MLS Power Rankings, Week 16: Path to the Cup


More than half of Major League Soccer's clubs are at or past the midpoint of their league campaigns, and we're seeing separation between the big boys and the teams looking to follow in Real Salt Lake's and Colorado's footprints with postseason runs.

Here's what the playoff field would look like if the season stopped now:

WILD CARDS: The top three teams in the Western and Eastern conferences are seeded right into the bracket, and the next four teams, regardless of conference, meet to decide who goes up against the conference champs. Real Salt Lake would be seeded first and play host to the Houston Dynamo in a one-game playoff if the postseason began today. San Jose would visit defending champ Colorado.

WEST: The Galaxy are four points up on FC Dallas and Seattle, and that trio would receive the conference's three automatic berths. L.A. would face the lower-seeded wild-card survivor, and the Hoops and Sounders would meet in the other Western semifinal.

EAST: The surprising Philadelphia Union are in front, two points up on New York and Columbus, and they'd get the other wild-card winner. The Red Bulls and Crew would tangle in the other Eastern matchup.

How would it play out? In this league, anything's possible, but based on current form and potential, we like a Galaxy-New York final -- which is exactly what television, advertisers, sponsors and, although they'll never admit it, league officials are praying for.

This week's rankings:

1. GALAXY (9-2-8, 35 points), Last week: 1

Week 15: Mike Magee, not a goalkeeper, steps into the nets to save L.A. in a 0-0 draw, then scores the winner to beat L.A. Blues in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup

Remark: Landon Donovan's return a plus, but Galaxy didn't lose without him, stretching unbeaten streak to 10

10 years ago: L.A. wins the West at 14-7-5, loses to then-archrival San Jose in MLS Cup final, wins U.S. Open Cup

Next: Monday vs. Seattle at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)

2. FC DALLAS (9-4-4, 31 points), Last week: 2

Week 15: Daniel Hernandez sets up two, Brek Shea scores No. 7 in 4-0 romp over Portland; Milton Rodriguez answers Orlando City's stoppage-time equalizer with a 95th-minute winner in the U.S. Open Cup

Remark: Shea's abstract paintings raise $10K for club foundation bringing soccer to disadvantaged kids

10 years ago: Dallas Burn goes 10-11-5, reaches the playoffs as Ariel Graziani and Jason Kreis combine for 18 goals, 18 assists

Next: Saturday vs. Columbus, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

3. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (8-4-7, 28 points), Last week: 5

Week 15: Roger Levesque scores twice off the bench for a 4-2 win over New York in front of 46,000; Newport Beach's Tyson Wahl nets his first MLS goal -- a wonderful free kick to the upper-left -- in a 2-1 victory over New England; Michael Fucito strikes twice to beat Kitsap Pumas, 2-1, in the U.S. Open Cup

Remark: Wahl needs goal-celebration lessons from Levesque, who practiced his submerging scuba diver off the edge of his couch

10 years ago: Nearly a dozen teams finish ahead of the Sounders (13-12-1) in the A-League

Next: Monday vs. Galaxy at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)

4. REAL SALT LAKE (7-3-5, 26 points), Last week: 4

Week 15: Garden Grove's Luis Gil starts up front in a scoreless draw at Chicago; Alvaro Saborio scores twice in 3-1 win over Toronto FC; goals at the end of the first hand sink the Wilmington Hammerheads, 2-0, in a U.S. Open Cup encounter

Remark: Saborio returns from traumatic Gold Cup, scores his first two league goals of the season. RSL hopes it's a harbinger of what's to come

10 years ago: Utahns would have to wait four more years for a team

Next: Monday vs. New England, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)

5. PHILADELPHIA UNION (7-4-5, 26 points), Last week: 6

Week 15: Huge shot advantage (26-8) means little in 0-0 draw with Sporting Kansas City; Danny Mwanga finishes near the end for 3-2 win over Chivas USA

Remark: Defense-minded Philly sure looked dynamic with Mwanga, Carlos Ruiz, Sebastien Le Toux, Justin Mapp and stirring newcomer Veljko Paunovic

10 years ago: Nine years from fruition

Next: Saturday at D.C. United, 4 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)

6. COLUMBUS CREW (6-4-6, 24 points), Last week: 8

Week 15: Two more for Andres Mendoza in 4-1 rout of Colorado; visiting Richmond Kickers score late to win U.S. Open Cup clash, 2-1

Remark: Danny O'Rourke returns from knee surgery last fall, is promptly red-carded in Open Cup loss

10 years ago: Jeff Cunningham-led Crew go 13-7-6, cut down by San Jose in the playoffs

Next: Saturday at FC Dallas, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

7. NEW YORK RED BULLS (5-3-9, 24 points), Last week: 3

Week 15: Bulls rally from two-goal deficit, then give up two more in 4-2 loss at Seattle; can't hold on after Joel Lindpere scores in 1-1 draw at Chicago; John Rooney -- Wayne's bro -- nets the winner in 2-1 U.S. Open Cup triumph over FC New York

Remark: One win in 10 games? Says Lindpere: “Game day should be like a party. I want to have fun. I play; I want to smile on the field. It’s not fun anymore.”

