Wednesday, November 11, 2009

MLS Team Ages

EDIT 9/28/2010: Noticed I had the wrong birthdate for Will Johnson (had Will John's listed twice), so some very slight changes occured.

EDIT 11/13: I found an error with one player's minutes played (DaMarcus Beasley in 2004). I've corrected it, and as a result the top ten youngest teams list is affected. 2004 Chicago's age changes from 25.54 to 25.44, which means that they jump from 5th to 3rd in the list.

You can skip this paragraph unless you're interested in the details of why the error occurred. It came about because of the MLSnet player registry, which I previously found a lot of mistakes in while originally researching this subject. Beasley is listed as playing only five games and 450 minutes, when he actually played almost three times as much. Now, I have a copy of the MLS Fact & Record Book, which has the correct figures. But it was a lot easier to work with the data by copying and pasting from the MLSnet registry than inputting everything manually. So if you're going to work with MLS stats, watch out for those player register errors.

EDIT 12/8: The 2008 numbers have changed slightly, because I discovered that Diaz Kambere is listed as playing 90 minutes for Toronto when he actually only played 63.


(Now updated with this year's data)

How young and old were 2009's MLS teams? Rank refers to how the team did performance-wise this season.



Age Rank
1 LA 29.04 2
2 KC 28.58 13
3 CHV 28.22 6
4 HOU 28.13 3
5 SJ 28.10 14
6 CHI 27.94 5
7 COL 27.45 9
8 SEA 27.39 4
9 NY 27.29 15
10 DC 27.21 10
11 DAL 27.20 11
12 TOR 27.10 12
13 RSL 26.93 8
14 CLB 26.62 1
15 NE 26.49 7

The Galaxy were the league's oldest team by far, and 4th oldest team in league history (while the Wizards just missed the top ten). See below for a ranking of the top ten. How did they rank so high? They had a large number of over-30 contributors:

38-Sanneh
35-Berhalter, Lewis
34-Beckham
33-Kirovski, Klein
31-Kovalenko, Miglioranzi, Ricketts

Not to mention that Buddle/Donovan/Dunivant aren't young any more. Even though they started two rookies for most of the year, this core group of veterans saw that they finished easily on top of the age table (and nearly the real one as well).

KC was an easy second with five regular starters in their 30s: Hartman, Conrad, Hirsig, Lopez, and Wolff.

At 26.49, the Revolution were the youngest team in the league, but they weren't even close to making the top ten youngest teams list. They started two rookies and the two 20 year old Gambians, and only 422 minutes were played by guys from 27-30 years of age.

The Crew were the second youngest team for the second straight year, and they have two supporters shields to show for it.

Overall, the average age in 2009 was up. There's a very interesting pattern in the leaguewide average age chart below, check it out. In the near future, I'll look at the percentage of minutes played by teens and O-30 players for every team in league history. I've alluded to those stats a few times below, and I'd like to explore it further.


The rest of this post was originally published on March 9, 2009. I've updated the data where necessary.


Inspired by a story on Basketball Prospectus titled Age and Success in the NBA, I've gone ahead and figured out the ages for each Major League Soccer team. I did that by figuring out the exact age of each player at the midway point of the season (I used July 1st for each year), then multiplying by the number of minutes played. I then added the totals for each team, which were then divided by the entire team's number of minutes played.

The overall average for the entire history of MLS is 27.38 years. The yearly averages were in the upper 27's from 1996-2001, followed by a dropoff after contraction. This downward trend bottomed in 2004, and there's been an increase in each of the past five seasons. The drop off can be explained by the lack of foreign signings during the post-contraction years.

Here's the data in chart form:



I'm sure the most obvious question (especially if you read the linked article) is whether or not age has an impact on team performance in MLS. The data over the last 30 years in the NBA shows a good realationship between the two: the older a team is, the better it does. Unfortunately, there's nothing of that sort here. I only get a correlation of .11 for the MLS data (1996-2008) compared to .55 for the NBA.

This chart shows the data in MLS from 1996-2008:




I didn't notice anything for offense or defense either. The average of the MLS Cup winners (1996-2008) is 27.28, very close to that all time average listed above. The 20 best teams (PPG) in league history have an average age of 27.39, while the 20 worst are at 27.18 years (including two 2009 teams there). There may be a slight tendency for the really bad teams to be a bit younger. Although, the top ten youngest and oldest teams have (as a whole) done better than your average team.

Speaking of the youngest and oldest teams, that's something I was really interested to find out. So let's get to it.


Top Ten Oldest MLS Teams

Falling out of the top ten after the 2009 season is the 2003 KC Wizards, with 40 year old MVP Preki.

10) 1999 New England Revolution (28.73)

The Revs missed the playoffs for the third time in their first four seasons. Their teams had progressively gotten older each of those four seasons, culminating in this franchise high. With player-coach Walter Zenga's return in goal at age 39, and starting roles for John Harkes (32) and Dan Calichman (31), they certainly had experience.

