Home field advantage in MLS' two-legged series -- a quick and dirty study

Discussion in 'MLS: News & Analysis' started by ElJefe, Nov 3, 2003.

  1. ElJefe

    ElJefe Moderator
    Staff Member

    Feb 16, 1999
    Colorful Colorado
    Club:
    FC Dallas
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    With MLS going to two-legged series in the first playoff round this season, there's been a lot of discussion about the home-field advantage (or lack thereof) in two-legged series.

    Now some might say that it's an advantage to play the second leg at home, but I don't think that there's any evidence to back that assertion. In the 2002-2003 editions of the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Champions League, 182 two-legged series were played in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, and the entirety of the UEFA Cup up to the semifinals (the final is a single match at a neutral site). The results?

    93 series (51.1%) went to the team that hosted the first leg
    89 series (48.9%) went to the team that hosted the second leg

    "Well," some might say, "a lot of those two-legged series were pretty bad mismatches. If a team win 12-0 on aggregate, it doesn't really tell which leg is better to host." However, if you narrow the selection down to the really close series, the series which finished 180 minutes with the two teams within a goal or loss of one another -- that is, one team won by a single goal, or the series was decided on away goals, in extra time, or in penalties -- then you get 69 series:

    33 series (47.8%) went to the team that hosted the first leg
    36 series (52.2%) went to the team that hosted the second leg

    An almost statistically insignificant advantage. Furthermore, if you look at the 12 series that were decided in the non-golden-goal extra time or penalties (which are held immediately after the second leg), nine were won by the home team, the team hosting the second leg. Take those out, and you get 57 series that were decided in 180 minutes and by a goal or less:

    30 series (52.6%) went to the team that hosted the first leg
    27 series (47.4%) went to the team that hosted the second leg

    An equally insignificant advantage for the team hosting the first leg.

    About the only times when a two-legged series favors the team hosting the second leg are when the series is close (either tied or a goal difference either way) after the first leg. 60 of those 99 series went to the team hosting the second leg. But of course, they would. After all, those series are in a dead heat after the first leg, and are thus decided on the second leg, where of course, the team hosting the second leg has the advantage.

    So really, there's no real advantage to hosting either leg in a two-legged series. None, whatsoever. About the only advantage that the higher seed gets in MLS' two-legged series is that they would host the 30-minute golden-goal extra time and penalties, if needed. But even that's a very questionable advantage.
     
  2. dred

    dred Member+

    Nov 7, 2000
    Land of Champions
    Aren't you shooting your analysis in the foot here? You are throwing out the 12 most relevant series of which 75% went to the second-leg host.

    In MLS, even more series would go to extra time/PKs since the away-goal rule is not in effect. Would it be improper to then assume that 75% of these additional series would be won by the second-leg host?
    No advantage except for the 400 pound gorilla in the corner.

    I'm strongly in favor of strengthening the benefits of having a good MLS regular season, but I don't think you are making a good case for it here.
     
  3. ElJefe

    ElJefe Moderator
    Staff Member

    Feb 16, 1999
    Colorful Colorado
    Club:
    FC Dallas
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Re: Re: Home field advantage in MLS' two-legged series -- a quick and dirty study

    Not really.

    You missed the magic word in the paragraph you quoted, which is...

    "non-golden-goal"

    Because extra time in UEFA competitions is a full 30 minutes, no matter what, it favors the home team. MLS' extra time periods are golden-goal.

    To see the difference, look at the difference between home teams' records in regulation matches in MLS (quite good) vs. home teams' records in overtime periods (not all that great).

    Why is this? Well, to put it simply, think of it this way: Home teams usually win over the course of 90 minutes. However, home teams don't score the first goal as often. And in golden-goal extra times, the first goal is all that matters, whereas in UEFA extra times, you just need to outscore your opponent over 30 minutes.
    Well, given that home teams don't do as well in golden-goal extra times as they do in regulation games or non-golden-goal extra times, it's not a very big boon.
    Yeah, I thought about explaining why "hosting a golden-goal overtime and penalty kicks" isn't such a great advantage, but I decided against it.

    If MLS' 30-minute extra time after the second leg were not golden-goal, then yes, I'd say it constituted a real advantage for the team hosting the second leg. After all, I'd like the odds of the home team scoring more goals over 30 minutes. But since MLS' extra time is golden-goal, it's more or less a crap shoot. The home team doesn't always score first. Just look at the few "series overtime" periods (which were 30 minutes and golden-goal) that MLS played from 2000-2002. The home teams didn't do so well in those.
     
