MLS Playoff Math: Using Statistics to Predict the MLS Cup Champion



Game 1: New York at Sporting KC
Sporting KC: 1.71 Home G/G, 0.85 Home DM
New York: 1.41 Road G/G, 0.93 Road DM
Game 1 Computer Prediction: Sporting KC 1.59 – 1.19 New York (Sporting win)

Game 2: Sporting KC at New York
New York: 2.00 Home G/G, 0.90 Home DM
Sporting KC: 1.06 Road G/G, 0.56 Road DM
Game 2 Computer Prediction: New York 1.12 – 0.95 Sporting KC (Draw)

The best part about using mathematical formulas to come up with these predictions is that it is very black and white. Either it is or it ain’t. Using the data allows me to take my biases out of each prediction and go strictly on facts, not emotion.

That said, it may bother many RBNY fans to see this prediction, but the numbers don’t lie. Sporting play very well at home, but what decides this series are their road stats. The Wiz beat New York 1-0 at RBA back in the spring, and they have grinded out similar results on the road all season. Of course, my prediction formula does not measure New York’s heart and determination, and those figures are off the charts under coach Mike Petke’s leadership.


Game 1: Portland at LA Galaxy
LA Galaxy: 1.88 Home G/G, 0.45 Home DM
Portland: 1.47 Road G/G, 0.82 Road DM
Game 1 Computer Prediction: LA Galaxy 1.54 – 0.66 Portland (LA win)

Game 2: LA Galaxy at Portland
Portland: 1.71 Home G/G, 0.62 Home DM
LA Galaxy: 1.24 Road G/G, 1.12 Road DM
Game 2 Computer Prediction: Portland 1.91 – 0.76 LA Galaxy (Portland win)

The computer model thinks that this semifinal will be incredibly close.

Both teams should hold serve at home, and the winner will be decided by the aggregate score or by a penalty kick shootout. Los Angeles needn’t be reminded of their last penalty shootout in the Pacific Northwest, losing the 2009 MLS Cup to Real Salt Lake. But, judging by the aggregate numbers, Portland would advance to the MLS Cup final setting up a Don Garber-approved final of MLS poster boys.

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  • Dave from Dix Hills

    So ……. Much …….. Math …… Wouldn’t hurt my brain as much if Red Bulls won at the end though.

  • Aguinaga

    Fun exercise. Only thing missing from the analysis is the statistical probablity that the predictions made all come to pass :)

    • Bill Reese

      Well, there can only be 3 outcomes to a match (not including penalty kick wins, which go in the book as draws, technically). So, I have a 33% chance of making a correct pick. There are 15 playoff games. So you’d go .333 to the 15th power, which is a number I cannot begin to comprehend. My best calculation is that you would have a 0.00167% chance of picking all 15 correct in a world where Win, Loss and Draw had even chances of occurring. That translates to a 1.67 chance out of 1,000