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Trying to untangle playoff hopefuls

August 15, 2011 | 8:51 pm No comments
By Shaun Schafer

Looking at the two conferences in the MLS, the inclusion and exclusion of teams from playoff consideration is muddled by the number of games the teams have played.

No teams have played more than the 26 games of the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC. No team has played fewer MLS games than Real Salt Lake’s 22.

Despite this disparity, the teams are ranked for the playoffs by total points accumulated and the team’s standing in each conference. The top three teams in each conference and the teams with the next four highest point totals qualify for the MLS postseason.

Based on the league standard, the Los Angeles Galaxy, FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders would get the top three spots in the Western Conference, with the Columbus Crew, Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls getting the top spots in the Eastern Conference. The next four spots would go to Colorado, Salt Lake, Houston and Kansas City (on the strength of its tiebreaker over Chivas USA and D.C. United).

The standings, however, start to look a bit silly as four Western teams have more points than the best team in the East (Columbus at 37 points). And the fifth team in the West, Salt Lake, would be second in the East with 36 points.

Trying to make some sense of this has prompted observers to look at the points accumulated per game as a method to determine who is leading the league. For The Tuesday List, we took a look at average goal differential.

Team Games GD AGD
LA Galaxy* 25 15 0.60
Real Salt Lake* 22 13 0.59
Seattle Sounders* 25 8 0.32
Philadelphia* 23 7 0.30
FC Dallas* 25 7 0.28
Colorado Rapids* 26 5 0.19
Chivas USA 24 4 0.167
Columbus Crew* 24 4 0.167
NY Red Bulls* 25 4 0.16
Sporting KC* 23 2 0.08
Houston Dynamo* 24 1 0.04
D.C. United 22 0 0
San Jose 24 -6 -0.25
Chicago Fire 23 -7 -0.30
Portland Timbers 23 -8 -0.34
New England 24 -13 -0.54
Vancouver 24 -15 -0.625
Toronto FC 26 -21 -0.81

* In playoff position.

What does this tell us? First, we are playing with averages, and those are easily influenced by one big win or loss. Second, there are some teams (LA and RSL) that look like they should be running away with the league.

Finally, there is a lot of fluidity on this list. Except for the three things at the bottom and the two at the top of the list, any of the others could be booking postseason trips or planning time on the couch. In particular, it will be interesting to see if Chivas USA gets on a run of form in the coming weeks that unseats any of the Eastern pretenders.

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