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Projecting RSL’s regular season final standings

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MLS: Colorado Rapids at Real Salt Lake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

With RSL having a semi-bye week(end), we decided to take a look at what the rest of the 2016 season might hold for the Claret-and-Cobalt. At the time of this article, Real sits second in the West and third in the Supporters’ Shield standings with 43 points form 27 matches. In other words, there are still seven matches for RSL to play.

The easy way to evaluate the sprint to the post-season is to simply assume that the season trend will hold steady for each of the clubs in the league. This means that RSL’s 1.59 points per game would result in a solid 54-point season – above the magic number 52, which almost certainly results in a post-season appearance. This means that RSL fans would have to look forward to either a 3-2-2 or a 2-0-5 stretch going into the playoffs - earning a solid fourth place position. If these trends hold, this is what we would expect to see on October 24, 2016:

Expected Supporters’ Shield Standings using Points-Per-Game calculations

This trend is so widely adopted, in fact, that even MLSsoccer.com has been predicting then final 2016 Supporters’ Shield standings with these same numbers.

This simple way of doing things fails to account of many competing factors in its analysis such as current/past form, home vs away winning percentage, and historical trends, to name a few. So what I am saying is, there are other ways to predict the coming results.

Home vs. Away winning probability

As it stands, RSL has four matches left to be played in the confines of Rio Tinto and three to be played on opponents’ turf.

RSL has managed 8-0-5 record this season at the RioT, meaning that the club has established a 62 percent winning tendency. Taking those variables into account and utilizing the Discrete Probability Algorithm, it is estimated that RSL will earn 9.84 with a 95 percent statistical significance from their remaining home matches. Likewise, the 4-8-2 RSL away record results in an estimation of 2.61 points earned from the remaining away matches.

Therefore, RSL would expect to secure 12 points from their last seven matches. In this scenario, the Claret-and-Cobalt would end the season with either a 4-3-0 or a 3-1-3 run prior to the post-season, and this is how the rest of the field would fill out:

Expected Supporters’ Shield Standings using Home vs Away Win Percentage probability

Once again Real turns up fourth in the Shield standings and third in the Western Conference.

Form probability

Another way to predict the coming matches is done through utilizing current club form. Over the last five matches the Claret-and-Cobalt have gone L-W-L-W-W.

Earning an 8.2 form rating, RSL has a 50 percent chance of winning and 25 percent change of drawing any of the last seven matches. Once again using the Discrete Probability Algorithm, RSL is predicted to earn 13.25 points with a 95 percent statistical significance from their remaining matches.

Earning 13 points would result in either a 4-2-1 or a 3-0-4 stretch before the payoffs

Therefore, RSL would expect to secure 12 points from their last seven matches. In this scenario, the Claret-and-Cobalt would end the season with either a 4-3-0 or a 3-1-3 run prior to the post-season, and this is how the rest of the field would fill out:

Expected Supporters’ Shield Standings using Form probability calculations

Instead of finishing third in the West, RSL would move up to second. Similarly, RSL would also move up to third in the Supporters’ Shield standings.

Multiple variable probability

So when the dice fall in Vegas, you are more likely to win if you can calculate multiple variables and it is no different in sports. Consequently, predicting the final Supporters’ Shield standings with only a mere points-per-game model is unreliable.

The odds against Leicester winning the Premier League at the beginning of the 2015-16 Season were astronomical, but the men in blue ended up out-foxing (pun intended) everyone. Many variables went it to making Leicester’s historic league win, and by looking at similar variables the 2016 MLS Regular Season standings can be predicted with a more holistic basis.

Inputting both the Home vs Away Probability as well as the Form Probability variables into the Discrete Probability Algorithm, the actual 2016 Regular Season standings might be a bit more attainable to predict.

Expect Supporters’ Shield Standings using multiple variables probability calculations

With multiple variables accounted for, RSL finds itself in fourth in the Shield standings and third in the Western Conference yet again, losing out to the Colorado Rapids on goal differential (currently RSL 2 and COL 6).

While RSL would have to play in the first round of the play-offs - missing the bye by just a hair - they would be back in the post-season picture after last year’s absence. In this scenario, the Claret-and-Cobalt would end up facing off against the Seattle Sounders, who they also play in the last regular season match, for a spot in the Western Conference quarter-finals.

The pieces available to Real appear vary capable to make this scenario a reality. Whether it be the attacking trio that are finally rounding into form, the midfield getting over injuries, or the resurgence of veteran defenders, RSL look poised for MLS Cup contention no matter how you slice the cake.