MLS, like every league, has good teams, bad teams and teams in the middle. But thanks to the league's parity, travel, sometimes odd scheduling, midseason transfer window and general penchant for chaos, those teams at the bottom sure seem to screw things up for the rest with delightful regularity.
Take Sporting Kansas City, who have been last in the Western Conference for nearly the entire season. Sprinkle in a great summer signing like William Agada, who is already second on the team in goals after five games, and all of a sudden this bottom-dweller is beating playoff hopefuls LA Galaxy and Portland Timbers in consecutive home games. Wait, check that, they absolutely obliterated LA and Portland.
The playoff race is as much about which team on the outside looking in is going to ruin a team's season, just for the fun of it. And that is a sight to behold.
So about that top, middle and bottom. Let's find out who is where.
Previous ranking: 1
The Black and Gold had a difficult week, only by their standards, with an unremarkable win over D.C. and loss to San Jose, so of course they also clinched a playoff spot. Even when it doesn't go well, LAFC still have something to celebrate this year.
2. CF Montreal
Previous ranking: 4
The attack was the problem and they were too dependent on Djordje Mihailovic, was the thinking. So with Mihailovic maybe on the move to the Netherlands and out of the lineup, they obliterate New England, 4-0. At least for now, there's nothing to doubt in Montreal.
Previous ranking: 2
Philly has scored at least six goals in a game three times since July 7 after smoking D.C. 6-0, so you'll excuse us if we're willing to throw the 1-0 loss to Dallas on Wednesday out of the window.
4. Austin FC
Previous ranking: 3
Next MLS match: Friday vs. LAFC, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Losing in Minnesota isn't really reason for worry, but giving up 12 goals in the past five games is. The problem with the Austin defense playing like they want to see Sebastian Driussi play superhero, which we appreciate, but it may get the Argentine knocked out of the playoffs early, which we would not appreciate.
Previous ranking: 8
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Houston Dynamo FC, 3:30 p.m. ET
This is the ideal Adrian Heath team. They work their tails off, as we've come to expect from his sides, but they have Emanuel Reynoso to do, well, most everything else. That's balance, in its own way, and it has them up to third in the West on points per game after beating Austin.
6. FC Dallas
Previous ranking: 5
Beating Philly midweek earns you a "let's forget this game ever happened" to use on the weekend's defeat in Nashville.
Previous ranking: 6
Next MLS match: Saturday at FC Dallas, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Nothing about RSL games make much sense. On one hand, they're not good enough to keep anything remotely under control. On the other hand, they come out of the chaos with points, like this weekend's draw against Vancouver, reasonably often. They're the world's most pretty good pinball player.
Previous ranking: 9
After a win in Atlanta and a home draw to Cincy, RBNY now average 1.93 points per game (which would have them top of the East) away and 1.08 points per game (which would have them second from the bottom in the conference) at home.
Previous ranking: 7
Next MLS match: Sunday at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m. ET
Beating the Fire was nice, but it doesn't make up for allowing Charlotte to win on the road for the second time ever. The post-Valentin Castellanos world is even darker than imagined.
10. FC Cincinnati
Previous ranking: 10
Cincy brought Matt Miazga in to help one of the league's worst defenses stop goals, but scoring a goal is just as good as keeping one out. Put it, and a point in New Jersey, on the board.
11. Nashville SC
Previous ranking: 15
Nashville turned around its woeful home record with a 4-0 win over Dallas in front of a shockingly small crowd. Maybe NSC are just shy.
12. Columbus Crew
Previous ranking: 11
Next MLS match: Saturday at FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
If Cucho Hernandez is going to score a goal a game, which he is, then maybe the Crew should be doing better than drawing Atlanta at home. If we don't get to see Cucho in the playoffs, then we riot.
13. Orlando City
Previous ranking: 14
Next MLS match: Sunday vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
Oscar Pareja knew that Anton Walkes would miss an unchallenged clearance, and if Tesho Akindele shot it directly at the goalkeeper, the rebound would come right back to him for an easy finish. That's tactics. And a spot above the playoff line.
