Welcome back to the weekly strength of schedule playoff projections. This week we saw a change at the top and a change on the bubble, as a new team has moved up to a playoff spot in our projections.
For reference, you can find last week's rankings here
Western Conference Strength of Schedule Projected Standings:
1 (Last Week - 2) Sacramento Republic (51.3)
Sacramento picked up four points this week while extending their unbeaten streak to seven games. A rematch against an Orange County team who they have split the season series with is up this week as they try to hold on to the projected top West seed.
2 (1) Oklahoma City Energy (50.5)
Oklahoma City suffered a loss to the Switchbacks and still has yet to turn in a win against anyone who is expected to finish in the top six in the West. Now aiming to take back the projected top spot, they play Saint Louis and Portland this week, teams that are both desperately hanging on to playoff hopes.
3 (4) Rio Grande Valley Toros (50.4)
The shutout streak may have ended, but the Toros earned multiple penalty kicks to beat a Switchbacks side that was once again reduced to ten men. A trip to another hot team in Swope Park Rangers, who are trying to claim a final playoff spot, is up this weekend in a match that will be important on both ends of the playoff chase.
4 (3) Vancouver Whitecaps 2 (49.4)
The Whitecaps took the season series from Sacramento with a hard fought road draw, but lost some ground in the standings projection to a streaking Toros side. A game against a Sounders 2 side that has no realistic shot at making the playoffs is up this week.
5 (6) Colorado Springs Switchbacks (45.9)
The Switchbacks, for possibly less than legitimate reasons, were reduced to ten men for the second time in as many games against Rio Grande Valley FC, and once again fell despite taking an early lead. An important game against an equally struggling LA Galaxy II side this week can right the season or deal a critical blow to a chance at hosting a playoff game.
6 (5) Los Angeles Galaxy II (43.9)
Galaxy II are now winless in five straight games, with their only point coming in a 0-0 draw with OKC Energy a few weeks ago. Los Dos must take points from their two games this week against a fading Arizona team and an up-and-down Switchbacks, or else their playoff hopes may be in legitimate danger.
7 (7) San Antonio FC (43.5)
San Antonio is stringing wins together at the right time, taking all three points from other playoff hopefuls. They have two more important matches this week against Swope Park and Arizona. All six points would all but lock up San Antonio as a playoff team.
8 (9) Swope Park Rangers (42.1)
Swope Park Rangers continue to move in the right direction after taking down Los Dos. A critical midweek game against San Antonio, followed by Rio Grande Valley on the weekend, could all but eliminate more of the hunt teams.
9 (11) Real Monarchs (39.3)
The Monarchs took their third win in a row after defeating Arizona, and should take all three points from Tulsa this weekend. The Monarchs are still playoff relevant, and if they continue to play well, they will be around in October.
10 (8) Orange County Blues (38.7)
The Blues lost a close game at home to the Republic and will now have to rebound this weekend in Sacramento. A loss to the Republic will cripple Orange County's chances of making the playoffs, as they only have four remaining games this season.
11 (10) Arizona United (38.1)
Arizona dropped their third straight match last Saturday and now need to take points from their games this week against Los Dos and San Antonio if they are to keep their playoff dream alive. If the skid continues much longer, AZU will once again be sitting at home come October.
12 (12) Saint Louis FC (33.6)
San Antonio all but wrecked the slim playoff hopes of Saint Louis FC this weekend. With five games left, all against teams who are likely to make the playoffs, Saint Louis will need to start pulling off upsets, and quickly. Their first shot is against Oklahoma City this week.
13 (13) Seattle Sounders 2 (33.4)
After showing signs of life in July, Seattle now seems doomed to limp to the end of the season. If they have any shot at making the playoffs, the Sounders will need to take all points from Portland on Monday and do some damage to Vancouver on Friday.
14 (14) Portland Timbers 2 (31.1)
Even if the Timbers win out, they would only finish near the playoff bubble. However, they still can wreck some other teams' chances. Taking down Seattle this week would doom their rivals to a season without playoffs.
15 (15) Tulsa Roughnecks (21.5)
Tulsa has been statistically eliminated from the playoffs. A game against Real Monarchs can shake up the playoff picture at the bubble, though.
Easiest Strength of Schedule to Date: Oklahoma City Energy (1.31 points gained per game by opponent)
Easiest Strength of Schedule in Future: Swope Park Rangers (1.22 points gained per game by opponent)
Hardest Strength of Schedule to Date: Real Monarchs (1.40 points gained per game by opponent)
Hardest Strength of Schedule in Future: Saint Louis FC (1.69 points gained per game by opponent)
The bubble looks ready to pop for Saint Louis, Seattle and Portland this week. When you are reading the playoff projections next week, there is a good chance at least one of them will have joined Tulsa in the list of teams who are eliminated.
The final spots suddenly look far clearer as well, with Swope Park and San Antonio clocking in a game ahead of the rest of the pack. Good results from these teams can push them even further in the right direction. Surprisingly, Los Dos is tight with this group as well after being one of the best in the entire Western Conference for a long time.
Will the Republic hold on to the projected top spot? Will the Galaxy continue their slide? Will the current final eight remain the same? Sound off in the comments below.