A radical proposal for Major League Soccer

MLS ‘Goals For’ Proposal

Proposal

Under the ‘goals for’ proposal, teams would receive bonus points based on how many goals they score over the course of a season. The proposed format would have the team that scores the most goals over the course of the regular season accumulate as many additional points as there are teams competing in the league. For example, in a league with 16 teams, the team that scores the most goals is rewarded with a 16 point bonus. The team that scores the second most goals will receive a 15 point bonus, third most goals a 14 point bonus, etc.

The goal of this plan is to cultivate a brand of soccer that rewards teams for attacking play. Looking at the playoff races season by season illustrates how the ‘goals for’ proposal would be good for the perception of the league, and will ultimately make every game more meaningful to players, coaches, and fans.

2009 Season

Had this proposal been enacted in previous seasons, it would have had a profound effect on the league. Under the current format, this is how teams finished in 2009.

Win Loss Tie GF GA GD Points
Columbus

13

7

10

41

31

10

49

LosAngeles

12

6

12

36

31

5

48

Houston

13

8

9

39

29

10

48

Seattle

12

7

11

38

29

9

47

Chicago

11

7

12

39

34

5

45

Chivas

13

11

6

34

31

3

45

NewEngland

11

10

9

33

37

-4

42

Salt Lake

11

12

7

43

35

8

40

Colorado

10

10

10

42

38

4

40

DC

9

8

13

43

44

-1

40

Dallas

11

13

6

50

47

3

39

Toronto

10

11

9

37

46

-9

39

KC

8

14

9

33

42

-9

33

San Jose

7

14

9

36

50

-14

30

New York

5

19

6

27

47

-20

21

Under this format, there are three teams, Colorado, DC, and Dallas who outscored playoff teams, but did not end up in the playoffs. In a system where the team that scored the most goals in a season was given bonus points, the playoff table would be altered. For example, if the team that scored the most goals was given a 15 point bonus, the second-highest scoring team was given a 14 point bonus, third-highest a 13 point bonus, etc. The table would look like this:

Win Loss Tie GF Points Bonus New Points
Columbus

13

7

10

41

49

11

60

Houston

13

8

9

39

48

10

58

Seattle

12

7

11

38

47

8

55

LosAngeles

12

6

12

36

48

6

54

Dallas

11

13

6

50

39

15

54

Salt Lake

11

12

7

43

40

14

54

Chicago

11

7

12

39

45

9

54

DC

9

8

13

43

40

13

53

Colorado

10

10

10

42

40

12

52

Chivas

13

11

6

34

45

4

49

Toronto

10

11

9

37

39

7

46

NewEngland

11

10

9

33

42

3

45

KC

8

14

9

33

33

2

35

San Jose

7

14

9

36

30

5

35

New York

5

19

6

27

31

1

32

*First tiebreaker is Wins

**Second tiebreaker is Goals For

Under this format, DC and Dallas make the playoffs, while New England and Chivas do not. Dallas benefits the most from this system, moving all the way into the 5th playoff seed. Another interesting team to look at in this format is Colorado. They are out of the playoffs in both scenarios, but under the new system they would have needed just one more goal to make the playoffs.

It would be interesting to imagine what the final games of the season would be like with teams knowing that goals scored are a major factor. In the ‘goals for’ proposal, the 4th and 9th place teams are separated by 2 points, and they all know that scoring goals is a major factor, regardless of whether they win or lose. This is what the standings would look like with 5 games left in the 2009 regular season.

