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Dissecting the MLS Standings: The Dog Days of Summer

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A brief overview of all the different wants you can look at the MLS standings.

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We are now in the middle third of the schedule and some teams have rise, while others have fallen since I last wrote about the standings. Currently most teams have played at least 20 games, the major exception being the Seattle Sounders, and most of them have played at least 10 home and 10 road games. Now that the sample size is larger a lot of these numbers have a little more credibility.

Projected standings

Here are my super simple projected standings. As a reminder I first calculate the home points per game and away points per game. Next, I calculate the points a team will earn from their remaining games if they continue to earn points at the same pace. Finally, I add all the numbers together to project the final standings.

Here are the Western Conference Standings:

Club PTS GP Projected points Final Standing
Real Salt Lake 37 21 60 1
Portland Timbers 34 20 59 2
Los Angeles 33 21 55 3
Vancouver Whitecaps 32 20 54 4
FC Dallas 32 21 53 5
Colorado 31 22 48 6
Seattle Sounders FC 25 18 47 7
San Jose 24 21 47 8
Chivas USA 17 20 29 9

Last time I ran this FC Dallas' projected points came in at 64, they have really tumbled down the standings. Mostly because of their inability to win or even draw on the road. It looks like it will come down to a two horse race for the top spot in the west and despite having three games in hand Seattle are on a track to miss the playoffs for the first time.

Playoff Chances

Once again for Portland's playoff chances I meandered over to Sportsclubstats.com. The way they calculate the playoff chances is by simulating the remaining games and then using that information to project the standings. (For a more detailed breakdown go here)

Last time Portland's playoff chances stood at 88.9%, now they have a 97.1% chance of making the playoffs. Portland also improved their likelihood of winning the Supporter's Shield (up from 12.2% to 29.1%) and winning the MLS cup (up from 9.8% to 11.5%). An interesting note, before last weekend RSL had a 35% chance of the supporter's shield but their loss dropped them 14% and raised SKC's chances to 12.7% to 22.4%.

Tempo Free Ratings

As a reminder this site ranks the teams based on possession and offensive stats. Just like all the others ratings sites Portland and RSL sit 1-2 atop the standings. While Portland is near the top of the standings they have come down a little bit in the amount of possessions per game (down from 140 to 136 ppg). Shots and shots on goal have also trended down since we last checked the site. Shots have gone from 10.17 shots per game to 9.53 shots and shots on goal have gone from 3.66 to 3.54 shots on goal per game.

Win at Home Adjusted Table

Usually this applies to teams going through a qualification of some sort but I think it applies here because MLS are in fact trying to qualify for the playoffs. Essentially you take the adage "Win at home, draw on the road" and apply it to the standings. What this means is that a win at home is expected and this counts for 0 points, while a loss on the road is also expected and counts for 0 points. This means that the opposite of those results are where you get your differentiation. A win on the road nets you 3 points and a draw nets you 1 point but a loss at home gets you -3 points and a draw nets you -2 points.

Using the ESPNFC standings (which supply home and road records) you can calculate the adjusted points:

Home Win Home Loss Home Draw Home Points Road Win Road Loss Road Draw Road Points Total Points
Real Salt Lake 6 2 3 -12 5 4 1 16 4
Portland Timbers 6 1 2 -7 2 1 8 14 7
Los Angeles 7 1 2 -7 3 7 1 10 3
Vancouver Whitecaps 7 0 3 -6 2 6 2 8 2
FC Dallas 7 1 3 -9 1 4 5 8 -1
Colorado 5 3 3 -15 3 4 4 13 -2
Seattle Sounders FC 4 1 3 -9 3 6 1 10 1
San Jose 5 1 4 -11 1 8 2 5 -6
Chivas USA 3 5 2 -19 1 6 3 6 -13

Usually draws instead of wins are considered a sign of a team that is good but not great. However draws on the road when you are supposed to lose really help your playoff and supporter's shield chances. It also helps that the Timbers have only lost once on the road.

What does it mean?

Portland has a shot at silverware this year. All they need to do is beat RSL once on the road in the USOC and twice at home in MLS league play. Do this and they have the inside track to win the Supporter's Shield and the USOC. It also means. However Portland can also go the way of FC Dallas and plummet down the standings if they do not continue earning results like they have.