Thursday, August 30, 2007

Yallop: Where Did It All Go Wrong?

By Tim Froh

Contributing Writer – Climbing the Ladder

After the San Jose Earthquakes won the MLS Cup in 2003, head coach Frank Yallop was the toast of the league. He had guided the club to its first playoff appearance since 1996 in his first season in 2001, leading them to a 2-1 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy. Two years later the team would once again be crowned league champions, its second title in only three years. Yallop’s MLS success won him a job as the head coach of the struggling Canadian National Team. Now with Los Angeles, nothing seems to be going right. The last thing on Yallop’s mind is winning MLS Cup. He’d be content if the Galaxy could simply win a game. In six short years, Yallop has gone from paragon to pariah. Where did it all go wrong?

The situation that Yallop inherited from former coach Steve Sampson initially seemed ideal. He was taking over a team that had just won the MLS Cup but was struggling mightily to find its footing the season after. With little pressure to succeed in 2006, Yallop guided the team to within points of a surprise playoff appearance. With an entire off-season ahead of him and a solid core of talent, the team seemed poised to improve in 2007. But then came David Beckham.

Shortly after Beckham’s arrival, the team traded two of its most talented young players, Herculez Gomez and defender Ugo Ihemelu to the Colorado Rapids in exchange for goalkeeper Joe Cannon. The move reunited Cannon with his former Earthquakes coach, and allowed the team to trade fan favorite Kevin Hartman to Kansas City (the trade sent LA a draft pick which they subsequently used to acquire forward Robbie Findley, who they then traded to Real Salt Lake). There’s no doubting Cannon’s talent and his usefulness to the Galaxy squad, but this kind of two-for-one trade only further depleted the Galaxy’s depth, a trend that has come up again and again with General Manager Alexi Lalas.

The team didn’t stop there. Later they would trade part of an allocation for forward Nate Jaqua (who they would again trade, sense a trend?). Early this season they traded two rookie talents, Robbie Findley and Nate Sturgis, for winger Chris Klein. Again, Yallop and Lalas traded two potentially useful players for one. Central defender Tyrone Marshall, a longtime Galaxy veteran, was also trade earlier this season. These trades are not part of a bigger plan, but part of a win-now philosophy. Decimated by injuries and lacking depth, this philosophy has come back to haunt the Galaxy in a very noticeable way.

The extent to which Alexi Lalas is responsible for these trades is debatable, but Yallop must take some responsibility. It was likely not Lalas’ decision to cut defensive midfielder Marcelo Saragosa, nor was it likely his decision to trade Todd Dunivant (a player that Yallop drafted while still coach of the Earthquakes) or to leave defensive midfielder Pablo Nagamura unprotected in the expansion draft. Yallop, in other words, is directly responsible for the team’s lack of midfield bite and defensive depth. In the process of shaping the roster according to his own vision, he failed to recognize and appreciate the talent that already existed. He didn’t cut dead weight, a luxury that he had while with San Jose (who were an utterly woeful team in 2000, nearly entirely bereft of talent), but rather he cut much-needed depth. If anything, the Beckham signing and the disastrous schedule it brought with it should have reinforced the team’s need for quality depth across the field.

The 2007 season has been a disastrous one for Yallop, but he is not entirely to blame. It is true that he has made some utterly confounding in-game decisions (his decision to leave David Beckham in last Thursday’s match against Chivas USA the most egregious), but who could have foreseen the signing of David Beckham in June 2006? Indeed, the Beckham signing has above all else had a profound effect, both positive and negative, on the Galaxy. Not only has Yallop wilted under the footballing and media spotlight brought on by Beckham’s arrival, but his players have as well. Last night’s Superliga final notwithstanding, few Galaxy players have responded well to the signing, despite the fact that Beckham has been utterly inspirational on the pitch.

