Analyzing how many points will be needed to reach the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs | Ben Baer

It's now official: 10 teams will make the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference and eight will make it in the West.

With these new numbers — seven teams made the playoffs in each conference last season — what point total should teams be shooting for?

First, some caveats: There are more teams in MLS than ever before (26) and teams are playing very uneven schedules. But looking over the past three years can give us an idea.

Season 10th East PPG 8th West PPG
2017 1.15 1.32
2018 .94 1.38
2019 1.12 1.29

Averaging those seasons out, a team would need 1.07 points per game (ppg) to finish 10th in the East and 1.33 ppg to finish 8th in the West. Those point totals over 23 games would come to 24.61 in the East and 30.59 in the West. 

Teams are, of course, playing just 23 games this year instead of the usual 34. If teams had played just 23 matches in previous years, the teams that qualified for the playoffs — and the places they would finish in — would be very different.

Just look at the Western Conference in 2017.

Place Top 7 teams through 23 games Final Standings
1 SKC POR
2 DAL SEA
3 HOU VAN
4 SEA HOU
5 VAN SKC
6 SJ SJ
7 POR DAL

The Portland Timbers jumped all the way from seventh to first, while Sporting Kansas City fell from first to fifth. The San Jose Earthquakes were the only team to remain in the same position after the final 11 matches. Similar stories can be found in 2018 (Seattle moving from 7th to 2nd) and 2019 (San Jose dropping from 3rd to 8th).

Fewer matches means more uncertainty. Any small hot streak or cold streak could have a significant impact on the final standings. The race to the playoffs is already on.

Series: 
Topics: 

MLS Unites to VOTE

Join Major League Soccer, Black Players for Change, and the MLS Players Association in participating in the November 3 general election. In-person early voting has started in 36 states. Make a plan to vote.