  4. kpaulson

    kpaulson New Member

    Jun 16, 2000
    Washington DC
    Except for Hirdt's quick and dirty analysis that suggested that home teams got about 75% of the wins in MLS overtime...

    That doesn't mean they win 75% of the time-- and I don't know what percentage of OT games produce a result. If it's 30% percent of the time, then the home team would win about 58% of the overtime periods -- a not great, but not insiginificant advantage.

    As someone else has pointed out, the possible 30 minute home-field advantage is equivalent-- in percentage of playing time-- to baseball, hockey or basketball playoffs (past the first round at least). Now, it may be that San Jose won't be able to capitalize on their extra advantage. So? If a highly-rated team loses in 6 games to the underdog (like a certain NY team recently did), they don't get any homefield advantage. That doesn't bother me at all.
     
  5. dred

    dred Member+

    Nov 7, 2000
    Land of Champions
    Re: Re: Re: Home field advantage in MLS' two-legged series -- a quick and dirty study

    Sez who? 75% of golden goals in MLS were scored by the home team this year. That's higher than the win/loss rate.

    Your arguments about golden goal would make sense if we were talking about basketball, where 50 or so "goals" are scored during the course of a game, but in soccer very few goals are scored, especially in 30 minute overtimes. I'm confident that if you actually look at the numbers you'll see that the ratio of soccer matches in which the home team scores first in overtime is very very close to the ratio of wins/losses.

    Think about it, the only time your point kicks in at all is if the teams combine to score at least 3 goals in a 30 minute overtime. That's just not going to happen very often, and even then the effect is minor because the team that scores most is likely to be the team that scores first.
     
  6. dred

    dred Member+

    Nov 7, 2000
    Land of Champions
    That argument is complete and utter balderdash. The series ended at 6 games because New York couldn't catch up even if they won game seven, not because they weren't "allowed" to play game seven. If the Quakes trail by one after 180 minutes, they don't get 30 minutes to try and catch up.

    Furthermore, the Marlins had to win twice in New York while LA need not even score on the road to advance.

    The facts are that 1 in 3 World Series go to a seventh game, while fewer than 15% of home-and-home soccer series are tied on aggregate after 180 minutes, even if you only look at the final 8 in the UEFA Cup (when the chaff has been eliminated and teams are fairly evenly matched as in MLS).

    Furthermore, the World Series isn't designed to give either team an edge, they just have an odd number of games and have to divide them somehow. Home field is not a major advantage in baseball.

    Furthermore, in baseball only 25% of the teams make the playoffs while 80% of MLS teams do, so MLS ought to have vastly greater compensation for a superior regular season than baseball does.

    Rough calculation shows that the second-leg host has at most 7% advantage in a series, probably closer to 5%. What I mean by this is that only 1 in 20 series will decided by second-leg advantage. Not much of a reward for seven months.
     
  7. kpaulson

    kpaulson New Member

    Jun 16, 2000
    Washington DC
    I guess that goes to show you that balderdash is in the eye of the beholder. ;)

    Uh ok. And if you're behind in a match 2-1 after 90 minutes, you're not allowed to play 100 minutes. You can't catch up. Extending this concept over two games doesn't upset me.

    As for whether the World Series is designed to give home field or not is completely irrelevant. The rest of the playoffs are and that season is longest there is.

    And, in any event, the 7 gaem format does seem to have given a home field advantage in the World Series. You're flat-out wrong when you say that home field isn't imporant in baseball-- the team with the four games wins about 58% of the time-- in other words, 38% more likely to win than their rival. I'd take it.

    Finally, the idea that MLS needs to give more homefield because we let in more teams is just an opinion-- not a conclusion you have to reach logically.

    You seem hung up on the idea that LA doesn't need to win on the road. In my opinion, that's a strong arguemtn, but you're still ignoring that LA will have to play well in game 2 if they're going to make it through. The average goals scored in MLS is above 2/game. Make sure those 2+ goals are scored by you and we won't be having this argument.
     
  8. Sanguine

    Sanguine Member

    Jul 4, 2003
    Reston, VA
    so what? Under what possible format would they have to score on the road to advance? I can't think of one.