Given a prime opportunity to excel under pressure, once again, Landon Donovan has wilted. While not a Landon basher, it is disconcerting to see how eagerly he handed over the captain’s armband to Beckham. He said: “For me, it's not as important to wear the armband. I'm going to play the same way and act the same way towards guys whether I have that or not.” His decision to give the armband to Beckham is not in question, but his motivation is. How can you trust a player who tells you that he plays the same way regardless of the armband? How can he motivate his teammates when he’s not leading by example on the pitch?

It’s ironic then that many have come out swinging at Yallop for his seeming inability to motivate his team. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that Beckham has become the team’s true motivator and on-field general. But it’s hard for me, as an Earthquakes fan, to stomach this argument when it was this same Frank Yallop who motivated his 2003 San Jose Earthquakes back from a 4-0 aggregate deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Galaxy in perhaps the greatest playoff game in MLS history. Yallop has never been a fiery man on the pitch, he often left those duties to assistant coach Dominic Kinnear (who now has relinquished those duties to assistant coach John Spencer). And who knows what Yallop’s current relationship is like with boss Alexi Lalas?

So where did things go all wrong? Certainly, there is no one factor that has led to Yallop’s decline. He is equally responsible for the team’s poor performances, both because of his player personnel moves as well as because of his inability to rise to the pressure of David Beckham’s arrival. However, his track record cannot be questioned. The man still won 2 MLS Cups in only three years (former Earthquakes GM Johnny Moore has often explained that both Yallop and Kinnear were responsible for the team’s success; Yallop was the prime architect, Kinnear his pupil). He has failed in Los Angeles and will soon be fired. But there is little doubt in my mind that Yallop will rebound, whether in a reunion with his former club or elsewhere.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Better Than Their Record?

We have a good idea of who the best and worst MLS teams in MLS history are. I've already gone over this subject in depth here, detailing the top ten in single and multiple seasons. However, that's only considering their regular season record. What I've never done before is to make a list of the top & bottom single season teams over all competitions. How would that change the standings?

I was thinking about this the other day as I watched the Los Angeles Galaxy get pounded again. They're a bad team, no doubt, but if you look at all of their games the story isn't quite so dire. They have a record of 3-10-5 in regular season play for a PPG of 0.78, on pace to be the 6th worst team in league history. Just horrible. But they went 2-1 in Open Cup play and are 3-1 in the Superliga (reminder: final tonight), so if you add that 5-2 record into their total, it becomes 8-12-5 over all competitions. The PPG is now 1.16 vs 0.78 in the regular season only, a huge difference.

The 2005 Galaxy were pretty much the same story, winning the double despite an average regular season record (partly explained by Donovan missing games). However, they went 7-0-1 in the Open Cup and playoffs:

Reg. Season 13 13 6 45 1.41
Overall 20 13 7 67 1.68

The 2005 Galaxy only improved the third most all time. So which teams have improved and decreased the most in MLS history? Obviously it's a lot more likely for a team to get better, because if you lose in the knockout competitions then you are done. Not to mention the Champions Cup. Let's take a look.

Most Improved Teams When Counting All Competitions

PPG Diff
1 2001 DC United 0.2973
2 1996 DC United 0.2736
3 2005 Los Angeles 0.2688
4 2001 New England 0.2188
5 2002 Columbus 0.2104
6 2003 Chicago 0.1807
7 2004 Chicago 0.1632
8 2006 Chicago 0.1628
9 2002 Los Angeles 0.1523
10 2004 Kansas City 0.1298

Interesting that 3/4 of Chicago's years under Dave Sarachan make this list.

There are three MLS Cup champions on this list. Those teams also made huge leaps in the overall table (see below). But the number one team here is actually one of the worst ever. They get credit for their participation in the Champions Cup and the Giants Cup, as well as their US Open Cup semifinal run.

