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Should MLS have total wins over goal scored as tiebreaker?

Oct 23, 2013, 12:45 PM EDT

MLS Cup trophy

For fans of MLS, dust your rulebook out and add another change to it.

During the 2103 season, the league reminded everyone on Tuesday that a new rule will now be in effect for tiebreakers.

Last season total goals scored was the tiebreaker when two teams were level on points, but now it’s total wins.

And for those eagle-eyed MLS aficionados out there, you would have realized the new “total wins” ruling was how the Seattle Sounders clinched their playoff berth last week.

MLS executive vice president for competition, technical and game operations Nelson Rodriguez fills us in.

“The object of the game is to win, whether at home or on the road,” Rodriguez said. “The competition committee felt it was important to reward those teams who as a collective whole have won more games than their opposing teams.”

So, how did we all feel about this? In most other leagues across the world, the first tiebreaker is goal differential, followed by goals for but obviously MLS is trying to put a slightly different spin on things. And I like it. Rodriguez and the other execs. are correct, why should teams that haven’t won as many games as another side, but have a slightly better goal difference due to hammering some lowly squad be rewarded?

They shouldn’t. I agree that teams who win the most games should be given the edge because if LA keep beating Chivas USA 5-0, like they did recently, or other strugglers then that’s not much of an achievement if they keep drawing with Real Salt Lake or Seattle and other teams at the top of the league. Goals for and goal differnetial favors the bigger teams who can turn on the style and are loaded offensively, so even if they settle for ties against compeitors and pummel the lesser sides, they will gain an advantage,

Listing “total wins” is something I really enjoy about MLS, and the forthright way in which to promote attacking, open soccer across the league should be applauded. The powers that be got this one right, and how often do you hear anybody saying that sincerely?

For a full list of tiebreakers going into the final weekend, Simon Borg from gives us the details:

1. Most Wins
2. Goals For
3. Goal Differential
4. Fewest Disciplinary Points
5. Road Goals
6. Road Goal Differential
7. Home Goals
8. Home Goal Differential
9. Coin Toss (2 teams) or Drawing of Lots (3 or more)

  1. jdfsquared - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    I completely, 100% agree with this rule. As Rodriguez said, the object of the game is to win, or if you’re in a tight match on the road, to get a point. If the object were to score as many goals as possible, it’d be a different game.

  2. mlsconvert88888 - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    Sorry Joe, but I disagree about this rule. I agree that teams should be rewarded for winning the most games though. What they need is a system where winning a game gets you three times the amount of points as a draw, and losing gets you nothing.
    Whats’ that you say? They already do that? Awesome.
    Facetiousness aside, it should be goal differential, no bones about it. You’re point that some teams inflate their GD by pounding on weaker teams isn’t a good point at all, because if two teams have the same amount of points, the one that’s able to win their games convincingly over the one that just squeaked by, probably should be the one taking the tie-breaker. Issues with the unbalanced schedule aside, teams (in the same conference at least) get the same chances to inflate their score by beating on the weaker teams.

    Also, it seems silly that over the last three years there’s been a different tie breaker each year. I heard someone say once that MLS changed the tie-breaker rule last year, mid year, to get LA in the play-offs, but that’s just hearsay for all I know.

    • jerichowhiskey - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:40 PM

      It is not that cut and dry when there can be teams such Portland that have many of their points due to tying games. As it stands this season, RBNY has three more wins than Portland who have FIFTEEN ties which currently leads the league this season. In essence, it would practically state tying is just as important as winning, if it stays with goal differentials. So no, it’s not as simple as 3 points for a win and a point for a draw.

      I would not mind at all to see this rule enacted in other leagues.

      • lunasceiling - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:50 PM

        “…it [goal differential] would practically state tying is just as important as winning…?

        Except it doesn’t state that at all. Quite the opposite, as a draw doesn’t help your goal differential at all. Goal differential still rewards winning…it just also additionally re3wards winning big. The current “most wins” isn’t equitable because of the asymmetric schedule. Teams play other teams in their own conference more, so a good team in a weaker conference has the advantage. That advantage still exists with goal differential (more opportunity to really pile on the goals against weak teams), but I think the effect is lessened.

