs. Seattle, 5 p.m. ET

They beat D.C. and Minnesota by a combined score of 7-1. A core of William, Agada, Erik Thommy, Gadi Kinda and Alan Pulido next season looks mighty nice right now, but will the salary cap allow for it? Someone fire up QuickBooks and find out.

17. Toronto FC

Previous ranking: 13

Next MLS match: Sept. 30 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The problem with being an all-offense, no-defense team is sometimes the offense doesn't travel to Orlando and you lose 4-0 to get mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

18. Vancouver Whitecaps

Previous ranking: 23

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. Austin, 10 p.m. ET

Well, well, well, if it isn't the smell of cold pizza in the morning after beating L.A. and Seattle to keep your playoff hopes alive.

19. Seattle Sounders

Previous ranking: 16

Next MLS match: Sept. 27 vs. Cincinnati, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

A loss to Vancouver ended their Cascadia Cup, and if the Sounders miss the playoffs, taking only three points off their regional rivals might be the reason why.

20. Atlanta United FC

Previous ranking: 21

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. New England, 1:30 p.m. ET

Addendum to the rules: If you hold Philly scoreless, you get three points even if you didn't score yourself. Congratulations to Atlanta on those three points, to go along with three midweek three for beating Orlando.

21. Charlotte FC

Previous ranking: 20

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. Philadelphia, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

They won a road game! It was against the disastrous Fire, but you don't get picky about how you win No. 3.

22. Colorado Rapids

Previous ranking: 22

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. Dallas, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Beat San Jose, get lashed by the Galaxy. The Rapids are making very clear just where they lie in the MLS hierarchy -- bad, but not that bad.

23. New York City FC

Previous ranking: 24

Next MLS match: Oct. 2 vs. Orlando, 1 p.m. ET

Nick Cushing finally had something to celebrate after winning the Campeones Cup and the Hudson River Derby.

24. New England Revolution

Previous ranking: 16

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. Atlanta, 1:30 p.m. ET

It was a Bruce Arena special until it wasn't. The Revs' second-half rise has turned into a free fall after losses to Montreál (fine) and Houston (kind of inexcusable).

25. Houston Dynamo

Previous ranking: 27

Next MLS match: Oct. 2 vs. Nashville, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Dynamo may not be very good at actual soccer, but they seem pretty good at Penalty Fest, a new game they and the Revs invented midweek. Three penalties total, three points to Houston, before a loss to LAFC on the weekend.

26. San Jose Earthquakes

Previous ranking: 26

Next MLS match: Sept. 24 vs. Galaxy, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

A loss in Colorado and draw against Dallas isn't a bad week, relatively, but Houston had the audacity to win a match and drop the Quakes into the West basement. Rough.

27. Chicago Fire

Previous ranking: 25

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. ET

A month ago they were in the playoff race. After losses to Montreal and Charlotte, they are mathematically eliminated from the postseason and it's a wonder it took this long.

28. D.C. United

Previous ranking: 28

Next MLS match: Oct. 1 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m. ET

Losses to SKC and Inter? Bad. Having only two more games left in this cursed season? Good.