10 years ago: Tim Howard is MLS's Goalkeeper of the Year, but MetroStars (13-10-3) fall in the playoff to the Galaxy in a series they win under current home-and-home rules

Next: Saturday at San Jose, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)

8. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (5-5-5, 20 points), Last week: 9

Week 15: Quakes fold while up a man and against a non-goalkeeper, settle for 0-0 draw with the Galaxy

Remark: Former Galaxy defender Brandon McDonald traded to D.C. for allocation money, a chance to play

10 years ago: Donovan, Jeff Agoos key as Frank Yallop guides Quakes (13-7-6) to their first MLS Cup title

Next: Saturday vs. New York, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)

9. COLORADO RAPIDS (5-5-7, 22 points), Last week: 7

Week 15: Conor Casey scores, is red-carded as Rapids rocked, 4-1, at Columbus

Remark: Brian Mullan returns from 10-game suspension, sees Casey boot Crew keeper Will Hesmer in the jaw. Mere irony?

10 years ago: Portland coach John Spencer scores 10, is Best XI pick in otherwise miserable 5-13-8 campaign

Next: Sunday vs. Houston, 6 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)

10. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-6-5, 17 points), Last week: 12

Week 15: No shots on goal but a draw at Philadelphia; Julio Cesar nets winner in 2-1 decision over Vancouver; Lawndale's Kei Kamara tallies to wrap 3-0 romp over Chicago Fire Premier in U.S. Open Cup

Remark: Captain Davy Arnaud needs sports-hernia surgery, could be missing for six weeks

10 years ago: Wizards (11-13-3) follow 2000 title with mediocre season, then nearly knock off Supporters' Shield winner Miami Fusion in playoff opener

Next: Saturday at Portland, 8 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

11. D.C. UNITED (4-5-6, 18 points), Last week: 10

Week 15: Charlie Davies, fresh off a fine for diving (and a media boycott sparked by criticism) matches Donovan's total with eighth goal in 2-2 draw with Houston

Remark: Blockbuster trade brings Dwayne De Rosario in from New York, sends Dax McCarty ("below our expectations") to Red Bulls

10 years ago: The dark years for D.C. (8-16-2), who finish third from bottom two years after claiming third title in four seasons

Next: Saturday vs. Philadelphia, 4 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)

12. HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-6-7, 19 points), Last week: 13

Week 15: Brian Ching draws penalty for first-half equalizer, scores 89th-minute decider for 2-2 draw at D.C. United

Remark: Ecuadoran forward Miler Castillo, from Mexican Liga de Ascenso side Lobos BUAP, in on trial

10 years ago: The club was in San Jose, winning its first MLS Cup title

Next: Sunday at Colorado, 6 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)

13. CHIVAS USA (4-7-5, 17 points), Last week: 11

Week 15: Goats surrender first-half lead, give up late winner in 2-1 defeat at Philadelphia

Remark: One win in seven isn't progress, and defensive woes are frightful

10 years ago: Guadalajara wasn't yet thinking about fielding an MLS side

Next: Saturday vs. Chicago at Home Depot Center, 7 p.m. (Prime Ticket and Galavision)

14. CHICAGO FIRE (2-4-11, 17 points), Last week: 17

Week 15: Draws at home against Real Salt Lake (0-0) and New York (1-1) are followed by 1-0 road win over the Rochester Rhinos, on Diego Chaves' first-half goal, in the U.S. Open Cup

Remark: Six straight home draws is an MLS record; at this rate, Fire will tie 22 of 34 matches

10 years ago: Peter Nowak the maestro as the Fire wins the Central Division at 16-6-5, advances to MLS Cup semifinals

Next: Saturday vs. Chivas USA at Home Depot Center, 7 p.m. (Prime Ticket and Galavision)

15. PORTLAND TIMBERS (5-7-3, 18 points), Last week: 14

Week 15: Timbers wilt in Dallas heat, fall to Hoops, 4-0

Remark: Spencer promises changes after winless skid hits five, says "we seem to be on the road and getting beat too easy, and that’s unacceptable"

10 years ago: Lumbermen reach the A-League quarterfinals after posting 13-10-3 mark

Next: Saturday vs. Sporting Kansas City, 8 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

16. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (2-7-8, 14 points), Last week: 15

Week 15: Early lead on Camilo goal doesn't last in 2-1 loss at Sporting Kansas City

Remark: Dumping Mouloud Akloul frees funds for transfer-window moves; upgrade coming "even if it ends up being for next season"

10 years ago: 'Caps go 16-8-2, advance to A-League semifinals

Next: Wednesday at Toronto FC, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday in the second leg of the Canadian Championship final at Toronto FC, 9:30 a.m.

17. TORONTO FC (2-7-9, 15 points), Last week: 16

Week 15: Maicon Santos' goal arrives too late in 3-1 loss at Real Salt Lake

Remark: Victory at home this weekend means a CONCACAF Champions League berth

10 years ago: Just a faraway dream

Next: Wednesday vs. Vanvouver, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday in the second leg of the Canadian Championship final vs. Vancouver, 9:30 a.m.

18. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (3-8-6, 15 points), Last week: 18

Week 15: Sainey Nyassi strikes at the start in 2-1 loss at Seattle

Remark: Irvine's Benny Feilhaber returns from sprained ankle that cost him the Gold Cup, sets up lone Revs goal

10 years ago: Miserable 7-14-6 season leads to Steve Nicol's appointment, which leads to good times

Next: Monday at Real Salt Lake, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)

All times Pacific