Only MLS league games will be reflected in the rankings. Rankings are voted on by MLSsoccer.com editorial staff; words by Alicia Rodriguez.
BIGGEST MOVERS: DC +3; SJ -4
LAST WEEK: 1
HIGH: 1 | LOW: 4
There appears to be no stopping LAFC, although even with good wins over Atlanta, New England and the Red Bulls in recent weeks, they still have challenges ahead in RSL, the Quakes and (dramatic pause) the Galaxy. If they manage to pick up wins in those games, they may have already clinched the Shield...or be very, very close.
LAST WEEK: 2
HIGH: 2 | LOW: 20
Philadelphia hold off Atlanta for another week with a gutsy home win on Sunday over the Dynamo. Not to take anything away from this team, but they are very much a team, one that has to score by committee. Will they be able to ride a team ethos to MLS Cup as MLS's version of the 2004 Detroit Pistons? It would break the mold.
LAST WEEK: 4
HIGH: 1 | LOW: 19
Atlanta only have one league game this week, but they do have a Campeones Cup showdown midweek. They've been dealing with fixture congestion well and are arguably looking their best in the Frank de Boer era, but a road trip to Portland after a Club America clash is tricky, tricky indeed.
LAST WEEK: 5
HIGH: 2 | LOW: 24
The Timbers bounced back from back-to-back losses to Minnesota with a Cascadia Cup romp over Vancouver. Credit to Jeremy Ebobisse, who just keeps forcing his way into the lineup and appears to still have room for growth in his career, too.
LAST WEEK: 7
HIGH: 2 | LOW: 18
A mixed week for NYCFC, who nevertheless hold games in hand and could make a solid run up the Eastern Conference if they pick up points. While we're crediting scorers who are overlooked, Valentin Castellanos has seven goals and four assists in a little under 1,200 minutes. Pretty good for a tertiary scoring option.
LAST WEEK: 6
HIGH: 1 | LOW: 21
A tricky result for the Red Bulls but good practice against a team willing to press as well, something still not especially common in MLS this year. One concern is the defense's inability to post shutouts -- are they reverting to the mean, or is there a systemic issue they can iron out?
LAST WEEK: 3
HIGH: 2 | LOW: 24
The Quakes are coming back down to earth after their recent four-game winning streak, but our talking point remains true: San Jose are playing with no external expectations and they remain in the middle of the pack above the red line in the West. A clash against a dangerous-but-reeling Sporting at home could be a cracker.
LAST WEEK: 9
HIGH: 1 | LOW: 9
The Sounders are grinding and Brian Schmetzer issued a wake-up call after a high-scoring home draw against the Revolution. It's true, Seattle are not at their best, but aside from LAFC the West is currently in a cannibalizing moment and the Sounders are getting caught up in it with the rest of the outside contenders.
LAST WEEK: 10
HIGH: 9 | LOW: 23
That 3-3 draw was a result neither coach loved, but the big story for the Revs was Michael Mancienne getting back into the fray. Will he offer a late-season boost as New England aim to solidify their postseason chase? If he does, it could be a "like a new signing" bonus.
LAST WEEK: 8
HIGH: 8 | LOW: 15
The Loons thrive on rhythm this season, so their wild loss against FC Dallas could prove more consequential, but in the context of reaching the U.S. Open Cup final prior to that, it was a good week. There's little time to reflect, however, as Minnesota have a big double-game week, albeit with both matches in friendly Allianz Field confines.
LAST WEEK: 11
HIGH: 11 | LOW: 20
Amid the evolving coaching situation at RSL in recent weeks, which most recently resulted in Mike Petke's dismissal, credit to the squad for continuing along as though nothing changed. They're five games unbeaten, their best such run of the season, but it's a tough challenge this week with games against the Sounders and LAFC.
LAST WEEK: 12
HIGH: 5 | LOW: 15
Consider FC Dallas had one player who scored a brace (his first MLS goals! in Brandon Servania) and two players, Michael Barrios and Paxton Pomykal each notched three assists in the win over Minnesota. Dallas need consistency, but if they can score more regularly, they're apt to pick up points more regularly.
LAST WEEK: 16
HIGH: 3 | LOW: 16
Just when you think you know MLS, there's a game like this one, where a D.C. team in transition and missing their best player beats a star-laden team. Both teams were desperate for a win, but perhaps United's supporting players understand they need to collectively step up if they will end the season on a positive note.
LAST WEEK: 13
HIGH: 2 | LOW: 14
Considering he was just thrown into the fray it's not fair to give Cristian Pavon a full evaluation as a member of the Galaxy yet, but the persistent narrative that this team typically does not play like a team has not yet changed with his arrival. Two home games this week against Western opposition could help them a lot...if they win, of course.
LAST WEEK: 14
HIGH: 13 | LOW: 24
Spoiler Gang is back at it, as the Rapids are now on a two-game winning run and an interesting double-game week against two West teams means they could come in like a wrecking ball on two more teams. They are also playing with no expectations and could yet catch out some more teams this season.
LAST WEEK: 15
HIGH: 14 | LOW: 21
Orlando remain three points below the playoff line but they're still in the middle of the battle and you can't rule them out yet. They also have a double-game week, and considering the stakes, theirs may be the biggest of the week around MLS.
LAST WEEK: 18
HIGH: 4 | LOW: 21
Whither TFC? They have the talent, they're below the playoff line only on tiebreaker, but after a disappointing home draw against Orlando City, it remains a familiar refrain: Something fundamental here is not working. Can they pull out of another late-season tailspin? To be determined.
LAST WEEK: 19
HIGH: 3 | LOW: 24
The Crew are five games unbeaten and while hindsight may question why Columbus' slump was so long this season, the team has snapped back into a positive mentality and they're getting results while playing pretty well. They will be one of the teams to watch in the offseason in terms of wheeling and dealing to bolster the squad.
LAST WEEK: 21
HIGH: 13 | LOW: 24
Two wins in a row for the Fire, who went from out of the playoff race to knocking on the door. Can they actually clinch a playoff berth? The voting panel is skeptical, but they are also experiencing a recent mentality boost during a mostly rough campaign.
LAST WEEK: 17
HIGH: 3 | LOW: 21
Is this the most pivotal week of Sporting's year? In terms of the regular-season slate, no question about it. If they get two wins, they're in the thick of it again. If not? Could effectively be curtains on the club's playoff streak.
LAST WEEK: 20
HIGH: 8 | LOW: 21
Montreal are slumping like crazy but they remain above the playoff line, incredibly. Their cushion is totally over (unless all the teams below they fail to make up ground), so they'll need to pick up some more points ASAP. Bear in mind they'll have Canadian Championship action to contend with midweek, too.
LAST WEEK: 22
HIGH: 14 | LOW: 23
Theo Bair's debut goal has to be one of the frontrunners for MLS Goal of the Year. Aside from that, there just aren't enough bright spots around the Whitecaps these days, although the hope remains that this is the "taking lumps" phase of a multi-year turnaround in Vancouver.
LAST WEEK: 24
HIGH: 12 | LOW: 24
Having your first match in charge be a rivalry clash is a tough one, but Ron Jans showed there was some life in FC Cincy in an entertaining Hell is Real derby. Is there more where that came from? He won't be judged by this year's results, but either way, stay tuned.
LAST WEEK: 23
HIGH: 2 | LOW: 24
The Dynamo are six points below the playoff line but on their four-game losing streak it feels like they're 60 below. The season has gone from one filled with promise with a blend of youth and experience to one where the key players have disciplinary problems every week and there's no one to step into the breach. It's a real concern.