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October 18, 2009

Crunching The MLS Playoff Numbers

As the Fire amble toward the playoffs, a bunch of Eastern Conference teams have snuck up on them from behind. If Chicago drops their season finale against Chivas USA on Thursday, not only might the Fire fall out of second place in the conference, but they might fall out of the playoff picture entirely.

I've got a bunch of the math done below, but for the Fire, the short version is that, if D.C. United and at least one other team out of Toronto, New England and FC Dallas win, and the Fire lose, then Chicago misses the playoffs, For those of you who care about other teams, you can figure it out for yourselves from all the scenarios listed. D.C. United and FC Dallas look to have the most playoff-bound outcomes (assuming, of course, that they win) of the bunch.

There's a whole other set of scenarios that happens if Real Salt Lake wins, and the most anyone can manage out of D.C., Toronto, New England and Dallas is a draw, but I'll leave that to someone else to figure out, because it doesn't affect the Fire.

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record against all teams that are level on points, so the permutations get tricky. The Fire can avoid all of this if they just don't lose on Thursday, but nobody seems to want to make things easy this season, especially this Fire team at home. So, here's are the head-to-head records.

Fire vs. D.C. United: 0-2-1
Fire vs. Toronto FC: 1-0-1
Fire vs. New England: 0-0-2
Fire vs. FC Dallas: 1-1-0

D.C. United vs. Chicago: 2-0-1
D.C. United vs Toronto FC: 0-1-1
D.C. United vs. New England: 0-1-1
D.C. United vs. FC Dallas: 1-0-1

Toronto FC vs. Chicago: 0-1-1
Toronto FC vs. D.C. United: 1-0-1
Toronto FC vs. New England: 1-0-1
Toronto FC vs. FC Dallas: 0-1-1

New England vs. Chicago: 0-0-2
New England vs. D.C. United: 1-0-1
New England vs. Toronto FC: 0-1-1
New England vs. FC Dallas: 1-1-0

FC Dallas vs. Chicago: 1-1-0
FC Dallas vs. D.C. United: 0-1-1
FC Dallas vs. Toronto FC: 1-0-1
FC Dallas vs. New England: 1-1-0

If it's only a tie between us and one other, then D.C. United is the only team that can knock us out of second, but we'd still be in the final playoff spot in that scenario. Again, this assumes the other three teams don't win their matches. After that is when it starts to get silly.

NOTE: MLSNET.com says "win-loss record,' which is a little bit different than actual head-to-head record, in that it seems like it's winning percentage, excluding ties. That change would affect just the first scenario, assuming 3W/3L is then treated the same as 2W/2L

Five-way tie
x-D.C. United (3-2-4, 13 points)
x-FC Dallas (3-3-2, 11 points)
Toronto FC (2-2-4, 10 points)
New England (2-2-4, 10 points)
Chicago (2-3-4, 10 points)

This is the tricky one, because if it's W/L ratio, then Dallas, Toronto and New England go to goal differential.

Four-way tie (must include Chicago)
w/o D.C. United
x-Chicago (2-1-3, 9 points)
x-FC Dallas (3-2-1, 10 points)
Toronto FC (1-2-3, 6 points)
New England (1-2-3)

w/o Toronto
x-D.C. United (3-1-3, 12 points)
x-New England (2-1-3, 9 points)
FC Dallas (2-3-1, 7 points)
Chicago (1-3-3, 6 points)

w/o New England
x-D.C. United (3-1-3, 12 points)
x-FC Dallas (2-2-2, 8 points)
Chicago (2-3-2, 8 points)
Toronto FC (1-2-3, 6 points)

w/o Dallas
x-Toronto FC (2-1-3, 9 points)
x-D.C. United (2-2-3, 9 points)
New England (1-1-4, 7 points)
Chicago (1-2-4, 7 points)

This one could go down to goal differential between D.C. and New England as well, which would probably go to D.C. United.

Three-way tie (must include Chicago)
Chicago, DC, Toronto
x-DC United 2-1-2, 8 points
x-Toronto 1-1-2, 5 points
Chicago 1-2-2, 5 points

Chicago, DC, New England
x-DC United 2-1-2, 8 points
x-New England 1-0-3, 6 points
Chicago 0-2-3, 3 points

Chicago, DC, Dallas
x-DC United 3-0-2, 8 points
x-FC Dallas 1-2-1, 5 points
Chicago 1-3-1, 5 points

Chicago, Toronto, New England
x-Chicago 1-0-3, 6 points
x-Toronto 1-1-2, 5 points
New England 0-1-3, 3 points

Chicago, Toronto, Dallas
x-Chicago 2-1-1, 7 points (wins on goal differential)
x-Dallas 2-1-1, 7 points
Toronto 0-2-2, 2 points

Chicago, New England, Dallas
x-Dallas 2-2-0, 6 points
x-Chicago 1-1-2, 5 points (wins on goal differential)
New England 1-1-2, 5 points


We're hosed!

Why bother with a 5-way with Dallas? The first battle would be for 2nd place in the East; so Dallas isn't eligble.

@Jeff -- Honestly, I think we'll draw and none of this well matter.

@nfitz -- The real goal here is to figure out what happens to the Fire, not who comes in second in the Eastern Conference, so the Dallas result is important.

Great set of tables BTW!

Math and logic have no place in a discussion of the Chicago Fire. Don't you know that by now?

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