Presenting: The Watchability Rankings! / by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

I’ve been saying I’m going to do these for a few weeks and I keep seeing others post their respective scores and it’s finally enough to make me get off my butt and post mine. For those that didn't realize I’ve been working on these scores off and on since 2015.

This is just a break down of how the scores are calculated, how and why each category was included, and a rough look at how the teams stack up at this point in the season. I’ll have a follow up post on this weekend's game coming up.


This isn’t really overly complex. I used seven different categories and used a simple mean aggregation to create a ranking for each of those categories with a cumulative score for each team. The most difficult process was deciding upon which categories to include for aesthetics. Through feedback and counsel I came to the following:

PPG: Points per game - Bottomline: good teams present interesting storylines and narratives by competing for trophies and playoff placement. Bad teams are usually much less fun or interesting and generally are just bad.

PlayerxG: Player Expected Goals - I looked at how frequently a team had a player who had more than 0.30 expected goals from open play in a single game. This is basically do you have a quality attack? A team with a player or two who can consistently create dangerous opportunities is exciting.

SH-Even: Total Shots, in even game states - This isn’t just how many shots a team puts up but how many shots happen in even game states. How open are the games they play in general are they going after the game or are they more reclusive?

CR/TB: Cross-to-Through Ball ratio - Through balls are generally the best thing in soccer but next to goals they’re also the most infrequent. They general lead to high scoring chances. Opposed to crosses which are low leverage passes that lead to mediocre opportunities.

Fouls: Fouls are the worst. Both the form the perspective of the disruption of a games rhythm and also the gaming of the referee. This category is cumulatively fouls committed and suffered--teams that have player's who are constantly trying to game the system aren’t fun either.

PpDFA: Passes against per defensive action - Passing is a neutral event in a soccer game. More or less doesn’t make a game more or less interesting.What does increase interest is whether or not those passes are made under duress or are challenged in some way. A team with a tendency to press leads to turn overs and a transitions.

Now you may wonder what a defensive action may be defined as here. Quite simply it’s blocks, challenges, interceptions and tackles. I do not include fouls because... well, as I mentioned above this is about aesthetics and not about measuring performances or tactical decisions. Fouls generally drag down the game and ruin open play opportunities.

Now, This is quite literally passes against per defensive action. Where StatsBomb and Opta usually calculate PpDFA within upper 40% of the field, I’m opening it up to include the whole field.

Dribbles: 1v1 skillful moments are exciting and teams that have player's who are just going to try stuff are at the very core what we all want to watch.

Team Rankings

Team PPG Player-xG SH-Even CR/TB ratio Fouls PpDFA Dribbles Rank
Atlanta United 2.0 1.2 11.0 8.0 21.9 9.5 18.1 104
Chicago 1.0 0.5 11.9 18.6 20.6 11.0 16.8 49
Colorado 0.9 0.6 12.0 29.3 27.1 12.4 14.4 50
Columbus 1.6 0.8 11.4 21.2 21.9 11.4 15.9 62
DC United 1.0 0.7 7.5 11.7 23.8 12.1 17.2 56
FC Dallas 1.9 0.8 11.3 8.7 21.2 11.1 21.4 90
Houston 1.2 1.5 11.5 17.0 23.0 11.9 21.3 88
Kansas City 1.6 0.7 13.8 22.1 22.1 9.5 19.8 93
L.A. Galaxy 1.5 1.0 11.8 18.7 22.5 10.8 15.7 77
Los Angeles FC 1.6 1.2 11.1 5.9 22.9 9.4 23.0 123
Minnesota United 1.2 0.9 11.4 7.5 23.2 9.6 17.8 96
Montreal 1.2 0.5 10.3 10.5 23.3 11.0 24.2 80
New England 1.3 0.6 12.1 16.8 26.2 10.0 21.3 103
New York 2.0 1.0 9.1 8.9 22.8 9.0 17.2 103
New York City FC 1.9 1.0 11.8 14.4 24.1 8.6 19.2 122
Orlando City 1.0 0.7 9.7 17.9 23.9 9.9 22.0 83
Philadelphia 1.2 0.6 14.1 31.4 22.5 11.7 22.0 69
Portland 1.9 0.7 14.4 10.9 22.4 11.5 19.1 95
Salt Lake 1.5 0.5 11.7 14.6 22.8 9.8 17.0 75
San Jose 0.7 0.9 13.6 28.9 25.8 10.6 17.8 82
Seattle 1.3 0.5 14.1 21.8 23.3 10.7 14.9 73
Toronto 1.1 1.1 8.4 12.2 19.5 12.0 23.4 70
Vancouver 1.3 0.9 12.0 27.3 23.3 12.1 21.0 81

Acknowledgement: First and foremost big thanks to all the people that have provided feedback in creating this score. The folks in our ASA Nerd League (Mike, Phil, Justin, Drew, Sean, Dave, Anna, Eric, Jacob, Matt, Aaron and of course my podcast host Ian) all have provided input on different aspects of the game which they aesthetically enjoy. Also those who provided feedback on twitter Dummy Run, Steven Fenn, Carson Cistulli and many others. I appreciate just having some small tips and the insight of what others are working on or value. It’s helpful.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, please understand that this is mostly catered to what I and many of my peers enjoy. We may and probably do have different tastes than you. These aren’t going to be perfect and there most certainly will be quibles to be had here and there. My ideal way to watch a game may not be your ideal way to watch a game. That’s okay.

This also isn’t saying that your team is good or bad. While you could read some performance into these metrics the general takeaway for this is more about how does a team look while playing regardless of if they win or lose.