Ready or not, the home stretch has arrived.

August is here, which in this year’s World Cup-adjusted calendar means there are barely two months left in the MLS regular season. Some teams have only 10 games to go. And several of the league’s big names and perennial contenders are in very real danger of missing out on the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Many of them still have time to muster that final sprint into the postseason field where, as everyone has heard often by now, anything can happen, particularly in the single-game format adopted in 2019. One club, Seattle Sounders FC, actually, finally climbed back above the playoff line just this week, thanks to the 1-0 home win over FC Dallas they grinded out Tuesday night.

Yet ample work remains for them to stay there, and the hill is steeper for the rest of this group. Let’s take a look at the current state of 2022’s most prominent underachievers.

  • Standings: 12th in Eastern Conference
  • Last trophies: 2018 MLS Cup, 2019 US Open Cup & Campeones Cup

What happened?

The short version: Injuries. Key starters Brad Guzan, Ozzie Alonso and Miles Robinson were all lost to serious, long-term ailments in the spring; later backup goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira was also lost for the year, forcing the Five Stripes to hit the international market for a healthy body between the pipes. Josef Martinez, Emerson Hyndman, Brooks Lennon, George Campbell, Ronald Hernandez and Andrew Gutman are among those who’ve also spent significant time on the training table.

ATLUTD’s struggles run a bit deeper than just that hard-luck story, mind you. Influential club president Darren Eales, a foundational figure, just left for Newcastle United. Both Martinez and head coach Gonzalo Pineda have sounded off to varying degrees with concerns about commitment and intensity. They’ve been uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal and questions linger about the compatibility of one of MLS’s most expensively-assembled rosters.

What lies ahead?

ATL have only won two league matches since early May, a rough 2W-5L-5D patch. They’re just four points back of seventh-place Charlotte FC in the Eastern Conference table, though, and have 12 games left to work with. That said, they have to face Seattle, the New York Red Bulls and defending champs New York City FC at home, and also have a long trip to Portland and both home and away clashes with white-hot Philadelphia ahead, and have won just once away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Will they make it?

The Five Stripes have offered up flashes of real quality at times and could still, to borrow a phrase from Armchair Analyst, “brute-force” their way into the playoffs via sheer talent. But the vibes are not great down south in 2022 and we’re bearish on their hopes of figuring things out in time. Missing out on the postseason for the second time in their six years of existence will prompt sustained soul-searching alongside the hunt for Eales’ successor.

  • Standings: 9th in Western Conference
  • Last trophies: 2012, 2014 MLS Cups

What happened?

This story starts with underperforming Designated Players. The Galaxy committed real resources towards acquiring Douglas Costa and Kevin Cabral to pace their attack and provide quality service for Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. Alas, the wing duo have contributed 3g/2a combined in the league this season, and TAM-level attacker Samuel Grandsir has been only slightly more productive with 1g/3a.

Even the unexpectedly prolific Dejan Joveljic – LA’s leading scorer with nine goals despite only earning five starts – and a strong campaign from fullback Raheem Edwards haven’t been enough to compensate for all that. While their longstanding defensive woes have eased, the Galaxy have scored just 30 goals in their 22 games to date, one of the weakest outputs in the West.

What lies ahead?

SoCal's older club have two games left against bottom-dwelling Sporting KC, very winnable-looking visits to Houston and Vancouver and a handful of six-pointers against fellow playoff chasers. They can still pull this thing out of the fire. Some of the questions facing second-year boss Greg Vanney are pretty daunting, though, including some structural matters in the club’s scouting and signing processes he’s alluded to having to deal with since his arrival.

Will they make it?

The Gs are just two points back of seventh-place Seattle and have welcomed 22-year-old FC Barcelona midfielder Riqui Puig, with sturdy center mid Rayan Raveloson off to France to make room. Is a dose of Barca tiki-taka, however elite Puig may be, really what LA need most, though? Given everything swirling around this vintage of “FC Hollywood,” we just don’t see them hacking a path into this postseason.

  • Standings: 11th in Eastern Conference
  • Last trophies: 2021 Supporters’ Shield

What happened?

Bruce Arena presided over a range of improvements, some steady, others dramatic, upon his 2019 arrival in Foxborough, and finishing 12 points ahead of their nearest pursuers atop the 2021 league table suggested that he’d gotten his – and the Revs’ – mojo back. Consolidating that progress has been another matter entirely.

After a promising start, New England crashed out of the Concacaf Champions League spectacularly and several of their offseason acquisitions (Omar Gonzalez and Jozy Altidore, most prominently) just didn’t work. Another, Sebastian Lletget, was just traded to FC Dallas. Playmaking genius Carles Gil is a constant focus for opponents, his fellow DP Gustavo Bou has missed time to injury, Adam Buksa left for France in midseason and his replacement, Giacomo Vrioni from Juventus, has only just taken the field. Tajon Buchanan’s departure has been glaring and the Revolution have dropped dozens of points from winning positions.

