Vancouver Whitecaps celebrate - Fredy Montero

As playoff-chasing teams go about securing the final berths in the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, focus shifts from “who’s in” to “who’s got the top seeding,” and the top number-crunchers at ESPN and FiveThirtyEight.com have the latest breakdowns on both fronts.


FiveThirtyEight released their latest batch of playoff forecasts from their Soccer Power Index on Sunday afternoon, and they bring good news for the Vancouver Whitecaps and several other MLS teams.


The SPI numbers reflect what the standings page suggests: The Eastern Conference field is just about set. It will take a highly unlikely set of events for anyone to beat the New York Red Bulls to the East’s sixth and final postseason slot, despite RBNY’s eight-game winless skid.

Things are less settled out West, where only Vancouver have officially clinched a playoff spot. But the SPI has Sporting Kansas City, Seattle and Portland as near-locks to qualify. Meanwhile Houston and FC Dallas have the inside track on Real Salt Lake and San Jose for the final two places – though by relatively narrow margins, suggesting that the race for fifth and sixth place could go down to the wire.

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Many teams with major trophy ambitions are just as concerned about postseason seeding, though. The top two finishers in each conference earn a first-round bye that allows them to rest and recover while the third through sixth seeds duke it out in the Knockout Round.


Already running in first place in the Western Conference, the Whitecaps doubled their odds of earning a first-round by by knocking off Sporting KC at their own house on Saturday, ramping up the likelihood that the West’s road to MLS Cup will run through Rain City. SKC still have the best likelihood of grabbing second place, though, as the Sounders and Timbers missed key chances to gain ground by losing their weekend matches.


In the East, Toronto FC’s capture of the Supporters’ Shield ensures that they’ll enjoy home-field advantage for the duration of their playoff run. New York City FC still sit in second place, but according to the SPI, have only slightly higher odds of hanging on to that second seed than hard-charging Atlanta United do of catching them.


As for MLS Cup odds? It's Toronto first, and everyone else a distant second. Learn more about that in FiveThirtyEight’s full rundown of MLS playoff probabilities here.