MLS announced changes to the tiebreaker rules today, and the blogosphere is in a tizzy. Despite assertions that the league announced the changes at the start of the season and only now, August 8, well past the midway point of the season, did they let the rest of the world know about it, appears to be more MLS shenanigans. But let's set questions of propriety aside and deal with the actual changes.
Suppose two (or more) teams end the season on equal points and are in top five in the conference standings, which would make them a playoff team. If a tiebreaker needs to be used to determine seedings or the final, fifth-placed team for the playoffs, here's the new order:
1. Team goals scored
2. Goal differential
3. Fewest disciplinary points
4. Road goals
5. Road goal differential
6. Home goals
7. Home goal differential
8. Coin toss (two teams) or drawing lots (more than two teams)
What might this mean for Chivas USA? If they happen to tie another team to enter the playoffs this season, they are screwed on the first tiebreaker. Unless they average four goals a game from here on out (I'm estimating, here), they have no shot of winning this tiebreaker. We all know how hard it has been for the Goats to score this season, but they are far and away the most futile team this season in MLS. With 14 goals, they trail the next closest teams (Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew) by six goals at the moment, and there's no way they'd enter a tiebreaker with Columbus, by virtue of being in different conferences, while Porltand's chances of making the playoffs are considerably worse than Chivas'. So if Chivas were involved in a tiebreaker, they will lose.
If by some miracle Chivas qualified, but matched the other team(s) on the first tiebreaker, they would likely lose the second tiebreaker as well, as they are second-worst in the conference in goal difference at the moment. I suppose, however, that if they raised their goals scored tally enough they would improve their goal difference too, but we're basically in the realm of fantasyland at this point.
The only tiebreaker that works in the Goats' favor is the third. At the moment, Chivas lead the Western Conference in disciplinary points. Woo! What an accomplishment! All joking aside, it's not much of an accomplishment, but it is a reality at the moment.
Here's the bottom line: If Chivas want to make the playoffs in 2012, they'll have to get enough points to do it, minus the tiebreakers. 14 games and 20 points to go!
What do you think? Leave a comment below!