The theme of the rankings this week is communication. It's important to be clear with your message when conducting the very important business of soccer: Miscommunication can lead to a host of problems and result in numerous aggrieved parties. No one wants angry middle-aged men stalking referees and screaming obscenities. Think of the children.
Here at the rankings, we always aim to be understood. We say what we mean, no messing around. Our hand signals are vigorous; our voices are resonant. So here they are.
Previous rankings: Week 18 | Week 17 | Week 16 | Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13 | Week 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1
1. LAFC (14 wins, 4 draws, 2 losses)
Previous ranking: 1
Next MLS match: July 19 at LA Galaxy (10 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPNdeportes)
Nine changes, no problems for Bob Bradley's group in Houston. After playing a first-choice lineup in the Open Cup loss on Wednesday night, Bradley rotated his squad for the trip to Texas. Turns out LAFC can win convincingly without Carlos Vela. Uh-oh. El Trafico cometh.
2. Philadelphia Union (10-6-6)
Previous ranking: 3
Next MLS match: July 20 vs. Chicago (7.30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Knock knock. (You say "Who's there?") Orange. (Now you say "Orange who?") ... Orange you glad the Union aren't playing Orlando City anymore? Back-to-back games separated by four days between the same teams just feels weird. Let's not do that anymore.
3. San Jose Earthquakes (9-4-7)
Previous ranking: 7
Next MLS match: July 20 at Vancouver (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
San Jose outscored the rival Galaxy 6-1 over two games separated by two weeks, with Friday's domination coming on the road in front of the Galaxy's own fans. The Quakes' climb up the standings -- and more importantly, the rankings -- continues with every Almeydian performance.
4. New York City FC (7-8-3)
Previous ranking: 2
Next MLS match: July 20 at Colorado (9 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Dome Torrent and his NYCFC side were extremely angry about the strange corner kick-that-became-a-throw-in, leading to the Red Bulls' winning goal on Sunday. So many questions come to mind. How did VAR not correct the call? Does NYCFC even have a beef, since they'd probably prefer to give up a throw-in than a corner?
5. Minnesota United (10-3-7)
Previous ranking: 12
Next MLS match: July 20 at Real Salt Lake (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
The Loons are in full flight as winners of four straight. Goalkeeper Vito Mannone's heroic performance against FC Dallas on Saturday was the latest massive individual performance from a team that seems to have a different player step up big every week.
6. New England Revolution (6-6-8)
Previous ranking: 11
Next MLS match: July 17 v. Vancouver (7 p.m. ET on ESPN+)
Bruce Arena's first trip to D.C. as head coach of the Revolution ended with a draw, which is fine, really. The intrigue came after the game when the architect of United's 90s dynasty roasted his old club for a lack of respect for its history. Was Bruce asking for a statue of himself out front of Audi Field? Maybe.
7. Seattle Sounders (10-5-5)
Previous ranking: 15
Next MLS match: July 21 v. Portland (9.30 p.m. ET)
Sunday's win over Atlanta is a credential-builder for the Sounders, who got another goal from Raul Ruidiaz. The Peruvian is among the best goal scorers in MLS since his arrival in Seattle last season and probably doesn't get as much attention as he deserves.
8. FC Dallas (8-5-8)
Previous ranking: 5
Next MLS match: July 20 at Sporting Kansas City (8.30 p.m. ET on ESPN+)
Sometimes there's just not much you can do when a goalkeeper plays out of his mind. In most games, like the one they played on Saturday in St. Paul, FC Dallas would have something to show for the effort. Instead, they left Minnesota frustrated and slipped into the final playoff spot in the West.
9. LA Galaxy (11-1-8)
Previous ranking: 4
Next MLS match: July 19 vs. LAFC (10 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPNdeportes)
The Galaxy made a lot of noise about playing even with San Jose two weeks ago when the Quakes beat LA in Stanford. After Friday night's Quakes win in Carson, those claims seem ridiculous. LA was outshot 32-5 by their old rival this weekend and now have the fun task of facing a primed LAFC team on Friday.
10. New York Red Bulls (9-4-7)
Previous ranking: 8
Next MLS match: July 17 at Toronto FC (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Throw-in-gate (nope, that's terrible, we can do better) is the latest famous moment in the still-young rivalry between the Red Bulls and NYCFC. New York is red, but did it come from an unfair advantage? It's tough to blame the Red Bulls, who forced the issue and found the winner because they didn't stop playing.
11. Atlanta United (9-3-8)
Previous ranking: 6
Next MLS match: July 17 v. Houston (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Following the controversy that erupted around Pity Martinez last week, Frank de Boer decided against dropping the Argentine DP. Martinez stepped up with a decent 90-minute performance, but United fell in Seattle. A win would have gone a long way toward easing pressure on everyone involved.
