MLS Crystal Balls Revisited

Way back in March, I wrote a post with the preseason predictions of some of the most widely read soccer pundits. Among the prognosticators that went so far as to designate playoff teams were Ives, a consolidation of ESPNSoccernet writers, Bruce McGuire of DuNord and seven others. In all, I collected the predictions of 17 posts. From those posts there were nine predictions of conference tables and ten single table predictions. Some of the conference table seers were willing to select a playoff eight while others were only willing to pick the top two in each conference. Probably a smart move given the parity that prevails in MLS.

Now before anyone gets their pants in a wad, I am aware that things change during the season. Players get injured, others get signed, etc. So just keep in mind that this post is about what was known back in March and the pundits(and I) took our best shots with what was laid out before us.

Observations Back Then

    From the 10 full table power rankings:

  • All 9 of 10 rankings have Columbus either 1 or 2.
  • No one had Seattle lower than 4th.
  • No one had New England higher than 9th.
  • 5 of the 10 picked Philadelphia to finish 16th.
  • Everyone had Columbus, LA, and Seattle in the top 8(playoff position).
  • Dallas had the biggest spread, from 3rd to 16th.

    From the 9 conference ranking predictions:

  • All 9 rankings had Columbus 1 or 2 in the East.
  • 6 of 9 had Seattle 1st in the West.
  • Who Ate All the Cupcakes gave the highest ranking to newcomer Philadelphia(6th in East).
  • 8 of 9 had DC United missing the playoffs.

SJ and Philadelphia were the only teams that no one picked to make the playoffs.

So how’d we do??? Here’s a look at the average finish predicted by those who looked into their crystal ball and saw a 1-16 power ranking(10 pundits plus me). Also listed is my preseason table along with the actual final 2010 MLS table.

    Predictions Actual
      Playoffs  Peter
    Avg In Out  
 1   CLB  1.8   11   0   CLB  LA
 2   SEA  3.4   11   0   RSL  RSL
 3   LA  3.5   11   0   SEA  NY
 4   RSL  4.4   9   2   NY  FCD
 5   HOU  5.5   9   2   LA  CLB
 6   CHI  6.8   9   2   CHI  SEA
 7   FCD  8.2   7   4   TFC  CO
 8   TFC  9.5   6   5   FCD  SJ
 9   DCU  9.7   4   7   KC  KC
 10   CO  10.1   3   8   HOU  CHI
 11   NY  10.7   4   7   CHV  TFC
 12   CHV  10.9   2   9   PHL  HOU
 13   KC  11.2   2   9   NE  NE
 14   NE  11.8   0   11   COL  PHL
 15   PHL  14.0   0   11   SJ  CHV
 16   SJ  14.5   0   11   DCU  DCU
East West
Pundits Peter Actual Pundits Peter Actual
 CLB  1.11   CLB  RBNY  SEA  1.56   RSL  LA
 CHI  2.56   RBNY  CLB  RSL  2.11   SEA  RSL
 NY  4.11   CHI  KC  LA  3.00   LA  FCD
 TFC  4.22   TFC  CHI  COL  4.78   FCD  SEA
 DCU  4.78   KC  TFC  HOU  4.89   HOU  COL
 NE  4.78   PHL  NE  FCD  5.67   CHV  SJ
 KC  6.89   NE  PHL  CHV  6.00   COL  HOU
 PHL  7.56   DCU  DCU  SJ  7.78   SJ  CHV

Observations and Surprises

Working down from the top of the final table …

Unlike last year the Galaxy were a solid pick by most. Also last year almost everyone had RSL challenging for a top 4 spot. After their MLS Cup win, this season they lived up to expectations during the regular season. The average of pundits had the Red Bull out of the playoffs after the disaster last year. But they were good before the arrival of Henry and Marquez, and stayed good afterward. FC Dallas finished strong last season and got better this year. Everyone had Columbus near the top. Their end of season swoon has most writing them off for the Cup. Seattle overcame a slow start, but they came on like gangbusters after moving Ljungberg to Chicago. They repeated as Cup champions and I suspect they’ll show better in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League. After being knocked out of the playoffs on the final day two years in a row, the Rapids finally crossed the threshold with the top forward duo in the league. The big surprise is San Jose. No one had them making the playoffs.

Kansas City was just plain inconsistent. Jimmy Conrad had a subpar year. The seven point gap to the playoffs was the largest since the league returned to two conferences in ’02. Chicago was a major disappointment. Conde didn’t look good, Thorington couldn’t stay fit, but Sean Johnson looks to be a big find. Preki couldn’t get it done in Toronto. DeRo had a fine year, but de Guzman and Mista didn’t fulfill expectations. You can create a pretty decent team with TFC castoffs. Most had Houston in the final 8. I didn’t see how they would overcome the loss of DeRo, Clark and Holden from the midfield, and they didn’t. New England and Philadelphia were pegged pretty well. Chivas USA didn’t transition well after Preki left. DC United didn’t look good sqeaking into the playoffs last year, and with only the 55th pick in the draft and some questionable personnel moves, they sunk to the bottom.