9) 2008 Houston Dynamo (28.79)

It was another great year for Houston, but they disappointed in the playoffs. Were they a bit too old? 55% of their minutes were to players over the age of 30. That's the highest of any of the top ten, and probably any team in league history. They could've made a run for the top spot in 2009 if not for several injuries.

8) 2000 Columbus Crew (28.81)

The Crew got a little bit older in each of their first five seasons. This was the worst performing out of the five, too. This was the last starting role for guys like Robert Warzycha (36), Mark Dougherty (32), John DeBrito (31), and Ansil Elcock (31).

7) 1996 Tampa Bay Mutiny (28.84)

Supporters' Shield winners, featuring the relatively-young Carlos Valderrama (34). Who knew he would play another six seasons? They were beaten in the playoffs by the youngest team in the league, DC United.

6) 1998 Kansas City Wizards (28.90)

A last place finish for the oldest team in the league's oldest year. Preki (35) wasn't the team's oldest player, that honor went to Mo Johnston by two months.

5) 2000 Tampa Bay Mutiny (28.97)

This was the year that Mamadou Diallo (28) took the league by storm, for better or worse. In addition to El Pibe, they had a 35 year old Steve Trittschuh.

4) 2009 Los Angeles Galaxy (29.04)

Bruce Arena came in to right the ship, and he looked for veterans to do so. Mission accomplished.

3) 1999 Chicago Fire (29.25)

Decent team, but they couldn't match the success of year one. With six regulars over the age of 32, it's no surprise that they set the record for the oldest MLS lineup ever.

2) 2001 Miami Fusion (29.48)

Everybody fondly remembers this team, and why not? They were excellent, one of the best in league history. 53% of the minutes were from over 30's, including Preki (38) and Ian Bishop (36).

1) 2002 Colorado Rapids (29.56)

Is this the team you would've guessed as the oldest? Pretty decent team actually, making it to the final four. They're notable as Valderrama's last stop. That makes half the teams on this list featuring either him or Preki. In addition to him, at full health these Rapids also featured John Spencer up top, Mark Chung and Chris Henderson on the wings, Robin Fraser and Rick Titus on defense, and Scott Garlick in goal. All those players were over 30.


Top Ten Youngest MLS Teams

10) 2004 DC United (25.95)

MLS champs, with the league's youngest ever player Freddy Adu in his debut year. Certainly Peter Nowak was more willing to try younger players than his predecessor Ray Hudson.

9) 1999 San Jose Earthquakes (25.80)

The first year in MLS for championship mainstays Joe Cannon (24), Jimmy Conrad (22), and Richard Mulrooney (22). Also known as the team who's record looks the most inflated over what it actually was due to the shootout (19-13 vs 9-10-13).

8) 2003 Metrostars (25.80)

Bob Bradley's first year in charge certainly brought on a youth movement. See later in the coutndown further evidence of this. This team featured talented rookies Eddie Gaven (16), Mike Magee (18), and Ricardo Clark (20).

7) 2005 DC United (25.72)

A pretty good team, setting the stage for their back to back shield winners in 2006-07. They actually got younger after winning a championship. Upon further inspection, that doesn't seem to be too rare. But Nowak's first team was really young to begin with, so this is notable.

6) 2006 Columbus Crew (25.63)

Sigi Schmid's first year in charge, but the rebuilding project didn't take right away. Getting big minutes were Eddie Gaven (19), Chad Marshall (21), Jason Garey (21), and Brandon Moss (22). Two out of four ain't bad.

5) 2006 DC United (25.49)

Yup, it's another Nowak DC team. The third year only saw the team get even younger, as vets like Dema Kovalenko and Nick Rimando were replaced by younger options. Meanwhile, young players like Adu and Facundo Erpen got full seasons worth of action.

4) 2003 Chicago Fire (25.49)

Tons of youthful big names here: Mapp, Beasley, Ralph, Bocanegra. Chris Armas was the only player over the age of 30, which meant that only 7.4% of minutes were played by over 30 players. I believe that's a record.

3) 2004 Chicago Fire (25.44)

AKA the Fire's worst team ever. The inclusion here (over the 2003 team) is due to the injuries to Jesse Marsch and Ante Razov.

2) 2007 FC Dallas (25.43)

Took a step down from 2006, but were still decent under first year coach Steve Morrow. This team's inclusion surprised me a bit, because they had some big name veterans. But they also had a large number of young contributors. It seems like Arturo Alvarez and Kenny Cooper have been around for a long time, but they'll both only be 24 this coming season.

1) 2004 Metrostars (24.71)

Fitting that they're also the holders of the youngest MLS lineup ever. They're number one by a wide margin. Not only did they still have the 17 year old Gaven (who became a full time starter and Best XI member this season), 19 year old Magee, and 21 year old Clark, they added Joselito Vaca (21) and Jeff Parke (22) as starters. Despite the youth, they have may been more remembered for Amado Guevara's MVP season, Sergio Galvan Rey's debut and subsequent failure, or that thrilling 5-5 draw in San Jose.

