The Seattle Sounders travel to BMO field in Toronto for Saturday’s MLS Cup. Unfortunately for us, MLS is a home team league. MLS Cup has been contested on one of the participant’s home fields 7 times, and only twice has the away team won. Last year’s Portland side and the 2002 Galaxy are the only two teams to win away (curious that both are Western Conference teams…).
I had the following exchange with a devoted fan on Twitter yesterday:
— Raving Green Blog (@ravinggreen) December 6, 2016
MLS uses points from an unbalanced schedule to determine home field advantage for the championship. That policy, though league standard since 2011, should change. A quick MLS primer: each team plays 24 intraconference and 10 interconference games. Sure, every team in the league plays each other once, but over two-thirds of a team’s schedule is comprised of their conference foes. If the two conferences were of similar quality, the current policy would be fine. Since the leagues aren’t equal, and home field advantage is real, this policy plain stinks.
As a West Coast chauvinist, I innately know the Western Conference is better, but I also have numbers to back that up (h/t to Golfnut). Consider:
Sounders – 14-14-6 – 48 points
vs West – 8-11-5 – 29 points – 1.21 points per game
vs East – 6-3-1 – 19 points – 1.90 points per game
Toronto – 14-9-11 – 53 points
vs East – 11-4-9 – 42 points – 1.75 points per game
vs West – 3-5-2 – 11 points – 1.10 points per game
If the teams were to flip conferences:
Sounders earn 58 points playing 24 games vs the East and 10 games vs the West
Toronto earns 44 points playing 24 games vs the West and 10 games vs the East
Lastly, the Sounders infamously earned just 20 points from their first 20 games. 13 of those points were against Eastern conference teams (including one at BMO Field). Seattle, despite having to travel, should still win the championship.