And Next Year?

So now we start hot stoving over who will be exposed in the Portland/Vancouver expansion draft. I did pretty well guessing who Philadelphia would select(4 of 10). Doubt I’ll do so well this year.

Here are some early thoughts on 2011 rolling around in my head …

  • I think Colorado will be stronger next year.
  • Can’t wait to see how the Red Bulls play with Henry and Marquez from the start.
  • Dallas will keep the momentum going. They have a nucleus of young talent. Look for Brek Shea to have a breakout year.
  • Will Taylor Twellman return?
  • Can RSL sign Saborio to a long term deal? Easily the newcomer of the year in my mind, with Joel Lindpere running a close second.
  • San Jose overcame their penchant for giving up late goals and they’re in the playoffs. With Convey returning to form, they could remain playoff contenders next year.
  • Last year in Chicago it was Rolfe, Segares and Blanco gone. Now McBride, CJ Brown and uncertainty about Ljungberg. While Segares returned, Thorington can’t stay healthy and the defense remains suspect despite the emergence of Sean Johnson in goal. Could be another tough year.
  • Philly played tough all year and with another year’s experience, I see them contending for the playoffs.
  • Along with many others, I think the Northwest is gonna be a fun place for footie fans.

8 thoughts on “MLS Crystal Balls Revisited”

  1. Vancouver and Portland could struggle. Seems easier for individual expansion clubs to have a decent impact in year one. When it’s two expansion teams, it’s tougher.

  2. Not easy picking in a league where the youngsters play such an important part of teams. Look at NY, the Rookie of the Year, plus another first timer and they are good. Worst to First in the East.

    It would be hard to see DC doing that, but if they do pull a NY or LA, noone will have predicted it.

  3. I think you will see LA and NY stand out again next year, especially if LA holds Donovan and signs Juninho. I think the MLS is slowly going into a standard big 4 sorta league. LA, NY, RSL and either Seattle or Columbus will probably be the “big four” next year. With the money and young talent I just can’t see NY or LA falling off the top of the group. Hopefully the cap size is increased as well as roster so we can strengthen those big teams and finally compete in the CCL and international level.

    1. Dan,

      The cap will jump from 2.55M to 2.677.5M in 2011.

      There have been rumblings about an increased roster but no word what happens to the cap if they are expanded.

      Also remember in the murky world of MLS finances, that allocation money can be used to ‘buy’ down the salary cap(with restrictions).

      If you don’t know, teams are ‘given’ allocation money based on their finish. They also receive(or used to) $20,000 allocation money for each 1,000 in attendance. Plus they may use up to $650K of a transfer fee as allocation money.
      Confused? Me too.

    1. Wow that is a lot of goals.

      IF the league becomes a Big 4 league, why would you include SLC ?
      Seems like a very bizzare pick. like picking DC 10 years ago just because they are good at the time.

      Chicago would be a MUCH better pick for my money. good team historically, along with huge city.

      I don’t think that if NY becomes dominant enough to become competive internationally all the sudden MLS takes off, like NY is going to convert fans. They can’t draw fans in NY much less pull in fans from Iowa.

      MLS is a LOOOOONG way from the boring Big 4 leagues ( Big 2 in LaLiga ).
      Wasn’t LA the worst team in the league two years ago ? With an extra DP ?

      What would MLS teams have to start making ( and by the way the Red Bulls can’t be making much, my wife tried to buy some Red Bulls stuff as a return home gift….could find any ) to have a non-parity league ?

      I am going to say they have to have Sounder’s type revenue, with owners that are not trying to pay off their original investment, but instead spend it at a rate that MLS does NOT allow.

      1. A quick bone of contention: There are plenty of soccer fans in Iowa. That crack is a lazy one. I get it; we’re out in the middle of nowhere. Our PDL team also regularly outdraws USL-1 teams.

        I’d say RSL is a safe bet as long as Kreis stays. I think he and Lagerway are a seriously talented duo, and as long as RSL holds on to them the team will be at or near the top in the league. Passionate fans, too.

        I haven’t seen much from Hauptman to make me think that Chicago is going to be a top team again any time soon, though. As much as it pains me to admit that about my favorite club, there’s been very little consistency from year to year with the front office and on the player front.

  4. Vancouver has sold 15k season tickets so far. Not a surprise they were a huge draw in NASL ( old version ).

    I would expect Portland it behind that but close.

    Sounders please open up the Stadium for those games. As much as they are like annoying ants at a picnic, having the Whitecap’s fans there was awesome in the 80s.

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