14. Inter Miami CF
Previous ranking: 16
Next MLS match: Saturday at New York Red Bulls, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Inter have something cooking and, after a win over Toronto, are into a playoff spot, but if they're going to be playing at these heights, they need to figure out a shade of pink for their kits that holds up to the Florida summer sweat. That gorgeous pink at kickoff is looking awfully heavy by ... the 10th minute.
15. Toronto FC
Previous ranking: 12
Having to play three games in a week, capped by a three-hour flight to Florida in August? Some might call that cruel, others might just call that MLS. Shockingly, it ended with a loss in Miami.
16. Colorado Rapids
Previous ranking: 13
Next MLS match: Saturday at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
The Dynamo have been going through a rough patch, so letting them play the last 10 minutes up a man was very kind, but the Rapids faithful would probably appreciate a playoff spot more than the Nice Guys Award. Two dropped points at home to Houston is a good way to miss the postseason.
Previous ranking: 17
Next MLS match: Sunday vs. LA Galaxy, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+
The Revs finally learned after a winless trip to Toronto and Montreal that you're in trouble when your key players are all hurt. That it took them weeks to learn the lesson is a credit to Bruce Arena & Co.
Previous ranking: 24
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Nashville SC, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+
After a 2-1 win over the Rapids and a 1-1 draw against RSL, the Caps still have a chance to make the playoffs. They're a point from being in the postseason and have the second-worst goal difference in the Western Conference. That is an absurdity that nobody can root against.
19. Seattle Sounders
Previous ranking: 19
Next MLS match: Friday at Portland Timbers, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
Every week feels like a game of "So do you think the Sounders are buried yet?" "How about now?" And the answer is still "no," and not going away, after a draw in L.A.
20. LA Galaxy
Previous ranking: 20
Next MLS match: Sunday at New England Revolution, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Galaxy are, historically, the best team in MLS and the Sounders are the class of the modern era, so it only reasons that with both teams underwhelming so much that they are on the playoff bubble and in need of a win, they'd kick each other in the shins and draw.
21. Charlotte FC
Previous ranking: 21
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Toronto FC, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+
The Crown actually won an away game, only their second ever, at NYCFC and got a real assist from Kamil Jozwiak in a loss to Orlando. That's reason enough for a parade in Charlotte.
22. Portland Timbers
Previous ranking: 18
Next MLS match: Friday vs. Seattle Sounders, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Timbers are lucky you can't take negative points from a game, because losing 4-1 to SKC would be grounds for it.
Previous ranking: 23
Next MLS match: Sunday vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m. ET
What's worse when you're in a playoff race: playing horribly, like Atlanta did in the loss to the Red Bulls, or playing phenomenally and not getting three points, like the Five Stripes did in a draw with the Crew?
Previous ranking: 25
Sporting Park, playoff house of horrors. That doesn't mean what it used to, with SKC far from the postseason, but if you're a playoff contender then maybe skip the Kansas City trip. LA and Portland wish they had.
Previous ranking: 26
Next MLS match: Saturday at Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Play Cade Cowell's winning volley over LAFC on a loop until next February.
26. Chicago Fire
Previous ranking: 22
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. CF Montreal, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+
After a loss to NYCFC, it appears as if we will not get to crank up "Mr. Brightside" for a Fire playoff game at Soldier Field like it's 2005.
27. Houston Dynamo
Previous ranking: 28
Next MLS match: Saturday at Minnesota United, 3:30 p.m. ET
The Dynamo only needed to play 10 minutes up a man to come back for a draw in Colorado, so at least we learned that Houston is, in fact, a competitive 11-vs.-10 team.
28. D.C. United
Previous ranking: 27
Next MLS match: Sunday at Atlanta United, 4 p.m. ET
This week was less about Wayne Rooney admitting D.C. had no chance at the playoffs after losses to LA and Philly, and more about remembering the confidence he had just a few weeks ago when he said he thought they could still make the playoffs. That was the most convincing performance DCU has put in since 2019.