Canadian MLS Teams’ Playoff Hopes: A 2023 Analysis

Explore the prospects of Canadian MLS teams as they approach the 2023 playoffs, with a focus on Vancouver Whitecaps, CF Montreal, and Toronto FC.
Canadian MLS Teams' Playoff Hopes: A 2023 Analysis
September 28, 2023

We are just a couple of weeks away from the conclusion of the MLS regular season, and the battle for playoff spots is reaching a fever pitch.

One of the most common questions asked nowadays is if the Los Angeles FC can defend its hard-earned title from last year. The overall feeling is that there are at least five serious contenders to lift the trophy this time around.

However, Canadian teams have failed to impress in the 2023 campaign, with the Toronto FC standing out as the biggest disappointment of the year.

On the flip side, the Vancouver Whitecaps and CF Montreal have experienced a rollercoaster season filled with ups and downs. Despite that, they still have a reasonable chance of securing a spot in the postseason. Below, we will delve deeper into the performances of Canadian MLS teams and see how they stand in the playoff race.

Vancouver’s 2023 Playoff Quest

The Vancouver Whitecaps have missed the playoffs four times in the last five seasons in the MLS, but their chances for the 2023 postseason are looking notably promising.

Led by Italian coach Vanni Sartini, the Whitecaps currently hold 7th place in the Western Conference, collecting 41 points from 29 matches. With just five games remaining in the regular season, they could potentially secure a playoff berth with seven points from those upcoming contests.

However, recent form has been an issue, suffering consecutive losses to the Houston Dynamo 4-1 and Real Salt Lake 2-1. This weekend’s match against the Colorado Rapids this weekend can be crucial before they return home to face DC United and St Louis City.

The team’s morale received a massive boost in mid-September after a 2-1 victory against Toronto FC in a Canadian derby, with Tristan Blackmon and Brian White finding the net in the second half.

The Whitecaps’ playoff chances have been drastically increased thanks to the contributions of Scottish midfielder Ryan Gauld, who has notched ten goals and registered ten assists in 27 league appearances.

Currently, the Caps sit as the 12th favorite on the outright to win the MLS Cup 2023 list, with odds of +2500.

Montreal to Overcome Defensive Challenges?

After a rocky start to the new MLS campaign, featuring four losses in the opening five weeks, CF Montreal initiated a great run from late April to early June to keep them alive in the playoff race.

They are currently occupying the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, though it falls short of guaranteeing postseason action. They are behind 7th-placed Nashville SC by seven points, and as things stand, Montreal might find themselves in a playoff decider match.

Hernand Losada’s side was plagued by defensive struggles since the first round, with a total of 45 goals conceded in 30 matches, ranking them the fifth-worst backline in the East. Their most recent performance against Atlanta United revealed so many weak spots in the back, resulting in a 4-1 defeat in Georgia.

Furthermore, Montreal has a shortage of prolific strikers, with Mathieu Choiniere leading the team in scoring this season. He scored just four goals in 25 league appearances.

Montreal secured a playoff berth with a similar roster last season, even making it to the Conference semi-finals before losing to New York City 3-1. Currently, they stand as the 17th favorite to win the MLS Cup 2023 at very long +6700 odds,

Toronto’s Season to Forget

Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC are the only two teams in the MLS who already lost the chance to compete for playoff positions. The Reds are anchored at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, collecting only 22 points from 30 matches, while also holding the second-worst goal difference in the league, sitting at -24.

Terry Dunfield and his men encountered a series of challenges from the first round, especially on the offensive front, where they managed to score a meager 24 goals. Collecting points on the road has also been an issue for the Reds, who have a record of zero wins, four draws, and eleven losses.

Expectations from the fans were much higher for the 2023 campaign, especially with the acquisition of two European stars, Filippo Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne. However, this attacking duo scored only nine goals combined this season. At this point, Toronto’s only recourse is to salvage some consolation victories in the remaining weeks and prepare for the upcoming campaign.

The last time Toronto graced the playoffs was in 2020, though they were knocked out in the first round. They made three appearances in the MLS Cup finals in 2016, 2017 (emerged victorious against the Sounders), and 2019.

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