Steve Fenn with his second piece for The Shin Guardian
Sunday’s Superclasico between Chivas USA and LA Galaxy was one of the few matches we have left in this MLS season with major playoff implications. It was also a matchup between the two clubs most directly affected by MLS’ new playoff tiebreakers, announced last Wednesday. With the season over 70% gone for some clubs, it was announced that teams level on points will be ranked by:
1) Most total goals scored
2) Greatest goal differential
3) Fewest disciplinary points
4) Most road goals scored
5) Greatest road goal differential
6) Most home goals scored
7) Greatest home goal differential
8) Coin toss (for 2 teams) or drawing of lots (3 or more teams)
For those wondering what disciplinary points are, check this page which has both the current rankings and the calulation guidelines.
There are reasons to criticize this new standard, but Bruce Arena and others have covered those pretty well already. My main focus today is examining the standings, and the impact of this rule change on the already-underwhelming 2012 playoff race.
As we discussed a couple weeks ago, per game figures are much more telling than totals when clubs have played uneven numbers of matches. So, here’s the current league table with points, goals for, goal differential, and disciplinary points all broken down to per game figures:
Clearly, Chivas USA is the biggest loser in this new tiebreaker format (and did themselves no favors on Sunday). If they rally to tie LA on points, they would need to outscore them by 29 goals in the process. The Columbus Crew can’t be terribly pleased with the change either, but at least one of the teams they are trying to catch is the also-low-scoring Chicago Fire. If they do make up enough points to draw even with the Fire, it is at least possible that the Crew with 3 games in hand could outscore Chicago by 8 goals in the process.
The tough news for Chivas USA, the Crew, and all other playoff hopefuls is that one of top 5 in their conference would need to suffer a pronounced dip in form to give them a chance at the postseason.