MLS Table Talk | The Playoff Qualification Death Match

It's looking increasingly like the battle lines have been drawn up for the playoff fight. While the Dynamo are fairly comfortable at the top, even with their recent struggles, and the Quakes and Bulls are already planning for 2010, we have a fairly solid block of eight clubs vying for seven playoff spots. Three clubs (KC, RSL, the Revs) are hovering around the margins, looking to pick off the sick and wounded in the playoff battle, and poor FC Dallas can't decide if they belong with this trio of scavengers or with the pair of lost causes at the foot of the table. The tight nature of the playoff race is illustrated by the cases of LA and Colorado. Last week, LA were in 9th, on the outside looking in. This week, they vault to the heady heights of 4th. In the reverse scenario, the Rapids were a fairly comfortable 6th, but saw a single loss drop them to the trailing 9th spot. Queue the bullet points!
  • The points per game table should give renewed hope to KC and the Revs, both sitting on games in hand that put them at 1.3 ppg, just 0.1 back of the final playoff contenders (TFC & Colorado). The rest of the playoff scrum sits on 1.5 or 1.6 ppg, while the Dynamo hold a solid lead on 1.8 ppg. RSL's 1.2 could use a little boosting if they want to be a contender, while FCD's tie-per-game (1.0 ppg) mark sees them closer to the cellar dwellers (Quakes at 0.8 and Red Bulls at 0.5) than the playoffs.
  • Goal difference is starting to stratify more clearly, with the top two (Houston and Seattle at +10) and bottom two (Quakes at -14, Bulls at -17) being the only double-digit posters. Most of the playoff pack (from Chicago in 3rd to Columbus in 7th) boast differentials of +3 or above with TFC's -2 being the only exception. The rest of the sides still in realistic playoff contention, save the Revs on -4, also claim positive goal differentials, while Dallas' -6 is an indication that maybe the ghost is ready to be given up.
  • DC United remain the top scoring side in the league on 1.6 goals per game, while the Bulls remain the only side that can't net at least once per game (0.8 gpg). The remainder of the league is packed into the 1.1-1.5 span, with sides near the top (Seattle, Chicago) generally outscoring those lower on the table. That said, the two LA sides sit 4th and 5th on 1.2 and 1.1 gpg respectively, and the league-leaders, Houston, only post a middle of the road 1.3 gpg (the league average is 1.28).
  • Of course, we'd have to balance that lack of scoring for Houston with their shockingly good 0.7 goals allowed per game mark, which sits in stark contrast to the Quakes on 1.9 apg. While defense seems to be a reasonable indicator of success, it's no guarantee, as the 10th and 11th place Wizards and RSL (on 1.1 and 1.2 apg respectively) demonstrate.
  • The scary #10. Why can't anybody crank the dial to "10" when it comes to point-nabbing results? The Quakes joined the Red Bulls in the "10 losses or more" brotherhood this week, but the Dynamo once again failed to post their 10th victory and the Galaxy, Crew, and DC United have all been hanging out on 9 draws for weeks now.
  • Mess in the middle. Take a look at the gainers/droppers (+/-) column up there. Looks a bit like a sandwich doesn't it? The top two and bottom six remain unchanged, while the middle seven all played musical chairs. Is it coincidence that these are the sides in the playoff qualification death match?


  1. Just came across this playoff table. This is exactly what I needed to see in front of me, making it easy on my mind to see where all the teams are placed without going through the pains taking task of working it out in my own head. :) Thanks and keep up the great work. MLS should be buying the rights from you to use this on

    Simon from Wisconsin

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Simon. I'm actually planning a few changes to the Table Talk column this off-season, but they should all be in the interest of making the "single table" even more useful from a statistical point of view.