    Home-and-home with road goals - no need to score on the road to advance.
    Home and home with higher seed getting tiebreaker - no need to score on the road to advance
    First to 5 points - No need to score on the road to advance. (home win and 2 road 0-0 draws goes through)
    Best of 3 series with games going to PKs after OT - no need to score on the road to advance.

    I don't see where this argument has any relevance whatsoever.
     
  9. NYM31

    NYM31 New Member

    Mar 29, 1999
    Paterson, NJ
    Single-game elimination :)
     
  10. Beau Dure

    Beau Dure Member+

    May 31, 2000
    Vienna, VA
    Interesting point that perhaps a non-golden-goal OT would make for more of a home-field advantage.

    But here's a problem: Your basis for comparison is the Champions League, which uses away goals as a tiebreaker. You'd probably need to use some tournament that doesn't use away goals (Libertadores?).

    One factor I'd add in here without any data to back it up: The higher-seeded team shouldn't come out of Game 1 with a minimal chance of advancing. If you look at the MLS series so far -- United and the Metros are going nowhere, down 2-0 before hitting the road. The Quakes, also down 2-0, have to feel a bit better than their Eastern Conference counterparts.

    Yeah, it's not as much of a home advantage as the semis, I'll grant that.

    I think this is a fun tournament, but I have reservations about calling the winner the MLS champion.
     
  11. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Doesn't Mexico give aggregate ties to the higher seeded team? That would be a way of giving an advantage to the team with the best regular season. Say San Jose beats L.A. 2-0 or 3-1 next weekend. San Jose advances, no need for golden goal or PKs.
     
  12. BenC1357

    BenC1357 Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    KC
    Bingo! Chicago is the champions.

    Kill the playoffs!

    I would think that would lead to an aweful lot of boring soccer. If a team knows they can draw and advance why push forward?
     
  13. SYoshonis

    SYoshonis Member+

    Jun 8, 2000
    Manistee, Michigan
    Club:
    Michigan Bucks
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Especially if that champion happens to be the Galaxy, who could potentially be crowned "champion" without ever having won a game on the road (they could sneak through the semifinal on penalties, which isn't the same as winning a game) the whole year.
     
  14. LA Aztecs OG

    LA Aztecs OG New Member

    May 28, 2003
    BEATING THE QUAKES
    but you would have to call the Galaxy champions if in fact that happened.

    I'm not in favor of the current playoff format. But being the only HOME team to win so far in this tournament, and the only ground to attract more than the regular season average attendance, we'll take the result.

    Sure, it sucks for San Jose. But they've been sucking wind the past month.

    0-3-2 with one goal since Oct 5th.


    Can't really blame the playoff format for San Jose sucking wind.
     
  15. Sanguine

    Sanguine Member

    Jul 4, 2003
    Reston, VA
    0-0, win on PKs.
     
  16. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    For once, we agree ;)

    Not necessary, in my view. For me (and this goes for all the American sports I watch) the season and the post-season are two entirely different things. Just because success in the regular season doesn't gaurantee playoff success for the best team doesn't mean I don't have fun watching the regular season, esp, for baseball (and when the Yankees lose the WS to a wild card team, so much the better!) For MLS, I just take the supporter shield to be the League Champion (which would be a bit more valid if there was a balanced schedule), the USOC champ the equivalent of the FA Cup, and the MLS Cup the equivalent of the League Cup. However, since this is the US and we have different sporting traditions, we put different weight on the various events than our counterparts in England.

    And FWIW, I wasn't necessarily recommending the Mexican system (before I attribute it to the MFL again, can someone confirm or deny that they do it that way?) I was just mentioning it as a possibility that had some advantages and at least one drawback that Ben already mentioned.
     
  17. HalaMadrid

    HalaMadrid Member

    Apr 9, 1999
    Don't kill the playoffs.

    I love the playoffs.

    However, I am a staunch advocate of separating the postseason tournament from the league season.

    Recognise the regular season champ on the level of the MLS Cup winner. Look at the MLS Cup as a postseason tournament or league cup that the top 8 teams qualify for.

    There's no reason why both can't be equally important, and sastify everyone.
     
  18. SYoshonis

    SYoshonis Member+

    Jun 8, 2000
    Manistee, Michigan
    Club:
    Michigan Bucks
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    No question about it, and you wouldn't be able to blame the Galaxy for claiming the title, since that is the system, and every team in the league has the same chance to win it at the beginning of the year.

