What Best Predicts a First Round MLS Playoff Winner?
|Can you name one thing that all four MLS playoff quarterfinal winners had in common this past season?|
They all played fewer games than the teams that they defeated:
Once again, the curse of the CONCACAF Champions League comes into play. Only one MLS team which has made the group stage has won a playoff series (Houston 2009) in six tries. This year, Columbus, Real Salt Lake, and Seattle all are now included in that 1-5 record.
I want to talk a bit more about what are the best predictors of a team advancing. I looked at all 32 quarterfinal matchups since the current two-leg aggregate format has been in place (2003), and I compared each team in a variety of statistics. It turns out that the best predictor of the ones I looked at is actually fewer games played, just beating out goal difference.
All records used were regular season only, and teams who didn't have a 2 or 3 year record, I used the years they had. For results from 1996-9 (such as with the coach records), shootouts were counted as draws. PPG was used for all comparisons. Momentum was a comparison of the final 5 regular season games. For this table, each "even" listing is counted like it's usually done in sports: half a win and half a loss.
If you have any other ideas to look at, please comment below.