M.L.S. Faces Complicated Playoff Math

Major League Soccer’s reworked common season is, finally, racing to a conclusion. Many of the league’s groups have solely two video games left to play of this 12 months’s truncated, 23-game schedule. Several others should squeeze in three matches within the subsequent 11 days.

The Colorado Rapids, who missed a month due to a coronavirus outbreak that affected greater than a dozen gamers and workers members, are eight video games quick.

And that’s altering the playoff calculus.

Traditionally, complete factors decide the standings in soccer. Every workforce performs the identical variety of video games, and groups are ranked by the factors they accumulate. But with the mismatch in video games performed in M.L.S. this 12 months — Colorado has performed solely 15 video games, whereas rivals like San Jose and Vancouver are already at 21 — the league will resolve its playoff subject by a unique metric: factors per sport.

“Was everybody able to perform on the same level as everybody else? No, of course not. But I have never seen a pandemic before. I think that the only thing we can do is to go on and play and find the best solution. And to accept that the world is crazy.”

There are a few other teams that will end the regular season without a full complement of results, although their deficits are much smaller than Colorado’s. The defending champion Seattle Sounders, for example, are scheduled to complete 22 of their 23 games. They stand second in the West in points, but first in points per game, and their seeding — like every other team’s — could mean the difference between a favorable matchup and a more difficult path to the league’s championship game on Dec. 12.

It has been a strange season for M.L.S., which played two games to start the season, spent four months on the sideline, then played a tournament at Disney World before resuming with a shortened season.

To account for the impact of an abbreviated season, M.L.S. expanded its postseason to include 10 teams from the 14-team Eastern Conference and eight from the 12-team West. More than half of those spots have been claimed to date: the Red Bulls, New York City F.C. and Los Angeles F.C. were among the half-dozen clubs that punched their tickets this week.

The imbalance in the schedule could repeat itself on a much grander scale if the N.F.L. has to postpone more games because of coronavirus positives. Many N.F.L. teams have little flexibility after using their bye weeks, and teams playing 14 or 15 games instead of 16 has become a possibility. The league has considered adding an 18th week to its schedule to account for makeup games, but for now that remains only an option.

This year’s Women’s Super League in England faced a similar problem in the spring when its season was abruptly halted by the coronavirus. The league opted to decide its champion by points per game, meaning Chelsea won the title, despite having fewer total points than Manchester City, an outcome that City accepted far more readily than its fans did.

Source link Nytimes.com

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