Since we now have playoff and Supporters’ Shield chances on the site, it provides us with a means of weighting each upcoming game by its effect on playoff odds. What if, for instance, Montreal were to lose to New England at home this weekend? There’s no doubt it would hurt Montreal and keep New England alive, but just how much would it matter? The same question can be asked of the San Jose and Colorado, who play tonight.
Currently, our model gives Colorado and Montreal 90.4 and 82.8 percent chances,* respectively, to make the playoffs, while San Jose and New England sit at 6.0 and 14.1 percent. Remember that our playoff chances refer to earning at least fifth place in the conference, and they do not include probability associated with ties for fifth.
I re-ran our simulations three times, accounting for the three possible conclusions to each of those games. I allowed the simulator to pick winners as usual for the other matches this week and beyond. To the results!
A San Jose tie or loss at home tonight would effectively end its chances of a playoff berth. In just 11 of the 10,000 simulated seasons (0.11%) did San Jose recover from a loss to claim a playoff spot (not counting ties for fifth), and even a tie only doubled those chances to about 0.23 percent. A win boosted its playoff chances from 6.0 to 12.0 percent. Playoffs would still not be likely for the Earthquakes, but at least a win tonight would give them something to play for in the final two games.
Their opponent, Colorado, is the West’s most likely team to give up its playoff spot, according to our model. That said, its playoff chances are still quite high. Even a loss to San Jose tonight would only lower the Rapids’ playoff chances to about 78.4 percent. A tie or win for Colorado tonight essentially assures it a tie-breaker-free route to the playoffs with at least 98.7 percent probability (99.9% with a win tonight).
Moving over to the East, the game most likely to swing playoff percentage points around is the Montreal—New England matchup. New England could increase its playoff chances from 14.1 to nearly 39 percent with a road win. However, like San Jose, a tie or loss would hurt New England a lot. A tie would leave New England with only about a 5.6 percent shot at the playoffs, and a loss would render the Revs’ situation quite hopeless at 1.6 percent.
Conversely, a win or tie for the Montreal Impact would have a mirrored result, boosting its playoff chances to 91.0 percent with a tie and 99.2 percent with win against the Revs. Like Colorado, a loss would not ruin Montreal, and their playoff chances would sit right around 63.3 percent.
A lot of playoff probability is waiting to swing—as much as 12 percent in San Jose’s case and 38 percent in New England’s case. In my opinion, this speaks as much to the weight resting on these final few weeks as it does to the weight that was on the games that led us to this point. Teams like Colorado and Montreal have performed well enough in the first 30 or 31 games to put themselves in a position where a loss still leaves them with better than 50 percent chances at a playoff spot.
Oh, in case your were curious, our model gives San Jose a 39-percent shot at a win tonight, 31-percent chances of a loss, and 30-percent chances of a tie. As for New England, those probabilities are 29 percent, 39 percent and 32 percent.
*The margins of error for 95% confidence are, at most, 1.0 percent for each playoff percentage calculation.