FiveThirtyEight favors LAFC in MLS is Back, but everyone has a puncher’s chance

    Statistical analysis specialists FiveThirtyEight have released their probability projections for the upcoming MLS is Back Tourmanent, and in terms of the order that teams are ranked, not much has changed from the regular-season modeling.

    More than three months after the COVID-19 pandemic brought play to a halt after two weeks, defending Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC are still favorite. FC Cincinnati is still at the bottom. And there’s only a couple subtle shuffles otherwise.

    What has changed is the likelihood that the lesser teams can win a title.

    While the last regular season projections from March gave LAFC a 25% chance to win MLS Cup, the same folks say it’s just a 17% chance they’ll leave Florida with the most bonus money and a Concacaf Champions League birth.

    On the other end, while seven teams were virtually ruled out (<1% chance) of the MLS regular season after Week 2, only three have been given the same lack of deference here: Cincinnati, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Nashville SC. And everyone in that trio is still given at least a 31% chance of reaching the knockout phase.

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    There’s a simple reason for this: The fewer games needed to win a trophy, the more opportunity random chance might impact the outcome. Lucky bounces level out over a long season. Not so in a three-game group stage or a win-or-go-home elimination game.

    It will be fun to see how drastically the projections shift with every match between now and Aug. 11 when a champion is crowned. For now, though, there’s not a ton of surprises.

    After LAFC, Toronto FC, Atlanta United, the Philadelphia Union and the Seattle Sounders are the next-most likely to take it all. Right behind that is one team that moved up slightly in the revised projections, an Inter Miami CF club that has been better than its first two matches — both defeats — than the final scores suggested.

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