Most Decreased Teams When Counting All Competitions

1 2001 Columbus -0.1550
2 2001 Dallas -0.1462
3 1996 Tampa Bay -0.1431
4 1997 Kansas City -0.1366
5 2001 Miami -0.1267
6 2001 Kansas City -0.1228
7 2000 Colorado -0.1215
8 2004 New York -0.1212
9 2005 San Jose -0.1111
10 2002 Colorado -0.1071

2001 and 2002 feature prominently here and on the previous list. That's because those two years had the shortest seasons, at only 28 games (actually 26 or 27 for 2001, due to 9/11). So they would be easier to affect.

The number one team here, the 2001 Crew, played only a 26 game regular season. They went 2-4-1 in other competitions, including the Giants Cup.

Several teams had had huge playoff collapses: TB/MIA/SJ, all Supporters Shield winners.

Best & Worst Single Season Teams Revisited

So if we were to look at the all time lists normally and under all competitions, how would things change?

The best teams:

Regular Season
All Competitions
1 1998 Los Angeles 1 1998 Los Angeles
2 2001 Miami 2 2002 Los Angeles
3 2005 San Jose 3 2003 Chicago
4 2001 Chicago 4 1998 DC United
5 1998 DC United 5 2001 Miami
6 1996 Tampa Bay 6 2000 Chicago
7 1999 DC United 7 1997 DC United
8 2005 New England 8 1998 Chicago
9 1997 DC United 9 2001 Chicago
10 2002 Los Angeles 10 2005 San Jose

Three changes in the top ten, all of newcomers Fire teams. The 2003 edition is now in third place all time, while the 2002 Galaxy move from tenth to second.

In all competitions, the most points all time would go to the 6th and 7th place teams at 84 (and also the most games at 44). The 2000 Fire's 26 wins are also a record.

The worst teams:

Regular Season
All Competitions
1 2001 Tampa Bay 1 2001 Tampa Bay
2 2005 Chivas USA 2 2005 Real Salt Lake
3 2005 Real Salt Lake 3 1999 New York
4 1999 New York 4 2005 Chivas USA
5 2003 Dallas 5 2003 Dallas
6 1999 Kansas City 6 1999 Kansas City
7 2001 Colorado 7 2001 Colorado
8 2000 San Jose 8 1999 Miami
9 2000 DC United 9 2000 San Jose
10 2001 New England 10 2000 DC United

Only one change here. Like I said above, obviously there's more movement among good teams.

2005 Chivas won their first Open Cup game which bumped them up a bit.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Guyana is the New St. Vincent

Over the summer, CONCACAF announced that the basic format of World Cup qualifying for South Africa 2010 would remain the same: 12 team semifinals and a 6 team final group (aka "the hex"). Last week, the details were released and there were a few minor changes in the early rounds.

In short, just like last time, the top 12 teams have been given byes to the last 24, where they will be drawn against the next 12 teams (13-24th best in the region) to play off for the 12 semifinal spots. The big news is that they used a new method of determining the top 12 teams.

Unfortunately, they've repeated the same problems from last time. More on that later.

Let's take a look at the what was wrong from 2006, one that was brought to my attention by Peter Goldstein of Planet World Cup in his columns. The top 12 teams in 2006 qualifying were the 12 teams from the semifinal round in 2002. St. Vincent received a bye instead of Cuba or Haiti, by all accounts much stronger teams. So when the final 24 teams played off, St. Vincent was virtually assured to advance, while Cuba/Haiti were screwed. Just look at the matchups:

(seeded teams on the left)

USA vs Grenada
El Salvador vs Bermuda
Jamaica vs Haiti
Panama vs St. Lucia
Costa Rica vs Cuba
Guatemala vs Surinam
Honduras vs Net. Antilles
Canada vs Belize
Mexico vs Dominica
Barbados vs St. Kitts
Trinidad vs Domincan Rep.
St. Vincent vs Nicaragua

Unless Cuba/Haiti were drawn against Barbados or St. Vincent, they were going to lose. But the worst part is how St. Vincent benefited from an incredibly easy 2002 qualifying draw, which enabled them to get to the semifinals twice in a row.

