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Orlando City Would be Defying History by Qualifying for the Playoffs

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Playoffs? If Orlando City can sneak into the postseason, they'll become one of the biggest Cinderella stories in MLS history.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

You probably don't remember much about Orlando City's 3-0 loss to New England just over a month ago. Playing without Kaká or Cyle Larin, a patchwork Lions squad was simply overwhelmed by the Revolution, something that had become depressingly routine for the floundering soccer club.

After a couple results went against them later that week, Orlando found its playoff odds sitting at 3.8%, according to the website Sports Club Stats.

The Lions, according to the numbers, were finished. And then the next four games happened.

After the most remarkable winning streak in the club's brief MLS history, Orlando City came back from the dead. With a pair of games left before they wrap up the regular season, the Lions have seen their playoff chances rise to 18.9%. It's not great, but that's almost a one-in-five chance at the postseason for a club that won a single game between July and September.

So, let's dream big for a second.

With two games left to play, against New York City FC and Philadelphia, the Lions don't control their own destiny. But they can boost their playoff odds to 76.3% just by winning out. And with a little help from the Impact, Orlando City could absolutely pull this off.

If the Lions managed to crash the playoffs, it would be one of the most unlikely postseason appearances in MLS history. Even in a league that has become known for its parity, this sort of thing just doesn't happen.

Last season, Vancouver sneaked into the final spot in the Western Conference, taking the same road Orlando City is looking to travel. The Whitecaps won four of their final five games in order to leapfrog Portland, but their playoff chances never fell below 25%.

The 2013 New England Revolution could provide some inspiration, rising from 18% playoff odds in October to grab the third seed in the Eastern Conference. But that New England team never got close to 3%.

The 2012 LA Galaxy did, except they bottomed out in June. After their playoff chances dropped into the single digits over the summer, LA went on a remarkable run over the second half of the season, capping off its turnaround by winning the MLS Cup.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The only team that really comes close to Orlando City is the 2010 Seattle Sounders, who seemed to be playoff long shots after a terrible start to the season. With a 4-4-9 record in July, the Sounders found another gear in the second half. Even with their playoff chances hovering around 4% in October, they won five of their last six matches to grab a playoff spot.

For Orlando, it's been a different story. The Lions' collapse came late in the summer, the kind of second-half swoon that they shouldn't have had time to come back from. This club lost so many "must-win" games in 2015 (mixed in with uninspiring draws to Philadelphia and Chicago), that it almost became redundant to use the term.

But it looks like they might have just enough time to turn this thing around.

Yes, Orlando City still has a long way to go before the playoffs become a reality. But if the Lions do get in, it would be one of the most unlikely turnarounds in MLS history.