Have you taken a close look at the standings lately? No worries if not, I know it can be easy to be lulled into a comfortable routine during these scorching summer months.

Even if you think you’re familiar with the state of the table, do me a favor and take a quick look now in the MLS app or in another tab. Focus on third through 12th. Notice that the gap between those 10 teams in both the Eastern and Western Conferences does not exceed 10 points.

Things are tight with roughly 40 percent of the season remaining. So tight that just about any Audi MLS Cup Playoffs field is believable, if not probable. What I know for sure is that the top seven in either conference won’t stay the same. Somebody is dropping, which means a team below the playoff line is rising. For the sake of this exercise, let’s just say it’s two in and two out.

Ahead of Week 22, it’s time to play Nostradamus. Wieb-stradamus, you might say, for those who were Matchday Central viewers. I’ve included all the relevant information for anyone who needs it: current points, playoff gap, games played, tiebreaker status (wins, GD, GF … in that order) as well as postseason probabilities from FiveThirtyEight and PlayoffStatus.com (just know science is basically irrelevant here).

Let’s start with the glass-half-full perspective. Here’s who is getting IN!

Eastern Conference

Current playoff field (top seven):

  1. Philadelphia Union
  2. New York City FC
  3. New York Red Bulls
  4. CF Montréal
  5. Orlando City SC
  6. Columbus Crew
  7. FC Cincinnati
  • 8th place: 26 points (1 point below playoff line, 13 games remaining)
  • Tiebreakers: 8 wins, -2 goal differential, 25 goals scored
  • FiveThirtyEight playoff probability: 27%
  • PlayoffStatus.com playoff probability: 29%

Wieb-stradamus says … I can’t believe I’m doing this – I expect to be wrong – but Charlotte FC are sneaking in as the No. 7 seed for the purposes of this column (or will they?). I have far more faith in the other Eastern Conference team I have jumping the line, but I have to name two, so here we are stretching. Why am I stretching? Home form and remaining schedule. The Queen City is a hard away trip. Only LAFC (8) have more home wins than Charlotte.

Here are the final 11 games for the new boys: at TOR, CLB, DC, CHI, at LAFC, at NYC, ORL, TOR, at CIN, NYC, at CHI, PHI, at RBNY. Look, I fully expect them to take Ls at the Banc, Yankee Stadium and Red Bull Arena. But look at those home dates. They are all six-pointers against direct playoff competition, and away trips to Toronto, Cincinnati and Chicago are potential bonus results. The next four matches are particularly important. Three wins (very doable) and the belief will grow… hopefully making me look smart in October!

  • 9th place: 25 points (2 points below playoff line, 14 games remaining)
  • Tiebreakers: 7 wins, -9 goal differential, 22 goals scored
  • FiveThirtyEight playoff probability: 26%
  • PlayoffStatus.com playoff probability: 36%

Wieb-stradamus says … If FC Barcelona was the biggest game in the history of the club, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the 2022 campaign. I kid, I kid.

Just one game against the West left for Inter Miami CF, who can seal their fate via six-pointers against teams hovering around the line in the East (vs. CIN, at MTL, vs. TOR, at CLB, ORL, at CHI, CLB, at DC, at TOR). Alas, they’ve also got games at NYCFC and at the Red Bulls … and they have one away win all year. That math doesn’t add up for me. No playoffs in 2022.

  • 10th place: 25 points (2 points below playoff line, 14 games remaining)
  • Tiebreakers: 6 wins, -2 goal differential, 32 goals scored
  • FiveThirtyEight playoff probability: 54%
  • PlayoffStatus.com playoff probability: 44%

Wieb-stradamus says … Bad news first! They’ve dropped 24 (!!!!!!!) points from winning positions this year. That’s … the exact opposite of 2021. What if we gave the New England Revolution 15 of those points back? They’d be atop the East. Hmmmmm.

Now the good news! They get a lot of leads! You need to lead games to win games. Giacomo Vrioni ought to help extend those leads. Matt Polster seems to be taking slow steps back to 90-minute fitness and changes the midfield (and defensive) balance if and when he can put in full shifts. Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler need to stay healthy and avoid game-changing errors, plus some more center-back depth would be nice, but this team is too experienced and talented to miss the playoffs. Carles Gil isn’t going to allow it.

  • 11th place: 24 points (3 points below playoff line, 14 games remaining)
  • Tiebreakers: 6 wins, -2 goal differential, 29 goals scored
  • FiveThirtyEight playoff probability: 33%
  • PlayoffStatus.com playoff probability: 26%

Wieb-stradamus says … so much talent and so little luck. Perhaps fate decided that this is destined to be a humbling year for the Atlanta United. I don’t trust them to beat good teams, which they would have to do to sustain a run. Their wins this season: SKC, CLT, at DC, CHI, MIA, RSL (midweek, rotated RSL squad, in Atlanta).

