MLS Teams Kick Off Minus Need To Be On Point

Written by Ian Thomson

Sporting Kansas City begins the defense of its Major League Soccer crown Saturday afternoon in the season-opener at the Seattle Sounders, yet there is little need to feel excited about this year’s title race just yet.

Only twice in the past decade has the MLS champion won over 50 percent of its league games. Being on point every week is not a concern, as Seattle’s $5 million-a-year forward Clint Dempsey admitted in a recent ESPN interview.

The Soccer Observer compared the records of MLS winners from 2004 to 2013 with the champions of seven other countries over the same time period – Brazil, England, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan and Spain. The performance of MLS champions significantly lags its peers with a 10-year average winning rate of 45 percent compared to over 70 percent in La Liga, England’s Premier League and the Eredivisie.

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The Los Angeles Galaxy side that lifted MLS Cup in 2011 compiled its league’s most dominant record over the period examined. Bruce Arena’s men earned 66 percent of regular-season points available with 19 wins, five losses and 10 ties from 34 games. That ranks 60th out of the 80 championship-winning sides included in the study.

Columbus Crew won 17 of its 30 games in 2008 for an MLS-best 57 percent win percentage that ranks 63rd overall.

Houston Dynamo became MLS champions in 2006, the franchise’s inaugural year, after winning 34 percent of its league games. Real Salt Lake won the title three years later despite compiling a losing record of 11-12-7.

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Bayern Munich clocked up the highest win rate (85%) and points earned rate (89%) in compiling a 29-1-4 record during the 2012-13 Bundesliga season.

Barcelona and Real Madrid won the past two Spanish championships with a 32-2-4 record for an 84 percent win rate and 88 percent points earned rate.

Arsenal’s celebrated “Invincibles” team from 2003-04 ranks 14th in terms of points earned (79%) and 26th by win rate (68%).

MLS clubs recorded the eight lowest percentages overall in both categories with only the Crew and Galaxy sides noted above ranking in the 60s.

Sporting Kansas City’s current championship side sits 74th by both measures.

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Comments: 6

  1. Habanero says:

    Interesting that Mexico and Australia are not considered “peers” as leagues with champions decided by playoffs…

  2. ESPO says:

    Apples and oranges my friend!

  3. Ian Thomson says:

    Not really “interesting” that Mexico and Australia are excluded. I simply took a quick sample of a few prominent countries and ran the numbers just to see what they looked like. I considered Mexico. Split-season makes it a chore to calculate the overall record of the champions, so I skipped to Brazil instead.

    It’s not meant to be scientific. I don’t think the results are surprising. I do think it’s interesting to see how the numbers shake out all the same.

  4. Habanero says:

    Regarding Mexican comparisons, you could do the following:

    1) Each of the 2 yearly champs with the Win and Point % just from the session that they won.

    2) Each of the 2 yearly champs, with the combined season record Win and Point % of the season that they won one of the 2 championships.

    Australia should be relatively trivial to do.

  5. Ian Thomson says:


    Thanks for adding to my work pile! I’m actually intrigued by looking at Mexico and Australia now… and about 200 other leagues. I’ll see if I can squeeze it in over the next few days.

  6. Habanero says:

    Well, In my worthless opinion, the other leagues without champ determined by playoffs are less instructive.