I'll explain further. Through 2002, CONCACAF had each team play preliminary rounds on the basis of location. So you had Central American and Caribbean teams playing amongst their regional rivals (which is how the Gold Cup qualifying is done now). Then they had an "interzone playoff" for the final couple of spots, with Canada coming into the mix there.

For the Caribbean qualifying, teams were placed into 3 brackets with one team advancing to the semifinal round in each. The finals of the three brackets were as follows:

Barbados vs Cuba
St. Vincent vs Antigua
Trinidad vs Haiti

Not exactly balanced, as the two weakest teams were likely St. Vincent and their opponent. Jamaica had been given a bye to the semifinals by virtue of their 1998 World Cup appearance. The three losers here had to play Canada, Guatemala, and Honduras, and they all lost.

So St. Vincent only had to beat the US Virgin Islands, St. Kitts, and Antigua, while Haiti lost against Trinidad and Honduras. Because of that easy draw in 2002, they were then seeded for 2006. St. Vincent is one of the top 15 teams in CONCACAF, but it was wrong to let them benefit unfairly like that.

Unfortunately, this system still remains in place for 2010. What they've done this time though, is to take the teams and seed them based on the FIFA rankings for May 2007. This results in three changes in the 12 seeded teams for 2010: Cuba/Guyana/Haiti are in for El Salvador/St. Kitts/St. Vincent. While it's nice to see Cuba/Haiti finally get their due (and a virtual lock on advancement), Guyana seeded is a disaster way bigger than St. Vincent ever could be.

Everyone knows El Salvador is much, much better than Guyana, who lost to Grenada 8-1 on aggregate in 2006 qualifying. Why are they ranked so highly?

In the past year (this cycle) Guyana has a 8-1-1 record:

Win: St. Lucia (x2), Barbados, Surinam, Netherlands Antilles, Grenada, Antigua, Dominican Republic

Draw: Cuba

Loss: St. Vincent

They also beat Guadeloupe in the Digicel Cup. They have a 4-0-1 record from the 2006 qualifiers until a year ago, so overall they're 12-1-2 since the beatdown from Grenada, clearly better than the other Caribbean minnows. They should be given their population. However, they still haven't done anything to prove that they're better than El Salvador, or St. Vincent.

Top players appear to be Randolph Jerome (North East Stars, TRI) and Nigel Codrington (Cleveland City Stars, USA), both attackers. Codrington was named to the All League 2nd team in the USL-2 and appears to be their current best player.

El Salvador, meanwhile is 4-10-2 this cycle and 2-8-2 before the May rankings were released. Of course, the teams they've played are a lot better than Guyana: Honduras, Panama, Bolivia, Belize, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Haiti, Trinidad, USA, Paraguay. Up through May, they only had wins against Belize and Nicaragua, so I can understand their horrible FIFA rank and their lack of a seed. In a way, this is due to the new FIFA ranking systems which now is less complex and heavily weights things towards the past year (50% vs 22%). But there's no way that El Salvador does any worse than 8-1-1 with Guyana's schedule.

CONCACAF needs a better system (but that's another post).

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Tim Froh Column Archive

Past editions of Tim Froh's weekly column here on Climbing the Ladder:

1 2006-07-26 Arena, Gansler, and the Future of MLS
2 2006-08-03 Raising the Quality of Play
3 2006-08-10 The Sound and the Fury
4 2006-08-17 Arena Mouths Off
5 2006-08-24 Jeff's Bradley New Editor
6 2006-08-31 News and Notes
7 2006-09-07 I'm So Bored With the U.S.A.
8 2006-09-14 Bruce Arena - Man, Myth, Legend
9 2006-09-21 The Saga of Yanks Abroad
10 2006-10-05 Q & A
11 2006-10-12 Rapid Decline
12 2007-06-27 U.S. - Argentina Preview and Copa America Thoughts
13 2007-07-05 Copa America: A Learning Experience for Everyone
14 2007-07-12 It's a Hard Knock Life (For Them)
15 2007-07-19 The Complexities of Losing
16 2007-07-26 Step Two: Proving His Worth To The Fans
17 2007-08-02 Freddy Makes the Jump
18 2007-08-09 State of Youth Development
19 2007-08-16 Putting the "Super" in Superliga
20 2007-08-23 Ann Killion is Wrong

OTFATT 2007 - Update #7

4/19 90 players remaining
5/6 57 players remaining
5/21 41 players remaining
6/17 19 players remaining
7/3 12 players remaining
8/19 9 players remaining

Big 24 hours for the OTFATT competition (where we keep track of those MLS players to have played every minute of the season) in midweek.

