Opinion

Published on March 14th, 2017 | by Jeff Engelhardt

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Chicago Fire’s MLS Team of the Week run a playoff sign?

The Chicago Fire has been represented on the MLS Team of the Week for the first two weeks of the season! It may seem like a small accomplishment, but it just might be a significant indicator of the turnaround the club has been working toward.

To date, the Fire has had three players recognized in the Team of the Week in 2017, with David Accam featured in Week 1 and Johan Kappelhof and Dax McCarty in Week 2. Only the San Jose Earthquakes have had greater representation to this point, making the team four times.

From a pure achievement standpoint, it is already a nice feather in the cap for Chicago. The Men in Red only sent players to the MLS Team of the Week six times in 2016, and they didn’t enjoy their third nomination to the team until Week 24. The team has accomplished that number in the first two weeks this season. Three players making the team in Week 26 of 2016 ultimately brought the total to six for the year.

While it is nice to see the team accomplish in two weeks what took 24 weeks to do last season, it won’t mean much if the ultimate goal of making the playoffs is not met.

So what can the MLS Team of the Week tell us about the playoffs? It turns out, the folks at MLS who pick the players each week are pretty darn good at the job. The teams with the highest representation by the end of the year almost always make the playoffs.

That may seem like a no brainer, but one look at the comments section on any MLS Team of the Week post will show you every Team of the Week generates some controversy.

Because MLS has changed so drastically, even the past couple years, I only looked at every Team of the Week from the 2016 and 2015 seasons. It seemed pointless to look at 2014 when there were four less teams in the league.

As with all rankings, this is just a fun way to prognosticate the playoff picture in advance. This is certainly no end all, be all, but with the Fire getting off to a hot start regards to MLS Team of the Week, it seemed like a worthwhile study.

So here are the numbers (playoff teams are listed in the order they finished the regular season.)

2016

No-Playoffs
CHI: 6
CLB: 7
HOU: 11
NE: 13
ORL: 12
POR: 17
SJ: 10
VAN: 13

East
NYR: 24
NYC: 21
TOR: 19
DC: 13
MON: 17
PHI: 15

West
DAL: 21
COL: 16
LA: 16
SEA: 14
SKC: 16
RSL: 17

2015

No Playoffs
ORL: 17
NYC: 15
PHI: 13
CHI: 11
SJ: 15
HOU: 17
RSL: 12
COL: 12

East
NYR: 23
CLB: 27
MON: 17
DC: 14
NE: 23
TOR: 20

West
DAL: 29
VAN: 20
POR: 14
SEA: 19
LA: 17
SKC: 28


As you can see, only Portland in 2016 had more representation than some playoff teams. Every other non-playoff team failed to surpass every single playoff team in terms of representation on the MLS Team of the Week.

In 2015, it was a little different. DC United and Portland should not have made the playoffs according to MLS Team of the Week representation. Houston and Orlando City would have taken those spots in those instances. But even still, outside of DC United and Portland, no non-playoff team would have bumped a playoff team out of the postseason based on Team of the Week recognition.

So, with three trips to the Team of the Week already, the Fire is well on its way to a good number. If history is to be an example, one benchmark to look for would be 10 nominations by July. If the team hits that number in July, it can pretty much book its ticket to the playoffs.

If not, late surges do happen, like Montreal in 2016. But if you want to take an interesting approach to gauging playoff chances, other than the table, keep a tab of how many Team of the Week nominations teams are getting as the season progresses.

If the table is still congested point wise in July, but Chicago has a healthy number of Team of the Week nominations, you can be more confident the team will eventually emerge in the playoffs. Conversely, if they are in sixth or fifth but are trailing significantly in Team of the Week nominations, that summer positioning might prove to be a false hope.

With that said, I can’t wait for Nemanja Nikolic to make Team of the Week after the match in Atlanta!

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