  • 12th place: 23 points (4 points below playoff line, 13 games remaining)
  • Tiebreakers: 6 wins, -6 goal differential, 21 goals scored
  • FiveThirtyEight playoff probability: 17%
  • PlayoffStatus.com playoff probability: 11%

Wieb-stradamus says … I want to believe. I want to take that celebratory Malort shot with Ezra. I want to think that this team, which has four wins in their last seven, has oodles of unrealized potential.

Xherdan Shaqiri. Unrealized, and with a World Cup on the horizon. Kacper Przybylko. Unrealized. Jairo Torres. It’s early, but so far mostly unrealized. Jhon Duran. Starting to be realized. Gaga Slonina. Realized, then a whirlwind, and now settling back into quite good.

There is talent and upside on this Chicago Fire FC roster that’s not playing anywhere near the expected level. The next three games are, in my opinion, make or break. At Vancouver, home against Atlanta and at Charlotte. Two of the three are Eastern Conference peers. Two are away games, of which the Fire have seven total remaining (with just one win in 10 on the road so far). If they can’t turn it around on the road or win six-pointers, the gap is going to be too big. I want to believe, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

  • 13th place: 19 points (8 points below playoff line, 13 games remaining)
  • Tiebreakers: 5 wins, -13 goal differential, 26 goals scored
  • FiveThirtyEight playoff probability: 2%
  • PlayoffStatus.com playoff probability: 3%

Wieb-stradamus says … Matt Doyle named Toronto FC the most likely of the “currently in dire straights” teams to pull off a miracle playoff run in his mailbag column this week.

The talent they’ve brought in this summer is frankly absurd. Lorenzo Insigne. Federico Bernadeschi. Mark-Anthony Kaye. That sounds fun! And so do lots of games with five or more goals scored because it’s also very fun to play against Toronto FC’s backline these days. Only D.C. United and San Jose have allowed more goals. I don’t see that changing enough, even with Domenico Criscito in the mix, for the Reds to jump the line, though I hope and pray they’re still alive on Decision Day.

  • 14th place: 18 points (9 points below playoff line, 15 games remaining)
  • Tiebreakers: 5 wins, -16 goal differential, 25 goals scored
  • FiveThirtyEight playoff probability: 5%
  • PlayoffStatus.com playoff probability: 5%

Wieb-stradamus says … Rooney may have worked a miracle when he arrived at the Black-and-Red as a player – who could ever forget the tale of LuchaRoo and that inspiring last-to-playoffs run – but Rooney isn’t signing Rooney. And even two-ish games in hand, Taxi Fountas and two open Designated Player spots can’t save D.C. United. They’re missing the playoffs while Wayne builds a foundation for 2023.

Western Conference

Current playoff field (top seven):

  1. LAFC
  2. Austin FC
  3. Real Salt Lake
  4. Minnesota United FC
  5. Nashville SC
  6. FC Dallas
  7. LA Galaxy
  • 8th place: 27 points (below the line on wins tiebreaker, 13 games remaining)
  • Tiebreakers: 6 wins, +3 goal differential, 33 goals scored
  • FiveThirtyEight playoff probability: 43%
  • PlayoffStatus.com playoff probability: 41%

Wieb-stradamus says … Call it the Eryk Williamson effect. Call it a potential six away points in Toronto and Kansas City. Call it a gut feeling. The Portland Timbers haven’t lost in six games, and it feels like the worst is behind them. What’s it going to take? Turning the mountain of draws into wins. Making Providence Park a fortress. The next six games (SJ, at MIN, NSH, DAL, at TOR, at SKC) will set up another late-season push like we saw in 2021.

  • 9th place: 26 points (1 point below playoff line, 14 games remaining)
  • Tiebreakers: 8 wins, +2 goal differential, 26 goals scored
  • FiveThirtyEight playoff probability: 49%
  • PlayoffStatus.com playoff probability: 37%

Wieb-stradamus says … Seattle Sounders FC can’t possibly win CCL and miss the playoffs to break their never-been-broken-in-the-MLS-history-of-the-club playoff streak, right? RIGHT?!? I still have confetti stashed away in the shoes I was wearing that fateful night at Lumen Field.

Brian Schmetzer and the boys are turning this around. Go to Sounder at Heart for your hardcore analysis. I say the Sounders are going to the playoffs because that’s the only reality I've known for 13 straight years. The whole world can’t possibly crumble at once, can it?

  • 10th place: 26 points (1 point below playoff line, 13 games remaining)
  • Tiebreakers: 7 wins, -11 goal differential, 23 goals scored
  • FiveThirtyEight playoff probability: 20%
  • PlayoffStatus.com playoff probability: 34%

Wieb-stradamus says … Helluva move to trade for Julian Gressel. If my heart says the Sounders make it on reputation and upside alone, then logic and form tell me it’ll be Vancouver Whitecaps FC who emerge from Cascadia. They’re 6W-2L-4D in their last 12 games. The only losses are at Charlotte (no shame there) and home to Minnesota (bummer, but Reynoso). Can I hedge my bets and say two of the three Cascadia teams are jumping the line?