On Wednesday, Gonzalo Segares was sent off after receiving two yellow cards at Kansas City, although I believe he would've been suspended after the first one. He was the last Chicago Fire player left.

Then on Thursday, Ty Harden was out of the lineup for Los Angeles due to an injury, making way for Kyle Veris. He would've been benched way sooner if they had a suitable replacement, which Veris showed he was not. Harden was the last rookie. Unfortunately there's not a favorable comparison with 2006's last surviving rookie, Jonathan Bornstein.

In other news, there are no more true defenders left! That's pretty shocking. You have two guys remaining who have played decent minutes there (Brennan & Klein), but they're just there out of necessity. No defenders survived last year as well.

Meanwhile, Matt Reis is going for his second straight year of playing every minute.

Remaining Candidates (7)

COL Coundoul
KC Hartman, Zavagnin
LA Cannon, Klein
NE Reis
TOR Brennan

Order of teams being totally wiped out, with last surviving player:

1. NY-Todd Dunivant (5/24)
2. HOU-Eddie Robinson (6/10)
3. RSL-Chris Klein (6/24)
4. DC-Bryan Namoff (6/24)
5. DAL-Drew Moor (6/30)
6. CHV-Brad Guzan (6/30)
7. CLB-Marcos Gonzalez (7/14)
8. CHI-Gonzalo Segares (8/19)

Friday, August 24, 2007

2010 Seeding Formula: August 2007 update

The new FIFA rankings are out for August, so it's once again time to look ahead to the next World Cup. This will start to get really exciting with the December edition, after the qualifying draws are done in late November. That's also the first month of the three that get locked into place for the rankings half of the formula.

Top 7 teams seeded

(South Africa automatically seeded as hosts)

1 Brazil 61.3 29.3 32
2 Germany 58.3 30.3 28
3 Italy 57.3 27.3 30
4 France 52.3 23.3 29
5 Argentina 52.0 21.0 31
6 Spain 50.3 25.3 25
7 England 47.3 26.3 21

8 Portugal 45.3 22.3 23
9 Mexico 41.3 19.3 22
10 Netherlands 40.7 14.7 26
11 Croatia 36.0 9.0 27
12 Ukraine 34.7 16.7 18
13 Czech 30.0 6.0 24
14 USA 29.7 13.7 16
15 Paraguay 22.2 11.7 10.5
16 Japan 20.3 13.3 7
16 Serbia 20.3 5.3 15
18 Romania 20.0 0.0 20
18 Cameroon 20.0 3.0 17
20 Korea 19.7 15.7 4
21 Greece 19.0 0.0 19
22 Cote d'Ivoire 18.0 6.0 12
23 Uruguay 16.7 2.7 14
23 Tunisia 16.7 8.7 8
25 Australia 16.3 11.3 5
26 Nigeria 15.7 2.7 13
27 Iran 11.3 5.3 6
28 Saudi Arabia 11.0 8.0 3
29 Colombia 10.5 0.0 10.5
30 Costa Rica 10.3 8.3 2
31 Morocco 9.0 0.0 9
32 South Africa 4.0 3.0 1

Tunisia and Saudi Arabia are in the formula this month in place of Ghana and Uzbekistan.

Portugal's slight drop in the FIFA rankings causes them to drop to 8th. Their draw against Armenia can't help for next month.

Teams like Croatia and Czech Republic may be high in the formula, but they have no real shot due to their poor World Cup performance. They're about as high as they can get currently.

