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MLS playoff scenarios, statistics, records

Heading into the final week of the MLS regular season, the playoff field is set, the top seeds in each division are secure and most of the Eastern Conference has been relegated. (Okay, maybe not, but they should be.)

If the playoffs began today.....
EASTERN
New York vs. San Jose
Columbus vs. Colorado
WESTERN
Los Angeles vs. Seattle
Real Salt Lake vs. Dallas

Supporters' Shield: If RSL (55 points) loses at Colorado on Saturday, Los Angeles (56) clinches. If RSL draws, the Galaxy needs at least a draw Sunday at home against Dallas. If RSL wins, the Galaxy needs to win. If RSL and Los Angeles are even on points, RSL claims the top position on the second tiebreaker (goal differential -- currently +25 vs. +17).

Much more.....

No. 1 Seeds: With home-and-home matchups in the opening round, the first-place clubs won't enjoy home-field advantage until the conference final, should they advance -- one of the glaring flaws in MLS's postseason system. (The East-West pairings are a topic for another day.) We've explained the Western scenarios above. As for the East, New York (48 points) would clinch with a victory at home Thursday against New England. A loss or draw keeps Columbus (47) in the hunt until the Crew's home match vs. Philadelphia on Sunday.

Golden Boot: We could be really snarky and say that D.C. United is in the lead with 19 goals. So we will. Among actual individuals, Edson Buddle's 17th goal Saturday all but secured the prize for the Los Angeles striker, although Chris Wondolowski (14) has two chances to catch him -- vs. Chivas USA and at Kansas City -- while the Galaxy is down to a single match. Juan Pablo Angel, Omar Cummings, Dwayne De Rosario and Sebastien Le Toux have 13 apiece.

Attendance Race: Seattle clinched that title in January with its season ticket masses. (One day, all 3.4 million residents of the SeaTac metro area will fit into Qwest Field.) The Sounders completed their home calendar with an average of 36,173. D.C. United, which not so long ago was among the league leaders, is in 11th place at 14,279, down from 16,088 last year (an 11.2 percent dip). The MLS average is a healthy 16,651 (16,040 in 2009).

Goals For: Unless Jaime Moreno scores six in his United farewell Saturday at RFK Stadium, DCU will set the all-time league record for fewest in a season, currently held by Toronto (25 in 2007).

Goals Against: Unless Cummings and Conor Casey partner for five Saturday, RSL will set the MLS mark for fewest conceded. The Utahans have given up 18, five fewer than Houston in 2007.

Based on the data in the two previous categories, how many minutes/matches/days/weeks would it take for United to score against RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium, where the home squad is 11-0-4 and has allowed seven goals? (DCU has scored nine goals in 15 away matches.)

By Steve Goff  | October 18, 2010; 9:59 AM ET
Categories:  MLS  | Tags:  MLS  
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Next: D.C. United unveils Jaime Moreno poster for captain's farewell at RFK Stadium on Saturday

Comments

The season isn't over yet?

Posted by: Reignking | October 18, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

What season?

Posted by: HowdyDCU | October 18, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Re-posting from last year because I so dislike this home-and home, aggregate goal format.

Playoff teams should be placed in two groups, four per group. MLS could use the existing formula for grouping. Teams would play each group opponent once, round robin akin to the World Cup group stage, with the home field advantage going to the team with the better regular season record. This could be arranged as a Saturday-Wednesday-Sunday schedule. The top team from each group goes to the final.

The 270 Plan contains more games than the MLS plan (13 v 11), so Donnie G will make more money. Each playoff game matters more, so no team will play for a road draw. Finally teams have a psychological (fans) and financial (ticket revenue) incentive to win regular season matches for home field advantage, rather than to just in the top eight.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | October 18, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and I'm serious about that, no :-)s, stated or implied.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | October 18, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

The only offseason DCU news I want to hear about is either new investors or a stadium deal. Absolutely nothing else interests me because when looking at the big picture nothing else really matters.

Posted by: Gambrills4 | October 18, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Alas, the single season loss record is mathematically out of reach, but DC can still catch last year's Red Bulls!

19 goals? Numbers don't lie, but they do **** with you sometimes.

And we all know the MOST glaring flaw of the MLS postseason system is that it has one.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | October 18, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

If two trains traveling at high speed, one at X and the other at Y....

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | October 18, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

270's plan is pretty cool. I also like the Mexican League's system. Home-and-away aggregate, but tie goes to the higher seeded team. Three pluses: the higher seeded team actually gets an advantage; no games decided on penalties; and one team always needs a goal so there's a lot of attacking soccer.

Posted by: BooThisMan | October 18, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

@Boo -- I'd say the Mexican system is the more likely. Team owners want a home playoff game, since it generates a lot more profit than an away game. It's still a bit problematic, because it really gives one team a huge incentive to play to a draw -- but it's a neat solution to the desire to give the higher-seeded team some measurable advantage or benefit for doing better in the regular season....which the MLS system really does not do.

Posted by: fischy | October 18, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I-270, I like you plan. Its main problem, which is why it will never be adopted, is it makes too much sense.

Posted by: Ron16 | October 18, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I-270, I like your plan. Its main problem, which is why it will never be adopted, is it makes too much sense.

Posted by: Ron16 | October 18, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Personally, I'd prefer a best-of-three, so the higher-seeded team could get the additional home game (if necessary)

Posted by: fischy | October 18, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I like 270s plan. The only thing, does that format have the excitment necessary in American sports?

