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Peak Age for Goalscoring in MLS

So in efforts to get a better idea of the talent level in MLS and reasonable expectations for player development I thought to look into peak age. Peak age I am first aware of from baseball, where Bill James said that peak performance was most likely at age 26-28, rather than 28-32 as the traditionalists state. Later research puts the three year window at 27-29. This is basically the point where an average player of a decent career length should be expected to have their best performance.

MLS sadly does not have the powerful Lehman Database, but Climbing the Ladder has done some great work compiling MLS statistics and so this is where I will have to start. In this case with a top 10 list of goal scoring by age. This gives a decent sample of 249 players scattered over ages 15-42 scoring between 1 and 27 goals.

 Goalscoring Average in MLS

To the baseball fan there is an oddity in the graph, but it looks like in MLS there is a double-bubble for peak performance. One is at age 22-24, and the other is from age 26 to 29. This is likely due to MLS status as a sell-on league, and if one looks at the numbers put up by the younger bump they are gentleman who generally went on to Europe (Stern John), whereas the 26-29 segment is made up mainly of Americans playing here rather than overseas (Roy Lassiter being the best example).

This can tell the MLS fan that it might be best to have the scoring duo of their club be made up of one guy on his way up in his career and one that has attempted the move, or who has remained committed to performing in Major League Soccer. This would enable a sell-on to secure future talent, while having one player committed to the future here in the US and Canada. Red Bull tried this with Altidore (19) and Angel (32), and this year attempt continue with Oduro (23) or Kandji (23) and Angel.

An example would be last year with the LA Galaxy's offense powered by Donovan and Buddle took a different route with two players both in the latter peak period. This will not help their financial status, but it did lead to a high powered offense with two players in the top 10 for scoring.

Here in Seattle the duo up top is the young (21) Fredy Montero and prime (27) Nate Jaqua. The tail end of the latter period generally extends to 32, and so the "age" of Freddie Ljungberg is not the issue, but as always it is just about his health.

Average performance from the provided list for the top 3 Sounders on offense
Age 21 - 10.2
Age 27 - 14.1
Age 31 - 12.6

Of course these are averages, and from an incomplete sample set. I hope to be taking a further look into aging patterns in offensive talent with a deeper look at more complete data. The advantage of my staying at home sick today, is this initial snapshot.

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