For an FAQ on these rankings and links to previous editions, see this link.

Probably the biggest thing that can affect this rankings is the UEFA pots for the November draw. For instance, Spain right now would be in the second pot which means that they could easily draw Italy, England, France, or Germany. UEFA qualifying involves lots of good teams and not a lot of games. For more on the pots as they stand now, click here.

Mock Draw

Pot 1: Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Spain
Pot 2: Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine
Pot 3: Cameroon, Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Paraguay, Tunisia, Uruguay
Pot 4: Australia, Costa Rica, Iran, Japan, Korea Republic, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, USA

Group A: South Africa, Ukraine, Colombia, USA
Group B: Spain, Czech Republic, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia
Group C: Germany, Serbia, Morocco, Costa Rica
Group D: Argentina, Netherlands, Cameroon, Japan
Group E: England, Croatia, Uruguay, Mexico
Group F: Italy, Greece, Cote d'Ivoire, Australia
Group G: France, Romania, Paraguay, Korea
Group H: Brazil, Portugal, Tunisia, Iran

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ann Killion is Wrong

By Tim Froh
Contributing Writer - Climbing the Ladder

For those of you are not San Jose Earthquakes fans or Bay Area residents, it’s doubtful that you’ve ever picked up a copy of the San Jose Mercury News. If you had though, you’d be surprised not only by the lack of quality writing (for an area that prides itself on its liberality and intelligence, the Bay Area is also home to two of the worst metropolitan newspapers in the country), but by the overtly negative tone with which the newspaper approaches every issue, sports or otherwise. Naturally, this negativity extends to soccer. For a sport whose fans are already plagued by hyper overreaction, self-doubt, and a supreme inferiority complex, you can only imagine the reaction among local fans when the Mercury News takes yet another piss on the world’s game, on the home team, or on MLS.

I was surprised then when former Earthquakes defender Ann Killion wrote a scathing, indeed vitriolic, piece on Beckham’s impact on MLS. From this writer’s view, it would appear that Killion hasn’t watched an MLS game since the Earthquakes left in 2005, if she had even ever watched one at all. To attack MLS now, on the eve of the Earthquakes’ return to San Jose, and as owner Lew Wolff’s stadium plans move closer and closer to fruition, seems suspicious. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but if I were, I’d argue that the Mercury News is actively trying to bury Wolff’s development plans by engaging their soccer-neutral and soccer-hating readership.

Since I’m not a conspiracy theorist though, I will say only that the attacks are in remarkably bad taste. Instead of celebrating the return of a major sporting franchise to the city of San Jose, the Mercury News feels the need to attack the team, its sport, and its league at every turn. Why? The Earthquakes brought the city two championships, players devoted to community-building, and joy to thousands of local fans. Now they’ll be bringing the city a world-class sporting complex, national exposure in one of the world’s fastest growing leagues, and most important of all, they’ll be bringing the world’s game back to the Bay Area.

Killion’s article, as linked above, demonstrates everything that is wrong about the Mercury News. Her facts are blatantly wrong: she writes that “Wednesday he started for England in its friendly against Germany - his first cap,” apparently having failed to see Beckham’s previous two caps since 2006. She questions Beckham’s motivations for coming to the States. Apparently, she also missed Beckham’s bone-crunching, yellow-card inducing tackle against D.C. United. That was not the kind of play one expects from someone who has come to America to further his wife’s career. Can we not believe Beckham when he says he came here to grow the game? Do we have to question his every motive? Can we not let his play on the field speak for itself?