Win Loss Tie GF GA GD Points Bonus New Points
Columbus

11

4

10

38

28

10

43

13

56

Colorado

10

8

7

39

31

8

37

14

51

Chicago

10

6

9

34

29

5

39

10

49

Houston

11

7

7

31

21

10

40

8

48

DC

8

5

12

38

36

2

36

12

48

Salt Lake

9

9

7

36

28

8

34

11

45

LosAngeles

9

5

11

31

29

2

38

7

45

NewEngland

10

8

7

31

35

-4

37

6

43

Toronto

9

9

7

33

36

-3

34

9

43

Seattle

9

6

10

31

24

7

37

5

42

Dallas

7

12

6

41

43

-2

27

15

42

Chivas

11

9

5

26

25

1

38

2

40

Kansas City

8

12

6

28

36

-8

30

3

33

San Jose

6

12

7

31

43

-12

25

4

29

New York

4

17

4

20

42

-22

16

1

17

Seattle and Dallas are the two teams that were not in the playoffs with 5 games left, and were able to work their way in. As shown, Dallas helped itself by winning 4 of its last 5 games, but winning those games under the current system did not get them into the playoffs. It was still too little, too late, and Dallas missed the playoffs by 1 point, even though they led the league in scoring throughout the entire season. Under the ‘goals for’ proposal, Dallas not only makes the playoffs, but is given the 5th seed. This demonstrates the balance of teams earning results, but earning added points for playing attacking soccer. Even though they scored a lot of goals, they still needed wins to get into the playoffs.

The other playoff team, Seattle, was out of the playoffs but ended up going 3-1-1 in their last five games. That record alone would have given them 52 points, and kept them out of the playoffs. But in the last 5 games, Seattle added to their goals scored bonus, giving them an extra 3 points. These points not only got Seattle a playoff spot, but a home playoff series, which is obviously a big factor for Seattle’s home fans.

2008 Season

The 2008 season is one of the most interesting, mainly because of the LA Galaxy. The table below shows how the teams finished under the current format.

Win Loss Tie GF GA GD Points
Columbus

17

7

6

50

36

14

57

Houston

13

5

12

45

32

13

51

Chicago

13

10

7

44

33

11

46

NewEngland

12

11

7

40

43

-3

43

Chivas

12

11

7

40

41

-1

43

Kansas City

11

10

9

37

39

-2

42

Salt Lake

10

10

10

40

39

1

40

New York

10

11

9

42

48

-6

39

Colorado

11

14

5

44

45

-1

38

DC

11

15

4

43

51

-8

37

Dallas

8

10

12

45

41

4

36

Toronto

9

13

8

34

43

-9

35

Los Angeles

8

13

9

55

62

-7

33

San Jose

8

13

9

32

38

-6

33

Los Angeles finished the season in 13th place, but at the same time scored more goals than any other team in the league. They would certainly benefit the most from the ‘goals for’ proposal, while Kansas City and Salt Lake City would be hurt the most. Below is the table under the ‘goals for’ proposal.

Win Loss Tie GF Points Bonus New Points
Columbus

17

7

6

50

57

13

70

Houston

13

5

12

45

51

12

63

Chicago

13

10

7

44

46

10

56

NewEngland

12

11

7

40

43

6

49

Chivas

12

11

7

40

43

5

48

Colorado

11

14

5

44

38

9

47

Los Angeles

8

13

9

55

33

14

47

Dallas

8

10

12

45

36

11

47

New York

10

11

9

42

39

7

46

DC

11

15

4

43

37

8

45

Kansas City

11

10

9

37

42

3

45

Salt Lake

10

10

10

40

40

4

44

Toronto

9

13

8

34

35

2

37

San Jose

8

13

9

32

33

1

34

Again, this proposal shows how the playoff races can become even tighter. Teams that are only a point away from the playoffs (New York, in this case) are in some cases only a goal away as well. Los Angeles becomes the big winner of the season, going from 13th place to a playoff team. This is a great reward to the Los Angeles fans, who lead the league in average attendance even with a subpar team. In this case, the fans certainly deserve to be rewarded with extra soccer.

On the other side, Salt Lake and Kansas City are two teams that are left out of the playoffs due to their lack of goals. At first glance this may seem unfair, but keep in mind that these teams were 3-4 points away from not being in the playoffs anyway. This again shows that the ‘goals for’ proposal will create more excitement and urgency for teams around the league, but will not drastically upset the importance of wins and losses. At the end of the day, wins are still the most valuable asset to a team, and scoring goals is an essential piece to winning. This is shown in the 2007 season.

