With the MLS standings the way they are, the races for playoff positioning and the league's 10 postseason berths figure to down to the wire. Instead of past seasons, though, when head-to-head records were used as a tiebreaker, this year's potential standings ties will be determined by the most prolific attacks.
The shift to an unbalanced schedule made head-to-head records a bit of an unfair measure considering that not all teams play against each other the same amount of times and some will have played more of the multiple head-to-head matches at home. Instead, goals scored is the top tiebreaker this season, followed by goal differential and fewest disciplinary points — a fair-play point tally based on fouls, cards and suspensions (a breakdown of the point system and current standings can be seen here).
Road goals, road goal differential, home goals, home goal differential and a coin toss (if only between two teams) or drawing of lots (if between three or more teams) are next down the line, respectively.
The MLS Board of Governors amended the tiebreaker procedure earlier in the year in an effort to encourage attacking play, according to a league statement, and the changes were made public today. As it stands, the San Jose Earthquakes (45) and Los Angeles Galaxy (39) have scored the most goals, followed by the New York Red Bulls (38) and Houston Dynamo, Real Salt Lake, D.C. United and Montreal Impact (35).
The tiebreaker, which will also be used in the event of a tie for the Supporters' Shield, is supremely important for teams teetering on the edge of third and fourth place in each conference. The playoff schedule was released Wednesday, and the wild card games between the fourth- and fifth-place finishers in each conference will be played just three days before the conference semifinals. For a fourth- or fifth-place team to advance to MLS Cup would mean playing five games in an 18-day span between Oct. 31 and Nov. 18 prior to the two-week break between conference finals and MLS Cup.
What do you think of the new tiebreaker procedures? Do you think goals scored should be the first tiebreaker? Do you like that attacking soccer and fair play are being taken into account?
Share your thoughts below.