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Why 4th is SO much better than 5th in MLS standings

Oct 1, 2012, 9:38 AM EDT

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Pay special attention to this while examining the on-going playoff race, especially as it concerns the tightly packed East:

Clubs and supporters have recognized all year that a new playoff format made a top-three finish highly preferable to a fourth- or fifth-place finish. Those bottom finishers among the five play an extra match – or as my NBC colleague Brian Dunseth put it the other night during the important Eastern Conference contest in Kansas City, “It puts one more match between you and MLS Cup.”

So the math is pretty simple: the higher finish the better, clearly – but be sure to avoid those last two spots at all costs.

Well, allow me to throw one more wrinkle in this playoff crinkle: Finishing fourth is highly preferable to finishing fifth.

Why? If your club is forced to deal with that mid-week, winner-take-all one-gamer, the new “wildcard” playoff match in each conference, far, far better to host than to travel. (The fourth place side hosts the match.)

(MORE: Who has the easiest schedule remaining in the East?)

The regular season concludes with three matches on Sunday, Oct. 28. Wild-card matches (4th place vs. 5th place) will be played on the following Wednesday (Oct. 31) or Thursday (Nov. 1).

The conference semifinal first leg matches will begin that Saturday (Nov. 3) or and that Sunday (Nov. 4).

So, consider that as you look at he current Eastern Conference standings:

source:

  1. tylerbetts - Oct 1, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the home team go 1-1 in the WC round last year? Columbus lost in Denver, but Red Bull won in Dallas.

    To me, it kind of depends on who the teams are. Obviously, Houston is a much better team at home than away – they want to be at #4. I’m not convinced it matters for DC, and I think Columbus only matter in so much that they want to avoid playing in Houston. Looking back on last year, the Rapids were a much better team at home than away (I think they only lost twice at home all season, and to the two best teams in the leage), while Dallas didn’t have a huge home field advantage over the course of the season.

    • joeyt360 - Oct 1, 2012 at 5:57 PM

      On average, home teams win about 70% of the time that there is a winner.

      And DC has one of the biggest gaps in home vs road performance in the league.

  2. Steve Davis - Oct 1, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    Yeah, for sure. As you say, some teams are better at exploited home field advantage. But I know of ZERO teams that wouldn’t prefer to play at home. And there are travel concerns, too; far better to be at home and have less airport-bus-hotel wear and tear.

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