Now that we've more or less reached the halfway point in the 2012 season, it's time to start looking at the playoff odds generated by our season simulation. As a reminder, I simulate the remainder of the MLS season 10,000 times based on a team's home and away goal scoring results, weighted for recent games. Compared with just projecting out based on PPG, this takes better account of strength of schedule, home/away differential, and team changes that affect more recent results (such as injuries and new signings).
Here's the table of average league position, average points, percent chance of making the playoffs, percent chance of being in the top 3 in a conference (and thus avoiding the play-in round), percent chance of winning the Supporters Shield, percent chance of winning the MLS Cup. I've also added the average number of points needed to make the playoffs and this season I've broken it down by conference, since there are no wild cards anymore.
|Avg Pos||Avg Points||Playoff %||Top 3 %||Supporters
|MLS Cup %|
|Real Salt Lake||5.2||55.8||98.4||81.7||4.6||12.0|
|Avg Pts for Playoffs (W)||46.3|
|Avg Pts for Playoffs (E)||49.0|
A few things stand out in our first run of 2012. First, it looks like the dominance of the West over the East may be over. Remember when Houston moving to the Eastern Conference looked like a good idea for playoff reasons? In this projection, they just miss the playoffs despite having more points than Colorado, who make it in as the final West team. Similarly, Seattle is projected to get fewer points than Columbus, but has nearly double the chance to make it into the top 3. In fact, we project an Eastern Conference team to need almost 3 more points to make it into the playoffs than a West team.
From the Sounders' perspective, it looks like they need to increase their performances enough to make up a 5 point gap to have a good chance to make the Top 3 and avoid an extra playoff round. Still, even with their 9 game winless streak they have over an 80% chance to make the playoffs, thanks in large part to a lack of competition in the West. For them to miss the postseason, you'd need Colorado plus one of Chivas, Portland, and the Galaxy to make it in, and all three of those teams currently have a negative goal differential.
And as we've seen in MLS over the last few years, the trick to winning a championship is making the playoffs and then going on a hot streak.