Playoffs

Why the new MLS Playoff format doesn't create a more meaningful regular season by Jared Young

Major League Soccer has updated their playoff format for 2019 to a March Madness style single elimination tournament that will take roughly a month play out. The prior competition used a combination of single elimination and home and away ties over a month and a half period, and had long breaks in the action. The one clear benefit of this change is the shortened duration of the tournament. Avoiding the November international window will create a compact and uninterrupted tournament that should improve the momentum of the story lines that emerge.

The new format is also supposed to benefit the higher seeds, as the single elimination games will give advantage to the home teams, versus the old method of home and away legs for each team. This seemingly makes regular season games more important. More Victory! [Insert scratching record sound here]. These types of simplifying statements make my geek antenna start to hone in on theoretical galaxies of mathematics. Sadly, the only off switch I have for my antenna is my keypad and a Google docs session. So let’s dig in and deconstruct this new tournament bracket and see who benefits and who does not.

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Playoff Seeding Probabilities Model by Matthias Kullowatz

Starting yesterday, you will find playoff seeding probabilities in our web app. We show the probability that each team finishes in each playoff seeding position in its conference, as well as the Supporters’ Shield probabilities for all teams.

What is this based on? Well, it’s a two-part process. First, we built a model capable of predicting the probabilities of future game outcomes based on team performance to date. Then we set up a simulation to randomly determine outcomes for all the remaining games this season, with probabilities derived from that predictive model. For each of 1,000 simulated seasons, we tallied each team’s final points, wins, and goals scored and allowed, and seeded the teams in each conference. Then we figured out what proportion of those 1,000 seasons each team finished in each place.

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Playoff Probabilities 2017 by Kevin Minkus

Today we're happy to debut our playoff probabilities and seeding probabilities for 2017! It will also show up as an option in the upper right corner of ASA until the end of the season.

As in our 2016 iteration, playoff probabilities come from a combination of where teams are now in the tables, what their remaining schedule is, and how good our model thinks they are. The remaining games of the 2017 season were simulated 10,000 times based on win-loss-draw predictions for each game. The probabilities and averages given below are calculated from those simulations.

You'll notice that we're missing a Supporter's Shield column this year - that's because in all 10,000 of our simulations Toronto won it. To reiterate just how great Toronto's season is going, on the final weekend of the season last year we still had a 35.7% chance that Colorado would win the Shield.

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Playoff Preview: Toronto FC v Philadelphia Union by Coleman Larned

Toronto FC and Philadelphia Union enter the playoffs in undesirable form and have experienced opposite trajectories in the regular season.

After a stale first half of the season, TFC has regained talented players from injury (welcome back, Jozy & Giovinco!) and have lost only three times since mid-season. This form tailed off as they closed out conceding six goals in three games. 

The Union began their campaign proving most people wrong by winning with an up-tempo, athletic, well disciplined style. But the wheels fell off around mid-season and the Union are historically bad for a playoff team.

More after the jump.

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