Coming off a 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake in their Leagues Cup opener, the Seattle Sounders’ chances of advancement were always going to be tough. Now, we know exactly how tough they will be.
Monterrey’s 3-0 win over RSL on Wednesday means the Sounders will effectively have to at least equal that in order to move on. The good news — if you choose to look at it that way — is the Sounders have some reasonably recent history of pulling off the necessary result and are well-positioned to advance in the admittedly unlikely scenario that they beat Monterrey by at least three goals on Sunday. Allow me to explain:
Leagues Cup tiebreakers
Before we get into the scenarios, let’s review the actual tiebreaker rules since the only way for the Sounders to advance is if they win, which would leave all three teams tied on points and force these to come into play:
- Points obtained in all group matches;
- Direct head-to-head match result between the tied clubs (for clarity, a win in penalty kicks is a win for purposes of this tiebreaker);
- Better goal differential between goals scored and goals conceded during the group stage;
- Greater number of goals scored during the group stage;
- Fewer number of goals conceded during the group stage;
- Clubs fair play table
- First yellow card: –1 point
- Second yellow card (indirect red card): –3 points (The first yellow card will not be considered)
- Direct red card: –3 points
- Yellow card followed by a direct red card: –4 points;
7. A draw organized by the organizing committee.
If the Sounders win by less than three goals...
While a win of any sort would provide some measure of satisfaction and bring the Sounders level on points (3) with both Monterrey and RSL, they’d fail to advance if they win by one or two goals. With head-to-head no longer being considered in a three-way tie since all the teams have beaten one another once (apropos of nothing, I’m struggling to come up with a scenario only two teams can finish tied on points in a three-team group where there are no ties), the next tiebreaker is goal-difference. RSL are already locked in at 0, while Monterrey is at +3 and the Sounders are at -3.
If the Sounders beat Monterrey 3-0...
In this scenario, all three teams in the Sounders’ Leagues Cup group would be tied on points (3), goal-differential (0), goals scored (3) and goals allowed (3). That means we’d go to fair-play points to determine the winner and the Sounders are actually well-positioned here, while RSL could be in a bit of trouble. Here’s the fair-play table as it stands now:
If the Sounders score at least four goals and win by at least three...
Of course, there’s a scenario where the Sounders won’t need to rely on fair-play points in order to advance and that’s if they score at least four goals and still win by at least three goals. Let’s say they beat Monterrey 4-1. In that case, the teams would still be tied on points and goal-difference, but the Sounders would advance on goals-scored (4+). In this scenario, Monterrey would also advance on the same goals-scored (4+) tiebreaker.
What are our chances?
Putting aside how unlikely it is for any team to beat another 3-0 on a given day — and acknowledging that the Sounders have managed to win two games this year by at least this margin — there’s nothing about their recent form that suggests this is particularly likely. The Sounders have only scored multiple goals in a game three times since their last three-goal win — on April 8 — and they gave up at least two goals in all three of those games.
Monterrey is also probably the best defensive team in Mexico, having given up even as many as two goals just three times in their last 44 matches dating to last season. During that time, they’ve only lost one game by three goals — a 5-2 loss to Pachuca in the Apertura playoffs last October.
If you’re inclined to be a bit more optimistic, I will note that the Sounders have won three of their last four home games against Liga MX opponents by 3-0 scorelines (the other was a 1-0 win).
All of which is to say, the Sounders’ chances of advancement are not hopeless but they are definitely thin. In order to advance, the Sounders will need to put together the type of performance they’ve been unable to muster with any sort of regularity since their Concacaf Champions League campaign last year.