    Again, absolutely. And, there's no reason to think that the Gals can't render their potential "title" more legitimate and universally accepted by winning in San Jose.

    No, and if you beat them, the format doesn't come into play, and no amount of home-field advantage would have helped them. Of course, if you lose, it just means that you sucked more wind....especially with a two-goal cushion.
     
  19. Beerking

    Beerking Member+

    Nov 14, 2000
    Humboldt County
    Sure you can. Playing 30 games just to eliminate 2 teams from the post season is idiotic. Injuries add up over that length of time so even if you go into the playoffs with "home field" advantage it doesn't count for squat. Top of the table at the end of the year takes the cup, that's it.
     
  20. JCUnited

    JCUnited Member

    Oct 7, 2002
    South Bend, IN
    Club:
    Manchester United FC
    One could argue that the only true home field comes through a one game series.

    I don't watch other sports, so somebody correct me if things have changed, but in MLB and NBA you don't really get a home field advantage unless the series goes all the way.

    NBA: 2 @home, 3 away, 2@ home. So really, if it goes five games, you'll play more on the road. If it goes four or six, you'll play equal amounts home and away.

    It's advantage by degrees. I think playing the second in front of your own crowd is an advantage. Revs & Fire take two goal leads to home, and even if Metros and DC can tie it up, the higher seeds still have the home crowd for the extra time however long it lasts. Quakes are down by two, but playing at home is a confidence booster, especially if they come out and get an early goal.

    It's not a great advantage, but it is an advantage somewhat.
     
  21. BenC1357

    BenC1357 Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    KC
    Two things have to happen for this to occur:
    1) MLS would have to market it that way. A big celebration with a trophy presentation on the field after the league is clinched. On an individual basis we're each going to think what we want anyways. But if the league is clearly celebrating the season winner as a champ then the perception will follow suit.
    2) Fans would have to catch on.
     
  22. AndyMead

    AndyMead Homo Sapien

    Nov 2, 1999
    Seat 12A
    Club:
    Sporting Kansas City
    Dustin,
    I disagree with your methodology. European knockouts utilize the "away goals" rule. Furthermore the order of games is determined by random draw, not seedings.

    A better sample would be to check through the last few years of MFL playoffs and COMNEBOL/CONCACAF cup competitions as both of those organizations tend to not use the away goals rule, and use the golden goal. Picking pairings where the "higher" seed hosted the second leg along the way.
     
  23. ThreeApples

    ThreeApples Member+

    Jul 28, 1999
    Smurf Village
    Club:
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    The random draw improves the methodology, if you're trying to determine if simply hosting the second leg is an advantage in and of itself. Any tournament, such as MLS, that always gives the second leg to an objectively higher seeded team will be expected to have the 2nd-leg home team win a majority of the time. But that is because that team is, in general, the better team, not because hosting the 2nd leg is an advantage. Looking at tournaments that determine the order randomly removes this bias.

    Disregarding away goals results would improve the methodology, though.
     
  24. HalaMadrid

    HalaMadrid Member

    Apr 9, 1999
    Watch the Fire game Sunday.

    There's the tricky part.
     
  25. Beau Dure

    Beau Dure Member+

    May 31, 2000
    Vienna, VA
    As a Braves fan sickened by the fact that the Florida Marlins have won two World Series and NO division titles, I'd have to disagree on baseball. Perhaps I'm just bitter because, year after year, the Braves are great for 162 games but run into some hot pitcher twice in a five-game or seven-game series in October.

    Other points:

    - I like the idea of having a two-leg playoff tournament that doesn't determine the league champion. Maybe this tournament could determine a second spot in a CONCACAF tournament? If you're playing a "pre-Libertadores"-style tournament, I wouldn't object to having eight of the league's 10 teams involved. It might be a hard sell to the general public, but the first two rounds of the playoffs already are games for the hard-core fans, anyway.

    - That said, I don't quite accept Chicago as "league champion" because of the unbalanced league schedule. If I had to vote between Chicago and San Jose, college football-style, I'd go for the Fire. But if you're going to have the regular season determine the title, everyone needs to play each other an equal number of times. Of course, I still don't mind having the East winner play the West winner in a one-game playoff that's sold to the general public as the MLS equivalent of the Super Bowl.

    - I thought the "higher seed" tiebreaker in the MFL playoffs was applied only after overtime. Am I wrong?
     

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