What lies ahead?

The Revs’ run-in is home-heavy, and looks manageable. They have strugglers like D.C. United, LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo FC and the Chicago Fire (twice) on their remaining schedule, and while trips to Montréal and Toronto will be testing, they don’t have to fly anywhere west of Houston.

Will they make it?

With only two points separating them from the East’s final playoff slot, New England have reasons for optimism. The Revs are a more complete side than nearby competitors Charlotte, Chicago and Miami. We expect them to squeak in, with Cincy a tough challenger.

  • Standings: 7th in Western Conference
  • Last trophies: 2022 Concacaf Champions League, 2019 MLS Cup

What happened?

In three words, Concacaf Champions League. History has shown deep CCL runs often trigger hangovers in the league, with focus, physical output and emotional energy all siphoned in the direction of regional glory. For the Sounders, it was and surely remains worth it, considering they scaled the CCL mountaintop, the first time in the tournament’s modern existence an MLS team has done so and just the third ever. Knowing they would eventually have to scramble to make up for that spring adventure is one thing; actually doing it is another.

What lies ahead?

Eleven games remain in Seattle’s league slate, and six of them are away from Lumen Field – not ideal considering they’re 3W-7L-1D on the road in league play, and several of them are six-pointers vs. the Galaxy and Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps. Still, as mentioned above, Tuesday’s win, as labored as it was, brings a boost in that they now pass the old “if the season ended tomorrow…” test, and are likely to stay there with a good result at struggling Atlanta this weekend.

Will they make it?

This isn’t the first time this groundbreaking club has flirted with missing the playoffs, and yet their amazing streak of taking part in every postseason since their 2009 arrival persists. In fact they hit an even lower nadir in the months leading up to their first MLS Cup triumph in 2016, only to storm back and reach the top after the arrival of Nico Lodeiro and the change from Sigi Schmid to Brian Schmetzer. We expect the Rave Green to be playing past Oct. 9, maybe even until Nov. 5.

  • Standings: 14th in Western Conference
  • Last trophies: 2017, 2015 U.S. Open Cups, 2013 MLS Cup

What happened?

The Midwesterners were behind the 8-ball from the jump when Designated Players and attacking linchpins Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda were diagnosed with season-ending knee injuries right at the start of the year. Add in the eroding effectiveness of an aging roster, an academy-centered youth movement lagging behind schedule, a debilitating shortage of speed in key areas and the diminished effect of what was once the most imposing home-field advantage in MLS, and you have the recipe for a Wooden Spoon voyage just one year after finishing fourth in the overall 2021 table.

What lies ahead?

Home duels with San Jose and D.C. and a September trip to Houston look winnable. Unfortunately for Peter Vermes & Co., the rest of their remaining slate is loaded with playoff and playoff-chasing opponents. Even with talented midseason recruits Erik Thommy and William Agada in the fold, this is a steep, steep climb.

Will they make it?

Last week’s miserable one-two punch of the US Open Cup semifinal upset defeat to Sacramento Republic on penalty kicks and the frustrating home loss to Austin FC – which included a very soft game-winning goal and a missed penalty kick by Daniel Salloi – felt like a backbreaker, at least from a distance. It’s just unrealistic to expect Kansas City to conjure up a vault into the top seven.

  • Standings: 13th in Eastern Conference
  • Last trophies: 2017 treble (MLS Cup, Supporters' Shield, Canadian Championship), 2020 CanChamp

What happened?

Some of TFC’s early difficulties were by design or expected, or something in that ballpark. It’s Bob Bradley’s first year in charge and the new tactical ideas he brought, combined with the wait for showcase signing Lorenzo Insigne to arrive after the conclusion of Napoli’s season and the need to blood a bevy of young players, most of them fresh-faced academy kids, was a heavy lift.

Like many young sides, away form was a serious drag and scoring output proved spotty. The Reds have been shut out eight times in league action, while DP defender Carlos Salcedo was a disappointment before his return to Liga MX for family reasons. The plan all along was for Insigne – who has been joined by fellow Italian reinforcements Domenico Criscito and Federico Bernardeschi – to spark a back-half rally up the table.

What lies ahead?

The schedule makers didn’t exactly hand them a soft run-in. TFC must visit Nashville, Charlotte and Philadelphia in the coming weeks, as well as have two long flights to Florida to meet Miami and Orlando, classic wild-card fixtures, especially during hurricane season. Making a fortress out of BMO Field, where they have a winning record this year but have lost five times, will be critical.

Will they make it?

It’s a tribute to the forgiving nature of the postseason format that after all their troubles, the Reds are still just a modest six points from the playoff line. Losing the CanChamp final to Vancouver on PKs was a missed opportunity to generate momentum and belief, however, and as talented as their newcomers clearly are, we don’t see playoffs in the cards on Lake Ontario this autumn.