2007 Season

The 2007 season would not have been drastically affected by the ‘goals for’ proposal. For the most part, the teams that won the most games were scoring the most goals, which as we have seen is not always true. Below is how the 2007 season finished under the current format.

Win Loss Tie GF GA GD Points
DC

16

7

7

56

34

22

55

Chivas

15

7

8

46

28

18

53

Houston

15

8

7

43

23

20

52

NewEngland

14

8

8

51

43

8

50

Dallas

13

12

5

37

44

-7

44

New York

12

11

7

47

45

2

43

Chicago

10

10

10

31

36

-5

40

Kansas City

11

12

7

45

45

0

40

Columbus

9

11

10

39

44

-5

37

Colorado

9

13

8

29

34

-5

35

Los Angeles

9

14

7

38

48

-10

34

Salt Lake

6

15

9

31

45

-14

27

Toronto

6

17

7

25

49

-24

25

The most interesting piece to note here is that 15 points separate the top and bottom playoff seeds. This shows there was less parity in 2007 than in other seasons. For example, in 2008 the top 8 teams were separated by only 8 points, which made the goal scoring bonus a lot more influential. The table below shows how the ‘goals for’ proposal affected the 2007 season.

Win Loss Tie GF Points Bonus New Points
DC

16

7

7

56

55

13

68

Chivas

15

7

8

46

53

10

63

NewEngland

14

8

8

51

50

12

62

Houston

15

8

7

43

52

8

60

New York

12

11

7

47

43

11

54

Dallas

13

12

5

37

44

5

49

Kansas City

11

12

7

45

40

9

49

Chicago

10

10

10

31

40

4

44

Columbus

9

11

10

39

37

7

44

Los Angeles

9

14

7

38

34

6

40

Colorado

9

13

8

29

35

2

37

Salt Lake

6

15

9

31

27

3

30

Toronto

6

17

7

25

25

1

26

The ’goals for’ proposal does not drastically affect the outcome of the 2007 season, but once again it is able to make a tighter playoff race. Although the playoff teams stay the same in both systems, Chicago and Columbus are now tied for the last playoff spot, instead of 3 points apart.

 

 


 

 

2006 Season

The 2006 season shows more movement in the standings than the 2007 season. What is interesting to note is that the top and bottom playoff teams are now separated by 16 points, one more point than 2007. Below are the standings.

Win Loss Tie GF GA GD Points
DC

15

7

10

52

38

14

55

Dallas

16

12

4

48

44

4

52

NewEngland

12

8

12

39

35

4

48

Chicago

13

11

8

43

41

2

47

Houston

11

8

13

44

40

4

46

Chivas

10

9

13

45

42

3

43

Colorado

11

13

8

36

49

-13

41

Los Angeles

11

15

6

37

37

0

39

Salt Lake

10

13

9

45

49

-4

39

New York

9

11

12

41

41

0

39

Kansas City

10

14

8

43

45

-2

38

Columbus

8

15

9

30

42

-12

33

In 2007, this lack of parity made it difficult for the ‘goals for’ proposal to play a significant role. However, the 2006 season shows the same lack of parity, but a different effect on the goals scored. Below are the standings under the ‘goals for’ proposal.

Win Loss Tie GF Points Bonus New Points
DC

15

7

10

52

55

12

67

Dallas

16

12

4

48

52

11

63

Chicago

13

11

8

43

47

7

54

Houston

11

8

13

44

46

8

54

Chivas

10

9

13

45

43

10

53

NewEngland

12

8

12

39

48

4

52

Salt Lake

10

13

9

45

39

9

48

Kansas City

10

14

8

43

38

6

44

New York

9

11

12

41

39

5

44

Colorado

11

13

8

36

41

2

43

Los Angeles

11

15

6

37

39

3

42

Columbus

8

15

9

30

33

1

34

Under the ‘goals for’ proposal, Colorado and Los Angeles fall out of the playoffs, while Kansas City and Salt Lake are now in. Colorado and Los Angeles, who barely made it into the playoffs under the current format, are penalized for not scoring enough goals. Meanwhile, Salt Lake and Kansas City are rewarded for their attacking play. The most important thing to notice here is under the current format, a team like Salt Lake ends the season tied with Los Angeles, and loses a playoff berth on a tiebreaker. Both teams finish the season under .500, and both teams have the same exact amount of points. That being equal, MLS sends a strong message to its fans and other leagues that attacking soccer is the priority. Meanwhile, similar to the 2007 season, the top teams in 2006 remain relatively unharmed by the ‘goals for’ proposal. Those teams are simply fighting for home field advantage, which is an exciting race in itself.

