It’s been a successful season for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
They have won the Canadian Championship for the second year in a row and for the first time since 2016, have won the Cascadia Cup. The squad itself is easily the best squad the Whitecaps had in their MLS era.
Ryan Gauld deserves some MVP votes and Brian White has hit double digits in goals and has been in great form. Andrés Cubas has been a bulldog in the midfield and Ranko Veselinović has been reliable defensively. Oh year, the Whitecaps bulked up on deadline day by adding Sam Adekugbe and Richie Laryea to the flanks. I could go on.
Yes, the Whitecaps have a MLS Cup contender squad. It seems very likely the playoffs will be happening in Vancouver. But there is still lots of work to be done. After all, the Whitecaps are playing meaningful games in September.
The wild, wild west
The Whitecaps got some help on the out-of-town scoreboard last weekend as the Portland Timbers beat LAFC 2-0, Inter Miami and Sporting Kansas City drew 1-1 and the San Jose Earthquakes drew 0-0 with DC United.
As you can see, the standings are tight, like a playoff game. This is a race that is going to go down to Decision Day and will be as intense as the final thirty minutes of Seven.
For the Whitecaps, top four is still very possible. But up for grabs, is second place as Vancouver is just three points behind them with two games in hand. Oh yeah, the Whitecaps and Sounders play each other on October 7 (the penultimate match day of the season) at Lumen Field.
How the Whitecaps can move closer to a playoff spot and finish in the top four
Starting with Saturday’s game in Drake’s hometown against Lorenzo Insigne and TFC, the Whitecaps have eight games remaining. Five are on the road and three are at BC Place.
I have been wondering what it would take for the Whitecaps to not just make the playoffs but finish in the top four. So I did some research and SportsClubStats.Com helped me out.
First, I needed to figure out how many points it takes to make the playoffs on average. The MLS playoff format has changed this year by adding a play-in round for the eighth and ninth seeds and an awful best-of-three format in the first round. So I will factor in as the seventh seed as the last playoff spot.
MLS started using seven teams per conference in 2019. I calculated the point totals of each seventh seed from both conferences dating back to 2019 and divided the total by six. 2020 was an odd year as they expanded to eight teams in the Western Conference but the Eastern Conference had a play-in round for seeds seven to ten to determine the eighth seed. I didn’t count 2020 for this reason.
So I got 47. That seems like a reasonable number to just squeak into the first round.
According to SportsClubStats, the Whitecaps can finish the season with 47 points if they go 2-3-3, 3-0-5 or 1-7-0. 47 points is a 99% chance of making the playoffs and they can finish anywhere between fourth and ninth and would most likely finish sixth or seventh. Of course, they out of town scoreboard is a factor here and the Whitecaps need all they help they can get from it.
If the Whitecaps were to finish in the top four, they would have to get at least 50 points. The maximum points they can get is 62 and to do that, they have to win all of their eight games remaining.
The final stretch
After Toronto, it is away to the Houston Dynamo, Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids and then home to DC United and St. Louis SC. After that, the Whitecaps head to Seattle before finishing the season on Decision Day against LAFC at BC Place.
The most winnable games are Toronto and Colorado as both teams are the worst in MLS. DC United is a team fighting for a playoff spot and playing them at home could work out to the Whitecaps advantage. The toughest tests are the Dynamo and Seattle away. The Whitecaps have not won in Houston since 2018 and have not won in the Emerald City since 2016.
Let’s face it, it is going to be a grind for the playoffs, even the games that are “easier.” But the Whitecaps have shown they can deal with the tough schedule this season.
The 2013 Seattle Seahawks led by quarterback Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom defence won the Super Bowl that year. They had a mentality that year: “Why not us?” The Whitecaps need to have that kind of mentality heading into each game for the rest of the season.
They have the talent to go on a deep run. After all, why not the Whitecaps?