Wednesday, October 21, 2009

MLS vs USL-1: Ending the debate (for '09)

On two previous occasions now, I've taken the opportunity to examine the head-to-head records of MLS and USL-1 sides. The debate is becoming less and less relevant as the most consistent and well-funded USL-1 sides are gradually being admitted to MLS (Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Montreal[?]). The second tier league is also experiencing organizational and ownership troubles (big surprise!) so the next few years may see a severe weakening of the circuit.

But for now, all we have to go on are the numbers. Like last time, I'm focussing on the Toronto FC era (2007-present) because it is a relatively stable period in the life of two leagues that have experienced significant historical ups and downs in terms of quality, and it is convenient from a Canadian perspective.

Unlike last time, I've chosen to count overtime results in the US Open Cup as draws. Penalty results are of course counted as draws as well, as previously.

Here's a short summary of the results:

MLS results vs USL-1 sides
Year W D L
US Open Cup
2007 2 5 3
2008 3 3 2
2009 3 2 1




Nutrilite Canadian Championship
2008 1 2 1
2009 3 0 1




Concacaf Champions League
2009 1 2 1




Total 13 14 9

You can see the list of all matches here.

The record for MLS sides in 36 matches of 13 wins, 14 draws and 9 losses would account for 53 of a possible 102 points, or 1.47 points per game (PPG).

Whether the comparison is a useful one to make or not, here are the teams closest to 1.47 PPG in the league tables of the last completed seasons (2008-09 for European leagues):
The only bit I'd like to add to the numbers is Toronto FCs record against USL-1 sides. This country's only MLS team, in the last two years, has played Puerto Rico twice and Montreal and Vancouver 4 times each, with a record of 4 wins, 3 draws and 3 losses.

At this point, I don't want to draw any conclusions from these numbers. Just treat them as numbers for numbers' sake. The arguments on either side are well-worn (MLS sides don't take the US Open Cup seriously, etc.) and have either been debunked or remain contentious. The only thing worth mentioning is that most of these results have been collected in knock-out competitions, which skews participation in the matches towards the better teams in both leagues.

Draw your own conclusions if you must, but don't drag me into it.


P.S. I like this.

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