2005 Season

The 2005 season again shows how the ‘goals for’ proposal would impact the playoff race. Below are the standings under the current format.

Win Loss Tie GF GA GD Points
San Jose

18

4

10

53

31

22

64

NewEngland

17

7

8

55

37

18

59

DC

16

10

6

58

37

21

54

Chicago

15

13

4

49

50

-1

49

Dallas

13

10

9

52

44

8

48

New York

12

9

11

53

49

4

47

Colorado

13

13

6

40

37

3

45

Los Angeles

13

13

6

44

45

-1

45

Kansas City

11

9

12

52

44

8

45

Columbus

11

16

5

34

45

-11

38

Salt Lake

5

22

5

30

65

-35

20

Chivas

4

22

6

31

67

-36

18

Under the ‘goals for’ proposal, the top three teams and the bottom three teams do not move at all. However, there is movement in the middle of the table, which provides for more games with playoff intensity down the stretch. Below are the standings under the ‘goals for’ proposal.

Win Loss Tie GF Points Bonus New Points
San Jose

18

4

10

53

64

10

74

NewEngland

17

7

8

55

59

11

70

DC

16

10

6

58

54

12

66

Dallas

13

10

9

52

48

8

56

New York

12

9

11

53

47

9

56

Chicago

15

13

4

49

49

6

55

Kansas City

11

9

12

52

45

7

52

Los Angeles

13

13

6

44

45

5

50

Colorado

13

13

6

40

45

4

49

Columbus

11

16

5

34

38

3

41

Salt Lake

5

22

5

30

20

1

21

Chivas

4

22

6

31

18

2

20

Colorado falls out of the playoff picture here, while Kansas City moves into the 7th seed. Again, this can be seen as fair, considering that Kansas City also finished with a better overall winning percentage. The most important issue here is that Los Angeles and Colorado have the exact same record. In the current format, goal differential is placed ahead of goals scored. In the ‘goals for’ proposal, scoring goals is the priority, and Los Angeles would take the final playoff spot.

Conclusion

 

It is impossible to illustrate how this proposal would have truly affected the last five MLS seasons. Showing the standings with 5 games left (as shown in 2009) may provide some hypothesis for the impact of the ‘goals for’ proposal, but it is not possible to predict how teams would have adjusted knowing how important goals were. However, what is shown is that the ‘goals for’ proposal does create another variable in adding intensity to games. Ultimately, the proposal creates an additional avenue for teams to pursue a championship. At the same time, the proposal does not compromise the importance of winning games. The proposal will simply make every team think hard about how it manufactures goals, which will ultimately be a good thing for MLS as a league.

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One Response to A radical proposal for Major League Soccer

  1. Dex says:

    Not sure what to think about it. depends on why and how it’s done. I think the biggest reason to do something like this is player development. But then it would have to be done from youth teams up, not just MLS. Focus on that type of soccer will develop more creative and technically skilled players.

    Incidentally my country of origin, the Netherlands, has a very attacking philosophy, originating from Cruyff mostly. Most people in my country want to see attacking creative soccer, even if it’s less effective and at the possible cost of the result. So clubs in the Dutch league generally play attacking soccer. Teams that play defensive counter type football are soon frowned upon. Clubs are aware that supporters want to see an attractive and good game, a team that tries to win, not a team that tries not to loose. And i think that type of soccer attracts supporters attracts people to the stadiums. And I think that’s a major factor in the quality of our youth development aswell.

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