HAVING a bet on the MLS Play-Offs? Make sure you read Will Dyer's (@w2Dyer) key stats and trends to follow.
The regular season is over but we’ve hardly time to catch our breath as the Play-Offs start on Wednesday night. ‘Decision Day’ churned out 9/10 Over 2.5 games and a bunch of 2-1 and 3-1 results so I hope somebody made it pay.
Commiserations to my pal Tom who was a Houston goal away from a 9,700/1 correct score 4-fold! Even after all my Correct Score preachings I still miss the boat!
So, welcome to the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Play-Offs! This year we have 12 teams up from 10 in the last three years. Just like the English Football League third hosts sixth and fourth hosts fifth in the Conference Quarter Finals this week and that throws up some real mouth-watering ties including the All-Canadian derby; Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC, and the classic match-up of Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy.
Columbus, Vancouver, Dallas and New York Red Bulls are all rewarded with a bye to the Conference Semi-Finals after finishing in the top two of their respective divisions. The Conference Finals and Semi-Finals are two-legged affairs. As automatic qualifiers, the aforesaid teams also get to host the Semi-Final second leg.
The top seed plays the lowest remaining seed whilst the second seed plays the next lowest. If Toronto were to beat Montreal and New England beat DC in the Quarters then NYRB would get to host Toronto as they finished sixth below Revs in fifth. Before that though we get some good ole’ fashion knock out football in the Quarter Finals.
Where Have The Winners Come From?
Who’s going to win the 20th renewal of the MLS Championship match then? I thought I’d delve into the history books to see if we can get a few pointers. MLS has changed a lot over the years, I mean back in 2002 you couldn't draw a game; instead it went to ‘overtime’!
I’ve eliminated anything prior to 2002 from this analysis because there were also three divisions for a couple of years and plenty of different teams and structures.
So, onto the Conference comparisons, recent MLS Cup winners have come from the Western Conference thanks to:
LA (2014), LA (2012), LA (2011), Rapids (2010), Real (2009), Houston (2007), Houston (2006), LA (2005), Houston (2003) and LA (2002)
Eastern Conference champions obliged on these occasions:
Sporting (2013), Columbus (2008) and DC (2004).
So as you can see just three of the last 13 MLS Cup winners have come from the Eastern Conference and that Western dominance still rings true in the present day with the West winning the majority of West vs East clashes and hauling 1.42 points per game compared to the East’s 1.36 in this year’s regular season.
Now for a Final Standings analysis. This ought to be taken with a pinch of salt but there are some pretty strong trends around Play-Offs and where the winners of them have originated from in the regular season. The Football League is similar in that respect. Recent MLS Cup winners have come from the following final places:
1st – LA (2011), Columbus (2008), Houston (2003), LA (2002)
2nd – LA (2014), Sporting (2013), Houston (2007), Houston (2006), DC (2004),
3rd – None
4th – LA (2012), LA (2005)
5th – Rapids (2010), Real (2009)
Sixth placed sides only qualified for the first time this year so we have no history to go by with them. It is pretty clear that finishing 1st and 2nd is a major advantage and that the quality of those sides usually shines through. Nine of the last 13 MLS Cup winners came from 1st or 2nd. Whilst it’s interesting that no 3rd placed side has won the competition in that period.
Is Home Advantage Important?
Home advantage is big in Major League Soccer, home teams won 53.8% of games this regular season which is a good deal more than the English divisions have been for years, I believe. It’s evenly spread between the Western and Eastern Conferences too as 92 of 170 games went to hosts in the West and 91 of 170 in the East.
Hosting the second leg has been a major advantage in competitions like the Champions League for many years. And indeed hosts of tournaments have done very well in world football throughout history so let’s take a look at the history of home teams in the MLS Cup Play-Offs.
2014 – W8 D5 L2
2013 – W9 D4 L2
2012 – W7 D3 L5
2011 – W8 D0 L5
2010 – W5 D2 L4
2009 – W4 D6 L1
2008 – W4 D4 L3
2007 – W7 D3 L1
2006 – W6 D1 L4
2005 – W4 D5 L2
2004 – W7 D2 L2
2003 – W4 D4 L3
2002 – W10 D3 L4
That gives home teams in the MLS Cup Play-Offs a combined record of W83 D42 L38 which is a win percentage of 50.9%; only a shade below the regular season stats. If history is anything to go by we should be looking to support home teams and teams from the Western Conference.
Good luck with whatever bets you have. I will be posting tips for every game and trying to watch as much as I can. My rough guidelines are to oppose Eastern Conference sides, back home teams, back home teams in-play in games that go to extra-time and to avoid short prices on goals-based bets.