FiveThirtyEight Gives Loons Just 4% Chance of Winning “MLS is Back” Tournament

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With the poorly named “MLS is Back” Tournament set to begin just over a week from now, on July 8th, the Loons have already flown south for the… summer? Yes indeed! Minnesota United FC has left the Twin Cities for Orlando, FL; the host city for the tournament.

It will be a grueling and intense six weeks in the Florida heat. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Loons are set up nicely to advance out of “Group Play”. I picked them to win two and draw one, which should be good enough to win the group.

Their odds for winning the entire tournament, however, don’t seem as high. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight is giving the club only a 4% chance at winning the whole thing.

After initially seeing the projections on the team’s subreddit, I scoffed. If early 2020 results are any indicator, this team is primed for an “MLS is Back” Tournament run… But when I looked deeper into the projections, I realized that FiveThirtyEight and I might not be that different after all.

FiveThirtyEight’s projections for the top teams in the MLS is Back Tournament.


Most on Reddit are extremely upset because… well, that’s reddit. I have some cheese for their wine, though. Some due-diligence could go a long way on this subject.

As it stands, FiveThirtyEight gives the Loons a 67% chance of making out of their group (Group D). That’s where we maintain our focus. This puts them in the same atmosphere as that of Real Salt Lake (63%), Sporting Kansas City (62%), and the Colorado Rapids (57%).

A more than two-thirds chance to make it out of a group as competitively balanced as Group D? I’ll take that. Minnesota United is a force to be reckoned with, even if some “pundits” continue to poo-poo the Loons. The way I see it, FiveThirtyEight agrees.


Not only do the Loons have the best odds of any team in Group D, to advance to the knockout round, but they also have the 8th best odds in the MLS, of advancing to the quarter-finals, at 36%.

The club only sits behind the juggernauts of LAFC, Toronto, Seattle, and Atlanta. This lines up perfectly with my expectations. Somehow, Inter Miami – David Beckham’s baby – has a 67% chance to advance to the knockout and a 38% chance of advancing to the quarters.

For an expansion club that was pulled together at the last minute, this baffles me.


In short, yes. When looking at who the Loons could face come the knockout round, the competition obviously ramps up.

As mentioned in my previous post, if they place first, they will play the 3rd place team from Group B/C/E/F on July 26th at 10 p.m. (FS1). If they place second, they play the winner of Group C on July 28th at 7 p.m. (ESPN).

There is a scenario where the Loons could place third in Group D, and still advance to the knockout round, depending on the tie-breaker. If that happens, they could play either the winner of Group A (July 25 – 7 p.m.) or Group C (July 27 – 7:30 p.m.).

This means there are scenarios, depending on group outcomes, that they could play anyone from Seattle to Atlanta or LAFC. Even Toronto could be a Round of 16 matchup.

So when the odds are put in place, these factors are obviously considered. The biggest number that is of contention within the MNUFC fanbase is, winning the cup.

4%, without looking deeper, it seems criminally low. However, the team is tied for the 8th-best odds to win it all. LAFC heads the league at 17%, Toronto (8%) and Atlanta (7%) hold the next two spots. In my mind, that is an apt prediction of how these clubs rank, in comparison to MNUFC and the rest of the league.

So if you are a Loons fan, which I know many of you aren’t (looking at you, Eric), don’t go full #PANIC. This team has shocked us in positive ways in the past and I am starting to put my faith in Adrian Heath to lead us to our first piece of silverware.

Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan


Edina native and two-time grad of the University of Florida in Sport Management. Previously worked with the Timberwolves and Minnesota United FC along with the Gators.

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