Gary Mackay-Steven celebrates - NYCFC

They’re on a rip-roaring 6-0-1 run that’s elevated them well clear of the Eastern Conference pack, have built the second-best goal differential in the league and look like a lock to enjoy homefield advantage throughout the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.


New York City FC are the hottest team in Major League Soccer, and it shows in the latest edition of FiveThirtyEight.com’s MLS projections.


After Saturday’s hard-earned 2-1 home win over the San Jose Earthquakes, the famed data-crunchers give East-leading NYCFC an impressive 78% likelihood of keeping hold of that top spot, which means that the road to MLS Cup could go through through New York City. And considering that the Cityzens – who are now rated a 14% probability to win MLS Cup, a distant second-best to LAFC – have lost just one league match there all season (10-1-5), that’s daunting news for the rest.


Here’s a few other notes from the FiveThirtyEight’s updated stats.


Eastern Conference


Beyond the blue half of Gotham, the current projections have the Philadelphia Union edging Atlanta United to second place in the East, by a mere point. Five Stripes fans may be heartened to see that their team retains the conference’s top figure in the Soccer Power Index (SPI), though, a reflection of their talented roster and track record of excellence. Perhaps ATLUTD can get it done on the road when the final reckoning unfolds late next month?


Strikingly, the suddenly-awake Chicago Fire also own a sneaky-strong SPI number, and the Men in Red have seen their playoff odds double over the past week thanks to that big 4-0 rout of FC Dallas. Granted, they’re still a long shot at 23%, but with trips to Cincinnati and Orlando remaining as well as a huge home tilt with Toronto FC, at least they’ve got a chance.


Big weekend wins have all but clinched postseason berths for D.C. United and Toronto, while the New York Red Bulls are still in good shape for qualification despite their loss at Seattle. New England are a 64% probability to make the playoffs, but after blowing a lead in Orlando on Saturday, they’re still vulnerable to a late surge from Chicago or perhaps Montreal.


Western Conference


LAFC are basically holding serve at the moment, with two draws from their week-long East Coast swing and nearly a month without a victory. The underlying data hasn’t budged too much, though: The Black & Gold are 53% favorites to win the league title and remain all but certain of Supporters’ Shield glory. And Carlos Vela is back from his hamstring injury.


As far as postseason qualification, the Sounders, Minnesota United, Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy are all assigned probabilities of over 90%, and are projected to finish 2-5 in that order in the standings. When it comes to the West's final two slots, the picture still looks like two from three out of Portland, San Jose and Dallas, with the Timbers at 88%, the Earthquakes at 70% and FCD at 55%.


Interestingly, FiveThirtyEight’s models seem to like the Quakes, as their SPI figure checks in at 42.6, which is second-best in the West and tied for sixth-best in the league. Could Matias Almeyda’s style of play make them the dark horse to watch?