Saturday, March 8, 2014

Quick! MLS Eastern Conf Final Table Prediction

The Major League Soccer season is here already so here's my look at where teams in the Eastern Conference might finish based on projected player minutes, goals and team carryover.

Projected Pts : TEAM
67 : Sporting Kansas City
53 : Houston Dynamo
52 : Chicago Fire
51 : DC United
47 : NY Red Bulls
46 : Columbus Crew
44 : Impact Montreal
42 : Toronto FC
42 : New England Revs
42 : Philadelphia Union

The way I approached it was to start with minutes and then from there use players historical goal scoring rates (if available). While there is definitely some dark arts involved in estimating minutes for players, it's not just a blind guess. Putting this together I found that 8 of the 10 East teams are bringing back greater than 75% of possible MLS minutes in a 34 game regular season (there is even a healthy 146 of the 279 players in East registering MLS minutes in previous two years).

For the new guys I made projections based on groups, like; 1st year MLS college player, starting international signing, roster signing (in the 18), non-college youth signing, etc. From there I made general estimations based on position, expected minutes and goals. It is also based it off of my observations of the league since 2011.

There is also a tricky third group that players like Dom Dwyer fall into which is guys that have played in the league but will be getting significantly more minutes.

Here is what I'm projecting for goals for:
53 : TFC
52 : DCU
50 : SKC
47 : NY
46 : MTL
46 : HOU
46 : CHI
43 : CLB
43 : NER
40 : PHI


Once I got minutes and goals down looked at goal to point values for each team over the last two years. Goal value here is how many points each goal is worth to a team or Points per Goal (league average is 1.05 pts earned per goal scored). I like pts earned per goal because it takes in to account goals against (defense) and it is simple.

Pts Per Goal : Team (pts, goals last 2 yrs)
1.36 : SKC (121,89)
1.17 : HOU (104,89)
1.14 : CHI (106,93)
1.08 : CLB (93,86)
1.04 : PHL (82,79)
1.01 : NY (116,115)
0.99 : DCU (74,75)
0.98 : NER (86,88)
0.96 : MTL (91,95)
0.79 : TFC (52,66)

Now that I had what a goal is worth to each team I multiplied times my goal projection to get a points projection at the top of the post.


They range you see on the chart from each team is based on returning MLS Minutes (carryover). The idea behind that is teams that bring players back or build rosters with experienced MLS players tend to be more successful (and predictable).

I kept it simple so, for example; I'm estimating that 83% of Dynamo minutes this year will be played by former Dynamo / MLS players. What this means is that 17% is all new (that's about average). I just added and subtracted that percentage from my expected pts to get the range.

The reason the Crew has such a wide range is because so many of the 33660 possible minutes will be played but new-to-MLS players (32% projection, even greater than Toronto! but then again, who knows what the heck their roster will look like by year end).


Because of the structure of MLS the goal of each team is to really just finish in the top five. Looking at the chart I see that Sporting KC, Houston, Chicago and DC United are likely participants based of this model.

DC not being a surprise because they are stocked with MLS players. In a strange way they have out Bezbatchenko-ed Toronto's new mastermind Tim Bezbatchenko.


Again, this is just putting a little bit of something behind a prediction than just going off, well... nothing. Running up and down the rosters player by player and looking at what they've done the last couple years is very informative. Brushing up on how well teams have done over the past few years is also good for me.

With MLS roster rules the way they are the starting point for these teams might look very much different in just two months. Throw in a World Cup right around the time teams are finding stride and injuries to key players and things go sideways.

This makes me wonder why I do this! But it's fun and also need to look back at after the year is done and match up some of the expectations.

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