Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Evolving Ranking #1: The Straight Dope

My obsession at one point with this blog was discussing the FIFA rankings for men's world cup teams and their many shortcomings. The latest edition of the rankings were released today. Here are how the CONCACAF teams stack up:
101Mexico Mexico114216Up276
142USA USA10362Up58
503Costa Rica Costa Rica567-4Down-74
524Canada Canada5624Up23
575Panama Panama518-5Down-77
636Honduras Honduras485-8Down-67
657Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago4618Up28
758Guatemala Guatemala4256Up32
909Cuba Cuba360-12Down-56
9210Haiti Haiti3473Up9
9311Jamaica Jamaica343-25Down-112
10012Guyana Guyana328-2Down0
10313St. Vincent and the Grenadines St. Vincent and the Grenadines3163Up12
11814Barbados Barbados245-2Down1
12515Suriname Suriname224-5Down-7
13016Bermuda Bermuda194-3Down-1
13117Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda192-2Down0
13418El Salvador El Salvador176-4Down-14
14019Dominican Republic Dominican Republic1490Equal0
14220St. Kitts and Nevis St. Kitts and Nevis146-4Down-6
14821Bahamas Bahamas1110Equal0
15322Nicaragua Nicaragua96-2Down-7
15623Grenada Grenada91-1Down-4
15724St. Lucia St. Lucia873Up9
16625Turks and Caicos Islands Turks and Caicos Islands640Equal0
17426Netherlands Antilles Netherlands Antilles41-1Down-2
17927British Virgin Islands British Virgin Islands33-2Down0
18428Dominica Dominica21-5Down-7
18529Cayman Islands Cayman Islands20-1Down0
19430Puerto Rico Puerto Rico10-1Down0
19631Anguilla Anguilla40Equal0
19932Belize Belize00Equal0
19933US Virgin Islands US Virgin Islands00Equal0
19934Montserrat Montserrat00Equal0
19935Aruba Aruba00Equal0

This ordering of teams should form a good reference point as I attempt to find out what makes a ranking tick.

Here's how it will work:
Using a step-by-step process, I'll be using data from matches between CONCACAF sides only, from the period between 1 July 2005 and 1 July 2007. Focussing on a two-year window (FIFA uses a 4-year window) is mostly to cut back on the amount of data I have to deal with. Each successive post will impose, hopefully, a greater degree of accuracy to an ordering of CONCACAF teams.

Step 1: The Straight Dope
The easiest way to rank teams is the way leagues all around the world do it, by assigning points to each result: 3 for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss. Using this incredibly simple method, we come up with the following:
Rk Country Points
1 USA 51
2 Haiti 40
3 Honduras 38
4 Guyana 37
5 Costa Rica 28
6 Trinidad and Tobago 28
7 Panama 25
8 Cuba 24
9 Guatemala 22
10 Mexico 22
11 Barbados 21
12 St. Vincent/Grenadines 20
13 Canada 19
14 Jamaica 18
15 Antigua and Barbuda 14
16 El Salvador 11
17 Bermuda 10
18 Suriname 7
19 Bahamas 6
20 Dominican Republic 6
21 St. Kitts and Nevis 4
22 Grenada 3
23 Nicaragua 3
24 Turks and Caicos Islands 3
25 Netherlands Antilles 1
26 Anguilla 0
27 Aruba 0
28 Belize 0
29 British Virgin Islands 0
30 Cayman Islands 0
31 Dominica 0
32 Montserrat 0
33 Puerto Rico 0
34 St. Lucia 0
35 US Virgin Islands 0

Despite the simplicity of this method, the discrepancies in the ordinal rank of teams from their positions on the FIFA table aren't great: the largest are Mexico and Canada, which both rank 9 slots lower by this method, and Haiti and Guyana, which are 8 spots higher than in the FIFA rankings.

Obvious drawbacks of this system:
  • A simple points system rewards teams playing a greater quantity of matches. Possible solution: Divide by number of matches to obtain a points-per-game (PPG) statistic.
  • Does not account for quality of wins, that is, wins over a stronger opponent.
  • Does not account for strength of wins, that is, a 1-0 win receives the same score as a 7-0 blowout.
Stay tuned to see which direction I go next with this Evolving Ranking (EvoRank).

Feel free to leave a comment to tell me what steps you think should be taken.

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