With a rash of Covid-19 caused cancellations this week, MLS now faces the undeniable prospect of having more games to make up than dates on which to play them. That has raised the reality that points per game will have to be used to help determine the final standings. How, exactly, it will be used remains an open question.
“Whether that’s one factor or the controlling factor I don’t know,” Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey told media on Wednesday. “These are unprecedented times. Either way, we’ll be flexible. That’s what this time calls for.”
The only other time a MLS season ended with teams having played a different number of games was 2001 when the last few weeks were cancelled due to the 9/11 attacks, leaving four of the 12 teams with one more game played than the others. As it turned out, though, only two teams were close enough in the standings for that to even matter, and in that case their playoff seeding was determined by head-to-head competition.
As things stand today, teams have played anywhere from 13-18 games.
If points per game were the primary metric to determine standings, the standings outside fo the top three spots in each conference would be dramatically affected with teams moving as many as five spots up or down. The Rapids, for instance, would shoot up to fifth from 10th, which would leave them out of the playoffs.
If PPG were only to be used as the primary tiebreaker, however, only two teams would be currently affected with the Chicago Fire leapfrogging Atlanta United into the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Although not an issue as things currently stand, the Sounders are one of the teams likely to have at least one game missing from their total as there’s virtually no chance of Wednesday’s match with the Rapids being rescheduled. Real Salt Lake, LAFC, the LA Galaxy and Sporting KC are also unlikely to have previously scheduled games against the Rapids played.