Friday, June 10, 2011

Another scoreless draw: MLS 0 Fans 0

The MLS was hoping to generate some buzz with the debut of the new Live Strong Park in Kansas City.  Unfortunately this matchup featured two of the worst teams in the league, Kansas City and Chicago, and the match ended in a scoreless draw.  Coming off a weekend that featured three 0-0 results the MLS has a real scoring problem.  So far this season the league is averaging only 2.32 goals/match.  By comparison the English Premier and Championship Leagues averaged 2.80 and 2.73 goals/match respectively.

The scoring drought is not a recent phenomenon.  The table below shows average goals/match for every MLS season going back to the inaugural 1996 season:

SeasonGoals per Match

So far 2011 is the lowest scoring season in the history of the league.  This and the prior two seasons have been the three lowest scoring seasons ever.  Interesting to note that the league averaged over 3 goals/match for six of its first seven seasons, but hasn't reached that level since 2002.

One of the consequences of the lack of scoring is that more matches end up in draws.  I think this is because teams know they can still earn a point even if they don't score and can prevent the other team from doing so.  so they start to play conservatively if they can't score an early goal.  So far this season 39% of all MLS matches have ended up in draws.  In the higher-scoring English leagues, the draw rate was 29% in the Premier league and 27% in the Championship.  Also, the MLS has had 14 0-0 draws in 112 total matches.  That's exactly one out of every eight matches (12.5%) ending scoreless or effectively at least one match/week.  The Premier had 6.6% scoreless matches and the Championship 7.2%.

For better or for worse, American sports fans like to watch sports that feature offense.  The MLS isn't providing that.  Even hardcore soccer fans, like myself, don't enjoy watching 0-0 matches.  This league is playing the same game as everybody else in the world but is not getting the same results.  Not sure how attendance is faring but the league needs to do a better job of developing new talent or import more talent from abroad to reverse the trend.  Otherwise attendance will suffer and the league as well.

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