The number don't lie: Seattle still the favorite for Supporters' Shield
Posted by: Dave Clark, Special from SounderAtHeart.com
Three different methodologies all have Seattle Sounders FC as the favorites for the Supporters’ Shield, but there is variability and a need to actually win the games in October.
Public realm statistical analysis in soccer is in a fledgling phase. The addition of the Opta data that powers the Chalkboards and Golazo at MLSSoccer.com has helped advance some discussion about individual players and team tactics. Team level macro issues (like who will make the MLS Cup Playoffs) is a bit more advanced, but the diversity in these three methods’ results show that there is both a way to go in that realm and that Sounders FC are still the favorites.
Math can be fun. These systems have Seattle with between a 35% and 53% chance of winning the Supporters' Shield. This piece of hardware goes to the best team during the regular season. That club enters the next cycle of the CONCACAF Champions League and throughout their time in the MLS Cup Playoffs they would have homefield advantage.
Zach Slaton at Forbes.com is a Sounders fan, a season ticket holder even. His system is not. He applies the Eastman Index to Major League soccer to project the standings. Its largest difference from the other methods outlined here is the inclusion of last seasons' data as an input. That's why even early in the season the method liked Seattle's chances. Now, even after the home draw to current leader New York Red Bulls the EI puts Sounders FC with a 53% chance at the Shield and a 67% shot at the Western Conference number one seed. The competition is New York and Real Salt Lake.
Sports Club Stats uses a model based on baseball's Pythagorean Theorem. It slightly discounts draws as the model's foundation is in a sport without them. The non-weighted version or 50/50 corrects for some of those errors. Both still look at Sounders FC as favorites, though not to the same extent. The weighted model puts Seattle at a 42% chance of winning the next major trophy available to an MLS side. Their 50/50 system increases Seattle’s chances to 50%. This is due to Seattle’s schedule being a bit tough down the stretch.
Sounder at Heart has a resident mathematician as well. Sidereal's biweekly late season series "State of the MLS Run-In" is not scheduled for this week. It's the start of the month though, so he’s shared the results for Seattle if he were to publish. His chances are lower than the others due to his weighting of recency for other teams and the upcoming schedule put Seattle with a mere 35% chance at the Shield. They are still the favorites, but not near what the club would have been with a win last Sunday.
One thing that should be most clear about projections is that they vary and that the actual team has to win to earn its way to an elusive trophy. Being favored can be a target as much as it can be a demonstration of skill and ability. The remaining schedule features a match at Colorado (Sagarin's 4th best team), hosting Vancouver (the 9th best), at Portland (2nd best), at Dallas (15th) and finally hosting the Galaxy (6th).
Opportunity sits in front of Seattle Sounders FC. They merely need to seize it. While the coaching staff and players focus on one game at a time, the fanbase can just look at the math and know that the club sits on the edge of something special and new.
Sounder at Heart is a blog about the Seattle Sounders FC, with occasional forays into Democracy in Sports, Roster Management, Tactical Analysis, Soccer Statistics and Life in Puget Sound.
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