I said maybe I’d come back in 2013. Bad news: you should have believed the threat! Preliminary Notes – aka all that junk you should probably skip. Most of you are familiar with this thread. It’s been going on for years: 2007, 2008 (which I can’t track down), 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 (credit @aletheist). It’s also had some companion threads on the DC United board: 2010 and 2012. I note all this for the benefit of the uninitiated, and so I have the links handy when I want to refer to the old threads from time to time. Actually, there’s one other post and thread that I should link here: @Yoshou’s “Blind Squirrel Theory,” and my thread about that theory on the DC United board. This all pertains to parity, and the fact that parity in MLS is diminishing, which makes a big difference for the playoff races. MLS is becoming a league of haves and have-nots: those teams with money and/or brains, and those teams without money and/or brains. (While we’re at it, here’s a graph showing the change in parity as reflected in the PPG spread of non-expansion teams.) I am, of course, obliged to say a word about the despair numbers. I developed these because I’m a DC United supporter, and therefore believe in a strict economy of hope. I want to know exactly how much hope I should have, how quickly my hope should be fading, and the exact moment when I should have no hope at all. That’s what the despair numbers can tell you. I started watching them in 2010, and I changed how they are calculated in 2012 (in part because of the split table, and in part because of the growing disparity in MLS). If you really want to see what they’re all about, see here and here. Or stay tuned. I’m sure I’ll have to explain them eventually. Finally, I think the current software stinks for posting tables. Sure, it’s possible, but it’s nowhere near as flexible (or as elegant) as the old way. So for the time being I’m posting all the tables as images. If a better solution presents itself, that might change. (Actually, looking at the tables on the thread here, I'll probably try to make them a little easier to read in the future. Bear with me.) Enough of that. Onto the tables ... The Playoff Race It’s not even September, and two teams, DCU and CHV, are already burnt toast. No, neither has been eliminated officially. Their tragic numbers are still above zero. But their despair numbers are over 3.00. There’s no way for those teams to catch up to the playoff contenders. As for TFC, they’re toast, and soon enough they’ll be burnt toast. It’s over for them too. That means each conference has 8 playoff viable teams. In the west, SJE is falling fast. They are solid at home, 4th best in the league. But they are being pummeled on the road. Only DCU has a worse road record than SJE. They are one or two bad results away from truly being toast. That leaves VAN, COL and FCD. FCD is questionable, to say the least. They too are falling behind, this latest win against mighty CHV notwithstanding. But VAN and COL have tough schedules. That may be an equalizer. The race between these three teams could last until the final weeks, and might even be decided by the home-and-home regular season finale between COL and VAN. In the east, things are looking tough for CMB. To make a legitimate push, they’d have to outperform every other team in the league for the remainder of the season. The CD# is probably the minimum PPG pace a team will need for the rest of the season, not to make the playoffs, but just to sniff at the playoffs. For CMB, that number is already at 2.0 PPG. The AD#, which reflects the actual table (rather than a calculated percentile) is even worse. That said, I tend to weigh the CD# more because the AD# can be kind of volatile. CMB’s hopes should be fading fast. (The numbers are only slightly better for SJE.) CHI and NER fans should be worried. Unlike in the west, there’s a gap just beginning to form in the east. It’s right between PHI and NER, and is reflected mostly in the PPG figures (and also the AD#). This weekend’s PHI-@NER game will go a long way toward determining the shape of the eastern conference playoff race. If PHI wins, that little gap could start to look like a gulf, and if NER wins, then we could have some interesting playoff races in both conferences. Quick Shots Three teams are in real contention for the Wooden Spoon. But I have faith that DCU can overcome their easy schedule and win it. Seriously: why does San Jose suck so bad on the road? And why does SKC suck so bad at home when they’re top of the league on the road? In recent years CHV has tended to play better on the road than at home. This year they are doing twice as well at home as on the road. Which isn’t saying much. In fact, there are no teams in MLS currently playing worse at home than on the road. (This is somewhat unusual.) There’s a decent chance that teams will fail to make the playoffs this year despite having winning records. (There’s a lesson about league disparity in there. Those teams won’t have winning records because the league is so even, but because some teams in this league are just plain awful.) This year too we’re looking at all playoff bound teams having PTS over 50. In a 34 game season, that means over 1.50 PPG. That’s way above the old 1.33 PPG historical figure, which used to be considered the playoff minimum. (Hence the old anecdotal 40 PT playoff cutoff line for a 30 game season.) Again, parity ain’t what it used to be. On that topic, the eastern table is what I increasingly expect MLS league tables to look like: a cluster at the top, a gap, a cluster at the bottom. I expect this to get more pronounced in both the conference and overall tables as teams come into playoff form and make their final push. DCU is very close to being eliminated from SS contention. This will not surprise any DCU supporters. RSL is very close to being eliminated from WS contention. This is good news for us DCU supporters who have high hopes for winning some regular season hardware in 2013. The less competition for the Wooden Spoon the better! The USOC could very well be played between the SS winners and the WS winners. I’m sure that upsets many people. It delights me. 2.59 GPG overall so far this season. People are always worrying about that number. More on Numbers and Tables On these threads I typically just do old fashioned, basic arithmetic number crunching. But there are people out there doing more complex analyses. So I like to list some of those here along with a few other MLS numbers and tables related links. Please suggest other links. - MLS at SportsClubStats - MLS Tiebreakers - MLS Table at ESPNFC - MLSSoccer Standings - MLSSoccer Results Map The Usual Disclaimers I always make mistakes in this thread. (Always.) And there’s always some glitch in the spreadsheet, especially early on. Also, I'm known to get confused and screw things up. So if you see an error, just let me know and I’ll correct it ASAP. My predictions are usually wrong. Except when they are right. Full updates once a week, mini-updates as warranted … starting tonight.