Behind the curve: History says these five MLS teams should be worried about missing playoffs

Is it too early in the season to hit the panic button?

Chicago, Chivas USA, New York, Philadelphia, and Portland have all failed to reach eight points by their seventh game of the 2014 season, while Houston and San Jose are also in danger of missing that mark (the Dynamo have played six matches and the Earthquakes five). Check out the latest MLS standings here.

All of these teams will invariably shoot down any talk of missing the playoffs this season, considering they still have at least 27 games left to play (81 available points). However, if you are a fan of one of these teams, there is a trend you should keep in mind.

Since 2011, the year the playoff Knockout Round was introduced, only two of 30 teams that qualified for the postseason did so with less than eight points in their first seven games. Those teams are the 2013 Seattle Sounders (six points after seven games) and the 2011 Sporting Kansas City side (four points after seven games). Sporting are a bit of an exception to the rule after starting the season on a record road swing while they awaited the opening of Sporting Park.

So should the stragglers in 2014 be worried? Not necessarily.

With all the draws this year, especially in the Eastern Conference, point totals across the board are on pace to be lower than previous years. In fact, 40 percent of matches thus far in 2014 have ended in ties, compared to 29 percent after seven weekends in 2013, 14 percent after the same point in 2012 and 30 percent in 2011.

This means that overall point totals across the board are lower in 2014 and slow-starting teams should be able to make up ground quicker if they can rattle off a winning streak.

And ultimately nothing is guaranteed this early in the campaign. Just look at FC Dallas, Chivas USA and the Philadelphia Union last year: Their hot starts weren't enough to get them into the playoffs.

It's still all to play for.


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