12. D.C. United (8-8-5)
Previous ranking: 9
Next MLS match: July 18 at FC Cincinnati (8 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPNdeportes)
Quincy Amarikwa's goal off the bench for United -- his first since joining the team just ahead of the season -- helped D.C. salvage a draw at home against the Revs. Alarm bells continue to ring for a team that remains in second place despite only a single win since May 15.
13. Colorado Rapids (5-5-10)
Previous ranking: 10
Next MLS match: July 20 v. NYCFC (9 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
A couple of months back, no one would have guessed the Rapids could get a draw on the road in hostile Providence Park. Considering the man-advantage Colorado got early in the second half, however, Conor Casey's team is probably upset they weren't able to get three points.
14. Montreal Impact (9-3-10)
Previous ranking: 13
Next MLS match: July 20 at Columbus (7.30 p.m. ET on ESPN+)
Things are starting to catch up with the Impact, who used smoke and mirrors to hang around near the top of the Eastern Conference for a while, but are starting to slip in the second half of the season. An Ignacio Piatti return to health might be the only hope they have of a rebound.
15. Portland Timbers (7-3-8)
Previous ranking: 14
Next MLS match: July 18 v. Orlando (10 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPNdeportes)
Like so many clubs in MLS, the Timbers are dealing with a wild stretch of the schedule that brings games one on top of another with little chance to pause and breathe. Following a disappointing home draw with the Rapids, Portland faces two games in four days in Week 20.
16. Orlando City (7-4-9)
Previous ranking: 17
Next MLS match: July 18 at Portland (10 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPNdeportes)
Everybody is beating the Crew these days, so the Lions' narrow 1-0 win in a game where they took just four shots, with the winning goal being the only one on target, isn't all that impressive. Give Orlando some credit for doing it without Nani, however, and for dodging a letdown after the US Open Cup dramatics in midweek.
17. Real Salt Lake (9-2-9)
Previous ranking: 18
Next MLS match: July 20 vs. Minnesota (10 p.m. ET on ESPN+)
What a day for Jefferson Savarino against Philadelphia on Saturday. The Venezuelan owned the Union, scoring twice and providing an assist. Philly boss Jim Curtin joked about "burning the tape" of the game -- maybe he could use the heat coming off of Savarino's performance.
18. Houston Dynamo (8-3-8)
Previous ranking: 16
Next MLS match: July 17 at Atlanta (7 p.m. ET on ESPN+)
The Dynamo looked good for some sort of result after taking an early lead on LAFC, but the good times didn't last. Losses in five of their last six now have Houston out of the playoff spots and it doesn't get easier: Next up is a Wednesday visit to Atlanta to face the champs.
19. Sporting Kansas City (6-7-7)
Previous ranking: 20
Next MLS match: July 20 v. FC Dallas (8.30 p.m. ET on ESPN+)
Sporting jumped up to ninth with a pair of wins over the last two weeks. Neither of them can be called "impressive" considering the opposition, but Peter Vermes and his team can't be too worried about reputation when just climbing back into the playoff conversation is the focus.
20. Toronto FC (7-5-8)
Previous ranking: 21
Next MLS match: July 17 v. Red Bulls (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)
TFC got a pair of goals from its DP attackers and collected a clean sheet on the debut of Omar Gonzalez at centre-back. Against anyone else, that would be worth celebrating. Coming as it did on the road in Montreal, the Reds can also savour the sweet taste of a rivalry win.
21. Chicago Fire (5-7-9)
Previous ranking: 22
Next MLS match: July 17 v. Columbus (7 p.m. ET on ESPN+)
On July 3, the Fire whipped Atlanta 5-1 at Toyota Stadium in a game that seemed to show Chicago at their best and suggest a turnaround. Ten days later the Fire had dropped two games to teams in last place in their respective conferences. Even Dr. Jekyll can't figure this one out.
22. Vancouver Whitecaps (4-8-9)
Previous ranking: 19
Next MLS match: July 17 at New England (7 p.m. ET on ESPN+)
After getting thumped 3-0 at home by Sporting, the Whitecaps have fallen into the Western Conference basement. Halfway through the season, Vancouver's commitment to Marc Dos Santos and his rebuilding project is getting a serious test.
23. FC Cincinnati (5-2-13)
Previous ranking: 24
Next MLS match: July 18 v. DC United (8 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPNdeportes)
Credit where it's due: FC Cincinnati has a winning streak (two in a row) for the second time this season and the first time since March. A chance at an MLS first for the club, a three-game winning streak is very real with a struggling DC United team coming to Nippert Stadium on Thursday.
24. Columbus Crew (5-2-14)
Previous ranking: 23
Next MLS match: July 17 at Chicago (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)
The good news: The Crew are not technically in last place, thanks to a tiebreaker with FC Cincinnati. The bad news: The Crew are tied with the last-place team in the East on points and now, thanks to having the most losses in the league, have nosedived all the way to the bottom of the rankings.