What Inter Miami Needs To Do To Make the Playoffs

Two months ago, the thought of Inter Miami in the Major League Soccer Cup playoffs wasn’t at the top of anyone’s mind. Now, however, it’s about all the MLS community can talk about.
Inter Miami's Lionel Messi maneuvers over an FC Cincinnati defender in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals.
Inter Miami's Lionel Messi maneuvers over an FC Cincinnati defender in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals. / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

Okay, so we’ve had a day to relish in Inter Miami’s U.S. Open Cup thriller at FC Cincinnati.

Take a deep breath.

Now, we switch gears again as the Herons reopen Major League Soccer play with a trip to New York.

And what’s on La Familia’s mind is just what Inter Miami needs to do to, not only climb out of the cellar but potentially make the playoffs.

Let’s get into it.

Where Inter Miami Stands in MLS

Well, to be honest… it isn’t great.

Inter Miami is dead last in the Eastern Conference with 18 points in 22 matches.

They’re a point behind Toronto FC, but eight points back of New York City FC and Charlotte FC to get to 12th in the conference.

One thing to take note of is Inter Miami has so far this season and they have 12 regular season matches remaining before the playoffs (they also have the U.S. Open Cup title match against Houston Dynamo, but that doesn’t count).

Their 18 points have come from just five wins and three draws, which under normal circumstances suggests the playoff picture for Inter Miami is pretty bleak.

However, that was before July.

Since signing Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Facundo Farias, Diego Gomez and Tomas Aviles, Inter Miami has rattled off eight straight wins between the Leagues Cup and U.S. Open Cup tournaments.

It means this Inter Miami team is clearly not the same as the Inter Miami squad before July.

Interestingly enough, mlssoccer.com released its recent power rankings and, despite not playing a regular season match on the restart due to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals and being in last in the East, Inter Miami is in the top 10 in those rankings.

Granted, this includes Leagues Cup matches. Strip those away and Inter Miami is still ranked near the bottom of the league.

Inter Miami's Realistic Shot At the Playoffs

Here’s where a little discretionary math comes into play (thanks to MLS Soccer’s J. Sam Jones for the help on this one).

We can speculate all we want on just how many matches Inter Miami needs to win to climb out of the basement and into the playoffs, but for argument's sake, let’s be realistic.

As I mentioned, the Herons have 18 points from their first 22 matches. They are 14 points back of Chicago Fire — which currently holds the last playoff spot in the East in 9th place.

So, they have 15 points to make up, but that’s not the correct math. That’s because you have to factor in those 15 points if everyone between Inter Miami and Chicago loses every match between now and the end of the season, which isn’t very likely.

Jordi Alba, Gerardo Martino
Inter Miami manager Tata Martino and defender Jordi Alba celebrate after the Herons defeated FC Cincinnati in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals. / Jeff Dean/USSF/GettyImages

So, Jones suggested Inter Miami needs 27 points in the next 12 matches to reach the Wild Card round of the playoffs. That seems reasonable.

That is close to the pace they had in the seven matches against MLS opponents in the Leagues Cup and U.S. Open Cup — the game against Cruz Azul doesn’t count here.

Those wins generated an average of 2.14 points per game for Inter Miami. Multiply that by 12 matches and you have 25.7 points, so, it’s close.

Now, if we take into account that not everyone above Inter Miami is playing their best football right now, there may be a slim shot for the Herons to make the playoffs and bypass the Wild Card round.

It would take about 34 points in 12 matches to do that — or 2.83 points per game.

That means Inter Miami could not afford to lose any of their 12 remaining MLS matches to reach the playoffs without playing in the Wild Card round.

If playing in the Wild Card round doesn’t matter to you, then Inter Miami needs to win nine of those 12 matches… at minimum… and get some help.

I’d love to think that the Herons can win all 12 — collecting 36 points and a spot in the playoffs — but, as I’ve mentioned before, that will be very hard to do.

No matter. I think it’s safe to say that in the last two months, La Familia has gone from looking to the next season to getting excited about the playoffs this season.

I’ll take that.