The 2016 MLS regular season has come and gone, and now we turn our attention to the playoffs. In typical MLS-Don Garber fashion, the playoffs are wide open, without a clear-cut favorite. Are there some teams in the playoffs without an actual shot at the title? Sure (Philly comes to mind), but you get the feeling we could see just about any two teams wind up in the MLS Cup Final.
1. New York Red Bulls (Last Week: 2)
The Red Bulls end the year in first place after starting the year on a God awful run. The Bulls went 13-2-2 at home for best home record in the league, and enter the playoffs as the hottest team around. If any team is the favorite for the title, it's the fellows from Harrison, NJ.
2. FC Dallas (Last Week: 1)
Despite winning the Supporters' Shield, Dallas slips to second in these final power rankings on account of the stellar play of the Red Bulls over the last couple of months. Back in June, this team looked on track for MLS Cup glory, but October is painting a very different and Fabian Castillo-less picture. This is what the loss of your best player can do.
3. Colorado Rapids (Last Week: 3)
Are you ready to see Tim Howard in the playoffs? Because I am. If for no other reason, the Rapids are at least interesting for that reason.
4. New York City FC (Last Week: 5)
What a success this season has been for the Bronx Blues. After being on the wrong end of endless jokes from around the league a year ago, Patrick Vieira has steered his aging, but star-studded squad into the postseason with a legitimate chance of earning the trophy.
5. LA Galaxy (Last Week: 5)
This might be the worst Galaxy team of the last few years, but if you count LA out you may find yourself eating crow in a few weeks' time. The Galaxy are in no way the favorites, but they have the championship pedigree to find a way to win.
6. D.C. United (Last Week: 4)
Does D.C. have a real chance at they title? Probably less so than other teams this high in the power rankings, but few have ended the season on the kind of tear Ben Olsen's men have. Despite the season-ending loss to Orlando, D.C. finishes just shy of the top five in these power rankings, a very positive result and a serious argument for Coach of the Year considering the leftovers for players Olsen had to work with all season.
7. Toronto FC (Last Week: 9)
The Reds had the benefit of playing a playoff warm-up game against Chicago to close the season out and took advantage by garnering their first win since Sept. 10. Everyone knows how dangerous this team can be between Giovinco and an on fire Jozy Altidore, and should be able to take care of business against Philly in the first round.
8. Seattle Sounders (Last Week: 10)
What an interesting year it has been for Seattle. Newly inducted Hall of Famer Sigi Schmid is out as coach, Clint Dempsey is out with injury, but somehow the Sounders have made it to the postseason as something of a dark horse for the title. Seattle might not be the most likable team for fans of other MLS squads, but you've certainly got to respect them.
9. Montreal Impact (Last Week: 7)
Didier Drogba has been nowhere to be found in the Montreal lineup of late, which is disconcerting for our French-Canadian friends considering Drogba just about dragged the Impact into the postseason a year ago. Still, any time you have Piatti, you have a chance.
10. Sporting Kansas City (Last Week: 12)
At this point, if SKC wins the title it would be something of an upset, but frankly it's never looked more likely to happen at any other point in 2016 than now. Does Kansas City have a little magic left in those powder blue unis?
11. New England Revolution (Last Week: 12)
Unlike Philly, which made the playoffs, New England has actually won a game in the last month and might actually put a little fear into the hearts of some teams in the hunt for the title, but alas Jay Heaps' squad will have to pay for the sins of an underwhelming beginning to 2016 by having to stay home. This team looks set up for a decent 2017 though, assuming all of that attacking talent around Kei Kamara doesn't implode in some Columbus-esque feud.
12. Orlando City (Last Week: 16)
The Lions finished the regular season with two straight wins, which makes you about as hopeful as you could've been going into 2017 following a month of disappointment. The jury is still very out on Jason Kreis' Orlando, but he's done all he could've to show signs of life in the last two weeks of this season.
13. Real Salt Lake (Last Week: 13)
RSL really deserves to be lower on this list, but appears in 13th place to close out the season as the beneficiary of some seriously sorry play by the teams below them on this list. RSL backs into the playoffs despite having not won since August, which really is as good an argument for playoff contraction anyone this side of Philadelphia can make.
14. Portland Timbers (Last Week: 8)
You know, as much as I would have enjoyed watching Portland defend its title on the field in the playoffs, I'm pretty certain the Timbers weren't deserving of a postseason bid. Portland was the only team in 2016 to not win a single game away from home. I know Providence Park is one of the best home-field advantages in the league, but you've got to be able to get the occasional three points outside the friendly confines every once in a while. Consider Caleb Porter's title honeymoon period just about over.
15. Columbus Crew (Last Week: 14)
Some teams' championship windows shut themselves over time while others' may shut as the result of an overzealous move by management, but rarely do championship windows shut so abruptly for a team that had shown so much promise. The 2015 MLS Cup runners-up are now looking squarely at a new identity following the dumpster fire that was 2016.
16. Philadelphia Union (Last Week: 15)
Philly is the lowest team in these rankings still managing to make it to the postseason, barely edging RSL for that dubious honor, and really aren't deserving of the postseason bid. The Union enter the chase for the title having lost five in a seven-game winless streak.
For the love of God, Don Garber, contract the playoffs. Philly and RSL are dragging down the postseason product, which is something that should never be allowed.
17. San Jose Earthquakes (Last Week: 17)
There's no overhaul of the roster in store out in the Bay Area, but maybe there should be. San Jose's smallish championship window of a few years back has been slammed shut, and if the Quakes want to become anything more interesting than the team Chris Wondolowski plays for they'll need to create a brand new identity with a brand new core.
18. Vancouver Whitecaps (Last Week: 20)
Maybe I was wrong about Vancouver being the red-headed stepchild of the Cascadia Cup after all? With a chance to stop Portland from having the chance to defend its title, the Caps ended what has been an otherwise dreadful campaign with a statement win over the champs. Still, that win is only good enough to bring them out of the cellar and into 18th place in our final power rankings of 2016.
19. Houston Dynamo (Last Week: 19)
File Houston next to Columbus as the most disappointing teams in MLS this season. Maybe I was too high on Owen Coyle and Co. heading into the year, but now there's nothing but a long and arduous rebuilding process ahead for the orange part of Texas.
20. Chicago Fire (Last Week: 18)
After flirting with escaping the cellar, it just feels right to put Chicago down here to close out the year, doesn't it?
[Editor's note: It pains me to say that Jeff Milby, who has done a tremendous job with these MLS Power Rankings pieces over the last two seasons, is moving on from The Mane Land and this is his final contribution. I personally want to thank Jeff for two years of tremendous contributions to this site, particularly his work on the USL side of things with Louisville City and then OCB. Jeff has been with us since before our move to SB Nation, when we were just a puny little free Wordpress site trying to make 200 page views in a day across the site, and he was one of the smartest hires I have made on this site. We all wish Jeff the best of luck with his future. - Michael Citro, Managing Editor]