Posted by: grubbsbl | October 18, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

still laughing at san jose & colorado being part of the eastern conference. When will MLS learn that play-offs are a sham. MLS should move to single table. The supporters shield being the league trophy and the mls cup being a separate post season tourney.

Posted by: TheWashDipsSince88 | October 18, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

since the better ranked team plays at home in the 2nd leg why is that not considered an advantage? you know the result you need to get at home in front of your fans. that is an advantage in my book.

Posted by: GraciasRiquelme | October 18, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I am so bored with DC United. Sadly, I have almost zero interest in their games.I want to but they are such a snoozefest. On the other hand, I love watching games involving NYRB, Seattle, LA, & RSL. I will be able to say the same about Portland and Vancouver next year. There is energy behind these clubs. Just NOTHING going on in DC. Tired football. Tired stadium. Tired players. Tired management. Giant bore.

Posted by: ATPDC | October 18, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I agree with TheWashDipsSince88. The whole "It's the postseason, man!" is such a farce. The MLS Champion should be the club with the most points at the end of the season. It's not rocket science. The MLS Cup could be an end of season cup competition, no more, no less...

Posted by: cidcamp70 | October 18, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Hm...

Probabilty of United away goal = 0.60
Probabilty of RSL conceeding home goal = 0.46

You do the math! (cause I can't...)

Posted by: edgeonyou | October 18, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

@ATPDC On the other hand, I love watching games involving NYRB, Seattle, LA, & RSL

NY? Did you watch the game at Philadelphia this weekend? With Henry still out, Angel was the lone striker in a 4-5-1. Such an approach against a Nowak-coached team is tantamount to suicide, but that didn't stop Backe from resurrecting Juan Carlos Osorio's dumb tactics. Only after NY brought in another forward did the game change, but at that point NY was down by two goals.

NY could conceivably win the league-- on the rare occasion that they have fielded a 4-4-2 with their best players, they have been fun to watch-- but the 3 DP lineup has rarely taken the field, and the Angel-Henry-Marquez-Richards-Lindpere attack has taken the field so little that I don't think they have time to gel. Agudelo looks very promising, but he has only had garbage minutes under Backe.

I'd rather watch LA or RSL on an average day than have to look at Hans Backe's dumb decisions when he decides to show what a master tactician he is.

Posted by: Mastodon_Juan | October 18, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

0.276
For reference, a snowball's chance in hell is 0.277

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | October 18, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Only change I'd make to I-270's plan is I'd keep the conference championship game (and maybe change the conferences to something more like NFC/AFC or AL/NL, less geographic). Top two teams from each group play the semi-finals.

I love having playoffs regardless and never want them to go away. Same for conferences. I think that The Don is completely right when he talks about the importance of having smaller goals - it's good for the fanbase, it's good for creating a narrative over the course of a season. "If United wins tonight they'll take first in the East!" is much more compelling than "If United wins tonight they'll be in 4th place instead of 6th at the halfway point of the season!"

Posted by: VercengetorixII | October 18, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Barkeep, send ATPDC and Mast Juan another round, on me.

Posted by: fallschurch1 | October 18, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Mastojuan Don. Most of us would be delighted to have 3 DPs, a stadium, and a place atop the East table. You finally have a shot at winning something (other than the MLS West playoff championship from 2008). You should be enjoying this.

I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes -- until I met a man who had no feet.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | October 18, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

This team is dying a (not so) slow death without a stadium. Period. This club needs a Jerry Jones sized face lift. I've been a fan of DCU since the 90s. My total cash investment into this club for the time period has been around $2K. I'd say about average for a not quite die hard but avid fan of DCU. While my interest in the league as whole has grown tremendously my interest in this team has plummeted. I'm finding myself watching other MLS games instead of my home town club. The lack of vibrancy is killing my interest. Still my team, always will be, but I can’t tell my brain what interest it.

Posted by: ATPDC | October 18, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Playoff teams should be placed in two groups, four per group. MLS could use the existing formula for grouping. Teams would play each group opponent once, round robin akin to the World Cup group stage, with the home field advantage going to the team with the better regular season record. This could be arranged as a Saturday-Wednesday-Sunday schedule. The top team from each group goes to the final.

The 270 Plan contains more games than the MLS plan (13 v 11), so Donnie G will make more money. Each playoff game matters more, so no team will play for a road draw. Finally teams have a psychological (fans) and financial (ticket revenue) incentive to win regular season matches for home field advantage, rather than to just in the top eight.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | October 18, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse
-----------------

The problem with this came up during the Canadian Championship recently. If a team is already eliminated on the last match day, they'll trot out the third string ask risk throwing the group off on GD.

Posted by: stancollins | October 18, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

The problem with this came up during the Canadian Championship recently. If a team is already eliminated on the last match day, they'll trot out the third string ask risk throwing the group off on GD.

Posted by: stancollins | October 18, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse
________________________

After the end of group play you rank the finishers. The team that finished with the least amount of points get the last pick in the draft. Keep those f'ers honest.

Posted by: ATPDC | October 18, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

@stancollins: Each system has weaknesses. However, I think there are more weaknesses in the current system than in my if-I-were-king system.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | October 18, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I agree with everyone on here: there has to be a big advantage for doing well in the regular season. The NFL has this dead-on with the first-round bye going to the top teams in the playoffs. Since MLS owners need home games, then at minimum the Mexican-style system makes sense, or the 270 system. The current setup is pretty dumb.

That said, at least the current system is consistent with what much of the world is used to, which for for the most part has quieted the howls from the old days.

Posted by: adamsmorgan | October 19, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

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