  • 11th place: 25 points (2 points below playoff line, 13 games remaining)
  • Tiebreakers: 7 wins, -2 goal differential, 27 goals scored
  • FiveThirtyEight playoff probability: 10%
  • PlayoffStatus.com playoff probability: 17%

Wieb-stradamus says … Things are going to get better for Houston Dynamo FC, but I can’t get behind a team that’s lost nine of their last 14. The four wins in that span are Nashville at home (OK!), at the Galaxy (looking less impressive by the day), home against Chicago (meh) and at San Jose (good comeback against a team that sorta gave it away). One draw in those 14 games. Which is to say, there’s not a ton of middle ground with the Dynamo at the moment. They’ve also got a daunting road slate the rest of the way (PHI, VAN, COL, MIN, SEA, LAFC, NSH) and have just four wins in 11 at home. Not the recipe I’m looking for here, even if I think the future looks bright under new ownership and technical leadership.

  • 12th place: 24 points (3 points below playoff line, 14 games remaining)
  • Tiebreakers: 6 wins, -3 goal differential, 24 goals scored
  • FiveThirtyEight playoff probability: 33%
  • PlayoffStatus.com playoff probability: 27%

Wieb-stradamus says … The Colorado Rapids are my darkhorse … that I didn’t want to curse by saying they’d get to the playoffs. If I am going to be wrong, I think it’ll be this group that makes me look shortsighted. That sounds sort of silly to say right after they moved Auston Trusty and Kaye, but I think those moves get Colorado’s remaining personnel – and I hope more reinforcements are coming – into a more comfortable system.

This is a 4-3-3 team now, maybe 4-2-3-1 if you want to quibble. Gyasi Zardes is a backline-stretching, final-ball merchant again. Diego Rubio is a hybrid 10/second forward, which fits his skill set perfectly. Bryan Acosta and Ralph Priso (or Max Alves) can do the running. Jonathan Lewis is now isolated in wide areas, where he is most effective. Michael Barrios and Sam Nicholson can split minutes on the right wing.

The Rapids still defend just fine, but the summer changes have a knock-on effect of getting their best attacking players in better positions to affect the game. Depth is still a worry, but I have a feeling they’re going to make a run.

  • 13th place: 22 points (5 points below playoff line, 14 games remaining)
  • Tiebreakers: 5 wins, -8 goal differential, 33 goals scored
  • FiveThirtyEight playoff probability: 13%
  • PlayoffStatus.com playoff probability: 17%

Wieb-stradamus says … They’re a real team again, and that’s good. Alas, the chaos DNA is still lurking somewhere inside them. They’ve given up 24 goals in 13 games since Matias Almeyda left. They haven’t won two straight all season. They’re fun and there are promising pieces for the future, but it is a year too early.

  • 14th place: 20 points (7 points below playoff line, 12 games remaining)
  • Tiebreakers: 5 wins, -19 goal differential, 19 goals scored
  • FiveThirtyEight playoff probability: 2%
  • PlayoffStatus.com playoff probability: 2%

Wieb-stradamus says … Does two percent speak for itself? I think it does, even if the gap is only seven points. U.S. Open Cup or bust!

Who is OUT?

I saved the negativity for the end. Better to dream than to kill dreams.

In the East, sorry FC Cincinnati. It’s going to be a fun year, but I think you fall just short. Know that it pains me to predict that, but I, too, have watched your backline give up 37 goals in 21 games. It’s fun again – huge kudos to Chris Albright, Pat Noonan, that entire coaching staff and every single player on the roster – but not quite playoff consistent.

This is going to sound strange, but apologies to Charlotte supporters as well – I'm actually backing out. The assignment was two up, two down. If I had to send two down, which I guess I was supposed to do, then I think Orlando City are the most vulnerable team outside Cincinnati. They seem a tad passive when it comes to controlling games in midfield and dictating how and where they will be played. The thing is, I think Oscar Pareja will find a way to hold on down the stretch.

So while I hope you have reason to celebrate, Charlotte, and I’m rooting for you, I’m really on the one-in-one-out train in the East. It was cruel of me to let you dream and then turn around and kill said dream by taking it back. Hopefully you didn’t read this far. Rub it in my face if/when I’m wrong. You’ll have to wait in a long line to do so, I’m sure.

As for the West, adios LA Galaxy. Fool’s gold yet again. I’m sorry to say I currently have FC Dallas joining them below the line. It seems like teams have figured them out a bit (1W-5L-4D in their last 10) and central defense and right back are too shaky for my liking.