To damper the enthusiasm for last Saturday’s Galaxy match against the New York Red Bulls, played in front of 66,237 people, is understandable. Many of those 66,237 people were doubtless there to catch a glimpse of David Beckham in action, and many of those same people will probably not return to the Meadowlands any time soon. And the play on the field, while entertaining, left much to be desired, particularly defensively. But to argue that it will have no impact is insane. Not only was the crowd actually enthralled by the game, but they witnessed how good some of the players in MLS actually are: Clint Mathis (yes, Clint Mathis), Juan Pablo Angel, Donovan, Altidore, Beckham, Joe Cannon. These aren’t the “fading stars” that Killion describes. Apparently, Lothar Mattheus and Luis Hernandez left a bad taste in Ms. Killion’s mouth. She could have talked about the influx of younger foreign talent: Toja, Emilio, Conde, but she doesn’t.

But Killion truly loses it when she writes that, “Beckham isn't making Major League Soccer any better.” If there was any doubt that she hasn’t watched Beckham play in MLS, here is the definitive proof. Beckham’s presence on the field has instantly made the Galaxy a better team. His vision, his service, and most importantly, his leadership, have had a profound effect on his club. Landon Donovan, no longer saddled with the pressure of the captaincy, is free to play off of Beckham as he sees fit. The younger, inexperienced players are responding and feeding off of Beckham’s play and leadership. Would Killion argue that Angel has not been a positive influence on seventeen year-old Josmer Altidore? Is Schelotto not a positive influence on Grabavoy, Gaven, and Szetela?

There are no good responses to these questions. Killion is so blinded by her own negativity about a league she doesn’t even watch that it would be impossible for her to provide a satisfactory response of any kind. It’s remarkable when a small-town paper from tiny Salinas, California beats the local newspaper to a major Earthquakes story. I hope by now though, you all realize that it shouldn’t be surprising.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Israel Sesay Lottery

With the news that there will be another weighted lottery in MLS, I thought I'd go over the protocol and the odds for this one. You remember the weighted lottery, right? Over the years it's decided the fates of players like Robbie Rogers, Danny Szetela, Alex Yi, D.J. Countess, Nelson Akwari, Kyle Beckerman, and Gus Kartes. Yes, feel free to cue up the jokes about it being rigged in favor of the Metrostars. Not that it's really helped them.

Why are there weighted lotteries in the first place? According the to MLS rules, they're for:

1. Generation adidas players signed after the MLS SuperDraft
2. Draft eligible players to whom an MLS contract was offered but who failed to sign with the League prior to the Draft.

Seems like they're one of the few outdated procedures still around. I wouldn't expect them to be held a decade from now. Having said that, let's go on the actual rules. Here's an older article from the Szetela signing (which was probably the most high profile lottery), explaining how the odds are determined. Basically, you take the total points over the past 32 regular season games (one season's worth) and give bonuses to teams who did well in the playoffs. The teams with the lowest totals have the best odds of winning. Now the current rules say to use the 32 games, even though it used to be 30 back when the season was that long. So I wonder if they've changed that back to 30, just like they changed the season length as well? That would make more sense, but I'll use 32 games here because that's what the rules state and note any changes below.

According to Goff (see the first link), Toronto will not participate and Columbus can't because they already won one this year (Rogers). So with 11 teams, these are the rankings:

Points Bonus Total
1 RSL 35 0 35
2 COL 34 4 38
3 LA 41 0 41
4 KC 46 0 46
5 DC 44 4 48
6 CHI 48 2 50
7 NY 48 2 50
8 DAL 49 2 51
9 CHV 49 2 51
10 HOU 48 8 56
11 NE 59 6 65

The two ties are broken by goal differential. I can't give exact odds because it appears they're determined by position, not points, and the example for Szetela shows ten teams. However, they will probably be very similar to that. So RSL will probably have around a 25% chance, and Colorado a 20% chance, and so on. Probably a 70% chance it's one of the first four teams.

If the drawing isn't until after Wednesday or Saturday, then these rankings could slightly change to the new results. The teams from 5-9 are packed very tightly so one result could make a huge difference. However, by the actual time of the draw MLS will probably release the odds, so this is just to get an early look at it.

