Moving Beyond Playoff Odds to Championship Odds

Regular readers of the site will know that this year I setup a software simulation of the MLS season in order to get a better understanding of the likely course of the season — in particular, the Sounders's chances of making the playoffs. Details here.

But now that the Sounders' playoff chances have officially become 100%, that aspect of the simulation has become less interesting (although it may interest you to know that the City Wizards still have a 0.3% chance of making the playoffs at the expense of the Rapids). So this weekend I extended it out to handle the MLS playoffs, according to the MLS' arcane rules of a first round home-and-home series, followed by a semifinal on home ground for the higher seeded team, followed by a final on neutral ground.

With as much parity as exists in MLS and the nature of short series, you would expect the championship odds to hover pretty close to 12.5%, which is what it would be if every round were just a coinflip. Home advantage obviously gives some benefit to the higher seeded teams in the conference finals, but the other two rounds are effectively neutral.

Here are the results of the first run with championship odds included:

  Avg Pos Avg Pts Playoff % MLS Cup %
Galaxy 1.0484 59.0918 1.0 0.1516
RSL 2.2471 54.6824 1.0 0.1529
FC Dallas 3.5688 52.3005 1.0 0.1545
Red Bulls 4.0234 51.4759 1.0 0.1491
Crew 5.4884 49.1548 1.0 0.0888
Earthquakes 5.8915 48.026 1.0 0.1033
Sounders FC 5.9014 48.2828 1.0 0.1204
Rapids 7.8336 44.7351 0.9974 0.0791
Wizards 9.7984 36.7373 0.0026 3.0E-4
Fire 10.0084 36.4266 0.0 0.0
Toronto FC 11.0361 33.9686 0.0 0.0
Dynamo 11.9995 32.3587 0.0 0.0
Chivas 12.9869 31.462 0.0 0.0
Union 13.6027 30.2028 0.0 0.0
Revolution 14.5831 28.0563 0.0 0.0
DC United 15.9823 23.2804 0.0 0.0

A few things to notice here. First, the Galaxy are almost certain to win the Supporters Shield. Strangely, they have the same two remaining opponents as RSL (Colorado and FC Dallas), but LA has both games at home and a 4 point lead in the standings. Second, the MLS Cup odds do in fact hover around the low teens as we predicted. We have the Sounders with a 12% chance, which is 5th best. And we have FC Dallas as the favored team to win the Cup, probably on the strength of their ability to never lose and their good results away from home. And how far have the Crew fallen? Despite only a few weeks ago being the dominant team in the East and contending for the Supporters Shield, they now have fallen to second in the East and have the 2nd worst chance of winning the Cup, ahead of only Colorado, who haven't secured their playoff position yet.

We've also been wondering whether — given the domination of West over East and the perverse method by which wild card teams are divided into conferences — it might to the advantage of a team to wind up in 7th or 8th seed rather than 5th, since that would lead to an easier route to the final through the Eastern Conference. To look into that, I pulled out the Sounders' results by final seed, and this is what we get:

Final Seed Occurrence Cup %
4 10.4% 10.8%
5 19.7% 10.5%
6 29.2% 12.4%
7 33.2% 14.7%
8 0.4% 11.8%

Notice that the Sounders' chances of winning the Cup go up significantly at the 6th and 7th seeds, where they'd necessarily go through the Eastern Conference. It's something Sigi might want to keep in mind when drawing up the Chivas and Houston lineups.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Sounder At Heart

You must be a member of Sounder At Heart to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Sounder At Heart. You should read them.

Join Sounder At Heart

You must be a member of Sounder At Heart to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Sounder At Heart. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.