Introducing Playoff Seeding Projections / by Drew Olsen

By Drew Olsen (@drewjolsen)

As you've probably seen under the Projections tab in the upper right, for the last couple months we've been keeping the odds for each MLS team's chances at making the 2015 MLS playoffs and winning the Supporters' Shield. 

Our playoff probabilities come from a combination of 1) where teams are now in the tables, 2) what their remaining schedule is, and 3) how good our model thinks they are. It's the same model that produces the Power Rankings, but the key difference is that here we take each team's current standing and remaining schedule into account.

The remaining games this season are simulated using a random number generator and the suggested probabilities from our model. Points are summed, and the top six teams from each conference are recorded. All MLS tie-breakers are considered down to card accumulation. We can't make the model predict disciplinary points...yet. The simulation does this 10,000 times and the projections get more precise as the season continues, like one would expect. But simply determining playoff odds has been getting less relevant as the qualifying teams in the East are now essentially decided*, and even the Western Conference race is coming to a close.

Still, playoff seeding is very much up for grabs. With this year's new playoff format, the third seed in each Conference will host a one-game playoff against the six seed, and the fourth seed will host the fifth seed. After those games, the lowest remaining seed will play a home-and-home series against the top seed. Though anything can happen in the playoffs, in a league where the home team is favored regardless of the quality of teams playing, higher seeding and home field advantage will be very important for any team hoping to make a run.

Typical caveats still apply: with almost 50 league games still left to play this is all still very much in flux, so we recommend looking at these tables with your normal dosage of salt. But without further Freddy Adu, below are the playoffs, Supporters' Shield, and seeding odds for each MLS team. For teams with greater than 50% odds of making the playoffs, I've highlighted the seeding they ended up with most frequently in our 10,000 simulations of the final 48 games.

Eastern Conference
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 POFF% SS% POFFchg SSchg
NYRB 0.921 0.058 0.016 0.004 0 0 1.000 0.622 0 0.209
NE 0.026 0.373 0.310 0.175 0.090 0.026 1.000 0.004 0.010 0.001
CLB 0.043 0.360 0.306 0.180 0.095 0.016 1.000 0.011 0.004 0.010
DCU 0.003 0.095 0.163 0.281 0.326 0.133 0.999 0 -0 -0.008
TOR 0.006 0.090 0.152 0.262 0.305 0.179 0.993 0 -0.002 -0.013
MTL 0.001 0.024 0.052 0.098 0.179 0.543 0.899 0 0.039 -0
ORL 0 0 0 0 0.003 0.069 0.071 0 0.042 0
NYC 0 0 0 0 0.001 0.024 0.025 0 -0.002 0
PHI 0 0 0 0 0.001 0.009 0.010 0 -0.059 0
CHI 0 0 0 0 0 0.001 0.001 0 -0.032 0

Western Conference
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 POFF% SS% POFFchg SSchg
VAN 0.453 0.280 0.170 0.077 0.019 0.002 1.000 0.175 0.004 -0.054
FCD 0.390 0.272 0.184 0.102 0.041 0.009 0.999 0.150 0.008 -0.044
LA 0.060 0.188 0.259 0.266 0.164 0.055 0.992 0.011 0.001 -0.081
SKC 0.083 0.193 0.232 0.240 0.161 0.066 0.975 0.025 0.079 -0.015
SEA 0.014 0.061 0.130 0.235 0.360 0.145 0.945 0.001 0.350 0
POR 0.001 0.005 0.018 0.052 0.142 0.311 0.530 0 -0.166 -0.003
SJ 0 0.001 0.006 0.021 0.075 0.262 0.364 0 -0.227 -0.002
RSL 0 0 0.001 0.006 0.032 0.107 0.146 0 0.127 0
HOU 0 0 0 0 0.007 0.033 0.040 0 -0.136 0
COL 0 0 0 0 0 0.009 0.009 0 -0.041 0

*No disrespect to Orlando, NYC, Philly, or Chicago, but our model gives them a combined 10.7% chance of qualifying for the playoffs.