After their 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake over the weekend, the Portland Timbers now have four points through seven games in 2014 and are on track for the team's worst season since joining MLS. There is still hope yet, however, as MLSsoccer.com points out in this article (a similar idea to this article) examining the fates of teams with less than eight points through seven games. Just what kind of form would it take for the Timbers to make their way to the playoffs after this slow start?
With only 27 games left to play, the Timbers have 81 points remaining on the table, plenty of potential for them to reach the playoffs. To determine just how many of them the team will need to make the playoffs, we broke it down seed by seed.
Qualifying points since 2011 (East and West): 49, 46, 43, 53, 51, 49
Average qualifying points since 2011: 48.5
Timbers needed points per game: 1.65
This is definitely doable for the Timbers. They need to start picking up points immediately, but a strong run of form would put them on track here right away. The Timbers' 2013 form saw them pick up 1.68 points per game over the course of the season on the way to winning the Western Conference with 57 points, even if that tied Sporting Kansas City's 2011 season for the lowest conference winning total in the last three years.
Qualifying points since 2011: 52, 47, 54, 57, 52, 51
Average qualifying points since 2011: 52.16
Timbers needed points per game: 1.78
This is more of a stretch, but is certainly not unattainable. The 1.78 points per game that the Timbers would need to be in this vicinity is just ahead of the New York Red Bull's final mark last year that allowed them to win the Supporter's Shield with the fewest points since 2010, when there were only 16 teams in the league and each played only 30 games.
Qualifying points since 2011: 53, 48, 56, 57, 53, 51
Average qualifying points since 2011: 53
Timbers needed points per game: 1.81
To put this in perspective, during their fifteen game, 7-0-8 unbeaten run last season, the Timbers racked up 27 points at an average of 1.8 points per game. No teams hit this mark for a full season in 2013, but 2012 was a different story with Eastern Conference champs SKC racking up 1.85 points per game over course of the season.
Qualifying points since 2011: 63, 49, 57, 58, 56, 58
Average qualifying points since 2011: 56.83
Timbers needed points per game: 1.96
In 2012 the Supporters' Shield winning San Jose Earthquakes managed a points per game mark of 1.95, the highest of any team since the Timbers joined MLS. Helping them along the way was Chris Wondolowski's record tying goal-scoring season, a feat that no Timber looks set to replicate just now.
Qualifying points since 2011: 67, 57, 66, 63, 57, 59
Average qualifying points since 2011: 61.5
Timbers needed points per game: 2.13
This is a level of success that is unheard of in MLS. Last season the Montreal Impact started the season out with a record of 5-1-2 in their first eight game, leaving them with 2.13 points per game before falling off and finishing the season with 1.44 points per game. Similarly, the 2013 Earthquakes struggled at times throughout their season before posting a record of 5-1-2 in their final eight games only to be kept out of the playoffs on a tie-breaker.
The playoffs are far from out of reach and, as RSL (2009) and the LA Galaxy (2005 and 2012) can attest, it is possible to win the MLS Cup as the lowest seeded team.