        The real problem is the asymmetric schedule, really. Even it out, so that every team plays every other team the same number of times, and a lot of the problems with whatever tiebreaker is chosen go away.

        Mind you, this is from a fan who thinks the entire playoff system is undesirable and prefers the EPL model of the championship going to the team topping the table for the season, with one or two big tournaments taking the place of a season-ending playoff. So sue me…I’m a traditionalist! =P

      • mlsconvert88888 - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:52 PM

        Actually it is that simple.
        With the current points system, if team A and team B are tied on points, and team A has more wins, for every extra win team A has that means they had two extra loses also. So if team A has 3 more wins, that means they also have 6 more loses than team B.
        Does anybody really think that makes team A a better team? At the risk of sounding like a Eurosnob; Every other league in the world would disagree that most wins is the best tie-breaker.

  3. hildezero - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    “During the 2103 season, the league reminded everyone on Tuesday that a new rule will now be in effect for tiebreakers.”

    Woah! Am I dreaming? O_o Am I in a Back To The Future situation? Can any of you weird looking people out there tell me if MLS is the best soccer league in the world now? I come in peace, by the way…

  4. djjeffhall - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    In the EPL each team plays home and away. Each team plays another equal numbers of times. Goal Differential makes sense rewarding teams that score in a game where scoring is not an easy thing.

    In MLS, with a smaller league and no home/away configuration wins makes more sense.

  5. Jackson Scofield - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    Wouldn’t it suck to miss the playoffs on a coin toss? Highly doubt that situation will ever arise anyway.

    • bostonredsoccer - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:50 PM

      It wasn’t that long ago that FIFA decided tied matches with a coin toss after ET. The PK shootout didn’t come into effect until 1970.

  6. danielofthedale - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:55 PM

    It comes down to do you want to reward winning or reward not losing?
    Team A has a record of 15-0-15 45pts GD 0
    Team B has a record of 10-15-5 45 pts GD +5

    I would rather have Team A be the champion. No one wakes up on game day thinking man I hope my team draws today, they wake thinking man I hope my team wins today.

    • mlsconvert88888 - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:36 PM

      I see your point, and you’ve really summed up the conundrum in your first line, but if you were betting on those teams with a tie being a push, Team B would be making you money, whereas Team A is just breaking even (actually probably losing money to the house rake)

  7. geojock - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    I dont know if it is the best measuring stick for who should be ahead, but I like it because it encourages teams to go for the win. Discourages the bunkering road tactics that can ruin the enjoyment of a game.

  8. tylerbetts - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    If two teams are tied on points, I’d STRONGLY prefer if we broke the tie by looking at head-to-head results of those teams. If Team A had one win and one draw against Team B, and Team A and Team B are even on points, Team A should be ranked ahead of Team B. I don’t really care about total wins or goal difference against the rest of the league, unless all things are equal after considering head-to-head results.

    • Matthew - Oct 23, 2013 at 7:23 PM

      I agree; if two teams are tied, whoever has the better head-to-head record should get the higher seed. Only after H-to-H should we then go to total wins or goal differential.

  9. wynswrld - Oct 23, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    How do tiebreakers 7 and 8 ever come into play? If you’re tied on goals for, and tied on road goals, aren’t you by definition tied on home goals?

  10. journeyman22 - Oct 24, 2013 at 8:07 AM

    I don’t like that “Goals For” is still the 2nd tiebreaker. The problem is that you’ve essentially told teams that one type of win is more valuable than another. Good defense and good goal tending have less value in MLS than scoring plenty of goals. It sounds designed to bring in casual American fans, who love offense. Sure, I get it. But a defensive battle can be pretty intense, and I’d always argue that a 1-0 match (or dare I say, 0-0) is a lot more exciting than a 5-2 match. Soccer probably has more close nailbiters than any other sport, and that’s partly because it’s a low-scoring game.

  11. braxtonrob - Oct 24, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    Neither, nor any other on the list.
    It should be decided by head-to-head results, first.

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