Despite this, the 2005 Metros hold the record for biggest percentage of minutes played by teens at about 21%.


Average Ages Chart


1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
CHI xxx xxx 28.24 29.25 26.76 26.70 26.70 25.49 25.44 26.53 27.22 27.36 28.26 27.94
CHV xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx 26.58 26.94 26.96 26.88 28.22
CLB 27.28 27.49 27.88 28.06 28.81 28.07 26.59 26.90 27.03 27.15 25.63 27.10 26.82 26.62
COL 28.39 27.51 27.57 28.55 27.45 28.51 29.56 27.73 27.29 26.86 27.49 27.60 27.08 27.45
DAL 28.39 27.59 28.45 28.32 28.41 28.25 27.53 26.21 26.86 26.65 27.18 25.43 26.37 27.20
DC 26.33 27.22 26.90 27.32 27.01 25.99 26.32 26.35 25.95 25.72 25.49 27.16 27.75 27.21
HOU xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx 28.07 28.49 28.79 28.13
KC 27.57 28.50 28.90 28.29 28.30 27.65 28.55 28.55 27.21 27.91 27.16 27.07 27.66 28.58
LA 26.47 26.96 26.85 27.97 28.08 27.84 27.19 28.11 27.43 26.65 26.16 27.77 27.98 29.04
MIA xxx xxx 27.77 25.97 26.91 29.48 xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx
NE 26.70 27.72 27.84 28.73 27.30 27.18 27.06 27.13 26.65 26.28 27.04 27.40 27.14 26.49
NY 27.44 27.44 27.41 26.50 27.90 27.37 26.08 25.80 24.71 26.50 27.52 27.70 27.22 27.29
RSL xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx 26.94 28.09 26.78 26.87 26.80
SEA xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx 27.39
SJ 27.54 28.08 27.20 25.80 27.25 26.70 27.08 27.37 28.22 27.92 xxx xxx 28.19 28.10
TB 28.84 28.52 28.31 27.49 28.97 27.90 xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx
TOR xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx 26.57 28.15 27.10
TOTAL 27.50 27.70 27.78 27.69 27.76 27.64 27.27 26.97 26.68 26.81 27.00 27.18 27.51 27.57


Yearly Age Ranks Chart

(How teams ranked each year in terms of age. Ranked from oldest to youngest, so a one means they were the oldest team that season)


1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
CHI xxx xxx 4 1 12 11 7 10 9 9 5 6 2 6
CHV xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx 8 9 10 11 3
CLB 7 7 5 6 2 4 8 6 5 3 11 8 13 14
COL 2 6 8 3 7 2 1 3 3 5 4 4 10 7
DAL 3 5 2 4 3 3 3 8 6 7 6 13 14 11
DC 10 9 11 9 10 12 9 7 8 12 12 7 6 10
HOU xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx 2 1 1 4
KC 4 2 1 5 4 7 2 1 4 2 7 9 7 2
LA 9 10 12 7 5 6 4 2 2 6 10 2 5 1
MIA xxx xxx 7 11 11 1 xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx
NE 8 4 6 2 8 9 6 5 7 11 8 5 9 15
NY 6 8 9 10 6 8 10 9 10 10 3 3 8 9
RSL xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx 4 1 11 12 13
SEA xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx 8
SJ 5 3 10 12 9 10 5 4 1 1 xxx xxx 3 5
TB 1 1 3 8 1 5 xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx
TOR xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx 12 4 12

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Comments on "MLS Team Ages"

 

Blogger Stan said ... (5:30 PM, March 09, 2009) : 

If anyone wonders why the league average age plummeted from 2000 to 2004--I would have to dig up the pres reference, but the league slashed payrolls by a third during this period, as a cost-saving measure to go along with contraction.

The graph you see there may roughly correspond to MLS's real player compensation.

 

Anonymous Sounder at Heart said ... (9:04 PM, March 09, 2009) : 

One reason behind the lack of correlation may be because of the differences in peak performance on offense (with an odd double bump), defense (generally understood to be 29-32, but I can't confirm it yet) and Keepers (over 30).

With the three skill sets having different peaks a team without balance could still get Goal Differential and points on the table would have very different average ages than a balanced team.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:09 AM, March 10, 2009) : 

Another reason for the post-2000 age drop was the improvement of player development. Project-40's first good crop of talent arrived in 1998, and Bradenton had a terrific U-17 team in 1999, much of which fed into MLS. Next came the Developmental Player program, which afforded young players a chance to stick on a roster and fight for playing time.

Just to mention, I don't believe that the actual salary structure changed too much in that time period. What did change was a (massive) drop in transfer fees, and that meant there were fewer aging foreigners. Correspondingly, though, the salaries for first- and second-tier American players improved.

 

Anonymous pay per head service said ... (4:25 PM, January 26, 2013) : 

it is impressive how it has changed in the all those years to switch to younger players.

 

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