Changes with using 30 games

If only the past 30 games are used instead of 32, then the following changes occur:

32 games 30 games
11 NE NE

MLS Overall Positions Table

Everybody can remember whether or not their MLS team had a good or bad season in any given year. Although, with the MLS system set up the way it is, it's hard to know exactly how good sometimes. That's because of the playoffs, first of all, but also because of the conference set up that's been around since the league started. So while people may remember the seed their team had in the playoffs, it's harder to remember exactly where in the overall stand they finished. That's where this table comes in handy. Oh, and there's also the fact that MLS changes draft positions based on playoff performance.

This is a table of where every MLS team finished in the overall league standings in each season. Ties were broken by the league's current rules, in which head to head is the first tiebreaker and goal differential is the second. As always, from 1996-9 shootouts are counted as draws.

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

Top Half/Bottom Half Breakdown

Top Bottom PCT Top
1 HOU 1 0 100.0%
2 CHI 7 2 77.8%
3 LA 8 3 72.7%
4 TB 4 2 66.7%
5 DAL 7 4 63.6%
5 DC 7 4 63.6%
7 CHV 1 1 50.0%
7 SJ 5 5 50.0%
9 CLB 4 7 36.4%
9 COL 4 7 36.4%
9 KC 4 7 36.4%
9 NE 4 7 36.4%
9 NY 4 7 36.4%
14 MIA 1 3 25.0%
15 RSL 0 2 0.0%
15 TOR 0 0 0.0%

Most years in a row in the top half:

7 years, LA 1996-2002

Most years in a row in the bottom half:

6 years, NE 1996-2001

Hypothetical Superliga Qualifications

The new Superliga competition will be filled with the top four MLS teams starting next year with the second edition. If it had been around since MLS started, how many times would each team have qualified?

Top 4's
1 CHI 7
1 DC 7
1 LA 7
4 KC 4
4 SJ 4
6 CLB 3
6 DAL 3
6 NE 3
6 TB 3
10 COL 1
10 MIA 1
10 NY 1
13 CHV 0
13 HOU 0
13 RSL 0
13 TOR 0

Hypothetical First Relegation

If finishing in the bottom three resulted in relegation, when would each team have suffered it for the first time?

COL 1996
NE 1996
NY 1996
SJ 1997
KC 1998
MIA 1998
CLB 2000
DC 2000
TB 2001
DAL 2003
LA 2003
CHI 2004
CHV 2005
RSL 2005
HOU xxx
TOR xxx

MLS Cup Ranking Breakdown

Lists the overall rankings of the finalists with winners on the left. To see a ranking of the MLS Cup champions by PPG, click here. Despite being a 4 seed, the 2004 DC United team was the worst champion in league history in PPG.

1996 DC 3 vs 2 LA
1997 DC 1 vs 7 COL
1998 CHI 3 vs 2 DC
1999 DC 1 vs 2 LA
2000 KC 1 vs 2 CHI
2001 SJ 5 vs 3 LA
2002 LA 1 vs 5 NE
2003 SJ 2 vs 1 CHI
2004 DC 4 vs 2 KC
2005 LA 7 vs 2 NE
2006 HOU 5 vs 3 NE

I know somebody will probably ask me this. Why is LA listed as the 7th best team for the 2005 season, when the standings clearly show 7 teams ahead of them? For the MLS seeding, LA loses the tiebreaker on goal differential to Colorado making them the 4th seed in the West, and the 8th best playoff team out of 8. However, in the overall standings there was a three-way tie for 7th place between COL, KC, and LA. The Galaxy win that three-way tiebreaker, although they would've (and did) lose the tiebreaker just with the Rapids.

Here's a table of the head to head results:

COL xxx 1-1-0 2-2-0 3-3-0
KC 1-1-0 xxx 0-1-1 1-2-1
LA 2-2-0 1-0-1 xxx 3-2-1

So the Galaxy win that. COL and KC must then be separated (once a three-way tie is broken, you go back to the first tiebreaker with the two remaining teams). KC then wins the second tiebreaker vs COL, goal differential, which means that the Rapids were 9th in the overall table despite being the 7th best playoff team. Got it?