What you need to know

Round of 16 begins

Just one game tonight. The Robert Taylor show goes on the road as FC Dallas host Inter Miami. Kickoff is set for 9:30 pm ET on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

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Sixteen teams left. Some have easier paths to the final than others. Some are just better than others. All have some chance of making it to the end because, well, they made it this far. All that being said, I can only hedge for so long on your team being a special butterfly that actually has a chance to win. Let’s rank some teams.


Before we start, just remember, it’s not only “which team is good,” it’s which team is good and has the easiest path. Monterrey and Tigres are going to be lower than normal here because they have to play either Monterrey or Tigres. The other thing to remember here is analysis of this small sample size tournament is and will continue to be \entirely\ vibes based. The other other important thing to remember here is when you agreed to subscribe to The Daily Kickoff you signed a legally binding agreement to not post anything on here on one of those “OUT OF CONTEXT BAD TAKES EXPOSED” accounts when the team I rank 16th inevitably wins the entire tournament. I don’t make the law, I just abide by it.

Ok, yeah, I’m not actually all that worried about the 16th team winning the entire tournament. It would be one of the single most remarkable events in the history of Concacaf.

Charlotte are one of four MLS teams below the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line still in this thing. Unfortunately for them, they are the only non-playoff team without either: 1) Emanuel Reynoso or 2) Near-league-best underlying numbers or 3) The greatest player in the history of the sport. So. Yeah, this doesn’t feel unfair. It does feel kind of mean though and for that I’m genuinely sorry.

I wrote yesterday this team had similar vibes to the 2020 Minnesota United side that came agonizingly close to making MLS Cup. And by that, I mean Reynoso has players moving off the ball in front of him and is on a total heater because of it. He had three assists in the Loons’ 3-3 performance against Columbus the other night. That makes Minnesota a genuine threat to keep moving forward.

Unfortunately, they’ll have to try and keep moving forward against a red-hot Toluca side, the winner of América-Nashville, and then whoever makes it out of the LAFC-RSL-Tigres-Monterrey quadrangle of death. It could happen, but it’s going to take something truly special.

Dallas are a good team. But anyone matched up with Inter Miami right now feels like they’re in significant danger. That being said, the high in Dallas today is 106 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT so, I dunno, what if the first thing to slow down Messi in 18 years is global warming?

It feels like genuine progress for the Dynamo to have made it this far. They took down Pachuca in the Round of 32 and that’s honestly pretty wild when you think about the recent history of both sides. Their reward is a somewhat favorable matchup against Charlotte. Their reward if they move past Charlotte is, most likely, Inter Miami. This tournament is a success no matter what, but they’d need some remarkable luck to get over the finish line.

Nashville are an excellent side with the kind of tactical setup that will always make them a threat to move ahead in a single-elimination tournament. It doesn’t matter if you win 1-0, you just gotta win, right? 

That being said, they have to do that against América, then potentially do it again against a Toluca side that put four on them in the group stage and, yeah, y’all have probably figured out by now that the western side of the bracket is a gauntlet.

New York are very similar to Nashville in that they feel prone to 1-0ing their way to results in this thing. Defensively, their underlying numbers are the best in MLS this year. It just wouldn’t be that surprising to see them keep moving through. And it could result in appointment television when the new-look Inter Miami faces Energy Drink Soccer pressing for the first time.

Basically, the case for the Red Bulls here is they’re solid defensively and are on the slightly easier side of the bracket.

The Revs are also on the slightly easier side of the bracket and have the easiest draw of anyone in the Round of 16. That being said, they’ll likely be without Bruce Arena, Djordje Petrovic and, now, Brandon Bye, who picked up a season-ending injury against Atlas. It’s been a nightmarish couple of weeks. There’s still a lot of talent here though. And a more straightforward path than most makes a run feel plausible.

We’re officially into the part of these rankings where 99% of the analysis is just “This team is very good! This bracket is extremely difficult!”

You’ve probably noticed RSL are hotter than just about every other team on the continent. They cemented themselves as one of the region’s best teams right now when they took off in the second half against Club León. Thing is though, the other favorites on this side of the bracket have been here before. And, as good as RSL are, they will be at a talent disadvantage over their next two games at least. A Round of 16 matchup with LAFC followed by a quarterfinal against the winner of a Clásico Regio is just a brutal draw.

América are América, but it’s fair to say they’ve looked pretty pedestrian over their last two games. They got boatraced by Columbus and were a missed Kacper Przybylko finish on an open net away from being in trouble against Chicago.

Toluca have been the best team in the tournament so far. They’ve scored four goals in all three of their games and have a plus-seven goal differential. They probably still have a few defensive issues to worry about, but they’ve been unreal going forward. Combine all that with the fact they technically have the easiest Round of 16 draw of anyone on the western side of the bracket and it seems like they have a better chance to pull this off than América.

LAFC finally got some rest and suddenly looked a whole lot like the team that went into the CCL Final as favorites. They pummeled Juárez 7-1 in the Round of 32 and have a ton of talent, even if that talent has changed a bit over the past few weeks with a few significant transfer moves.

Yeah, their path is incredibly challenging. Yeah, they haven’t looked all that great so far. But it’s Tigres.

Yeah, their path is incredibly challenging. Yeah, they didn’t look completely in control of the situation against Portland. But it’s Monterrey.

If they advance, the Union will be favored in their next two games. Their favorite status could be a bit more debatable in the semifinal, but they’re definitely the favorites against New York. They’ll definitely be the favorites against whoever advances between Querétaro and a New England side in a tough moment. And, if they do meet Messi and Co. in the semifinal, they’ll certainly be up for a fight.

It’s admittedly tough to see them making it past a potential Messi matchup and a final against whoever survives on the other side of the bracket, but their path to the finish line is clearer than most.

I promise it’s not just recency bias. It’s recency bias and a matchup with a good but not great Dallas side in the Round of 16, then the winner of Charlotte and Houston in the quarterfinal. It could be a lot tougher once they reach the semifinal if Philly are waiting for them, but either way, they would avoid the biggest of the big bads until the final. This could be happening.

Full Time

Good luck out there. Enjoy the opportunity.