The San Jose Earthquakes topped the final regular season installment of the MLS Power Rankings on Tuesday, and it was a fitting end to an impressive season for the Quakes. Although they were one the season’s biggest surprises (MLSsoccer.com had them ranked No. 9 at First Kick), the Quakes ascended to the top spot in Week 16 and never really let up.
In fact, the Quakes held the top spot in the Power Rankings for 17 weeks this season (tops among all teams), and led the way for 14 consecutive weeks after reaching the top midway through the season. They relinquished their spot just once - to Sporting Kansas City in Week 30 – but claimed it again the next week and carried the torch each of the final three weeks of the season.
Some other notes on Power Rankings this season:
- The biggest surprise of the year was easily D.C. United, who came in at No. 16 at the First Kick poll in early March and finished the regular season at No. 3. They also proved to be one of the most volatile teams on the poll this year, rising to No. 2 in Week 15 before plummeting back to No. 12 as late as Week 28 before they surged down the stretch to finish in the top 3.
- The biggest disappointment was easily the Portland Timbers, who carried the No. 8 ranking into First Kick and effectively slipped into a free fall from there. They bottomed out at No. 19 in Week 19 and ended up holding that spot for a total of seven weeks this season.
- Toronto FC led the league with most weeks spent at the No. 19 spot – 14.
- Six teams held the bottom spot at least once this season – Toronto, Portland, Chivas USA, Philadelphia, FC Dallas and Montreal. The Impact held that spot at First Kick but never graced it again after Week 4.
- Five teams held the No. 1 ranking at some point this season – San Jose, Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake, Seattle and the LA Galaxy. The Galaxy held it at First Kick and never got it back, slipping all the way down to No. 17 in Weeks 11 and 12. The swing of 16 spots is the largest of any team in the rankings this season.
- The most stable team this season was Sporting Kansas City, who never fell lower than No. 7 and spent a total of seven weeks at No. 1. The Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake both bottomed at No. 8 and reached No. 1 at various points in the season.
- The Houston Dynamo also never fell outside of the top 10 at any point this season, falling as low as No. 9 and rising as high as No. 2 in Week 22.
- The biggest one-week jump of any team this season belonged to San Jose, who leaped from No. 9 to No. 3 in Week 4 after a 1-0 win in Seattle. The Quakes never fell lower than No. 4 the rest of the way.
- The biggest one-week drop also came in Week 4. FC Dallas plummeted from No. 6 to No. 15 after a 4-1 loss at D.C. United.
- The Vancouver Whitecaps are the only playoff team not ranked in the top 10 at the end of the season. They fell to No. 12 in Week 25 and have languished outside the top 10 ever since.
- Chivas USA was only team to go out the way they came in. They were ranked No. 18 at First Kick and finished No. 18 in the final rankings on Tuesday, having never climbed any higher than No. 12.
Note: There were no rankings for Weeks 13-14 due to international dates.
Okay, so we're still more than a month away from the first games of the 2012 MLS season on March 10. But that doesn't mean we can't start having a little fun.
Check out MLSsoccer.com on Thursday as we reveal our preseason power rankings, looking back at all the offseason moves, injuries and coaching changes that will shape how each team performs in 2012.
And for a refresher course, here's a look at how the teams finished after the MLS Cup last season...
(Before you get bent out of shape about Montreal's absence or any other perceived slight, please remember that these are the final 2011 rankings.)
1. LA Galaxy
2. Houston Dynamo
3. Real Salt Lake
4. Sporting Kansas City
5. Seattle Sounders
6. Philadelphia Union
7. Colorado Rapids
8. New York Red Bulls
9. FC Dallas
10. Columbus Crew
11. Chicago Fire
12. Portland Timbers
13. San Jose Earthquakes
14. D.C. United
15. Toronto FC
16. Chivas USA
17. Vancouver Whitecaps
18. New England Revolution