By Kevin Kinkead
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If the postseason began today, the Philadelphia Union would have missed the final playoff spot by just one point, despite having the most losses in Major League Soccer.READ MORE: 'There's A Lot Of Ghosts In Here': CBS3 Spends Evening In Believed-To-Be Haunted Neshaminy Creekside Inn
That’s not a lie. Sixteen games into this season, the Union is toeing the playoff line despite its -7 goal differential and record of 4 wins, 9 losses, and 3 draws.
Most of this can be attributed to the absurdity of the new MLS playoff system, which allows six teams from each conference into the postseason. That’s 12 out of 20 clubs overall, or more than half of the league. It’s a rule change that waters down the regular season and puts a couple of undeserving teams into the playoffs, but that’s another column for another time.
The discrepancies in MLS scheduling contribute to the misleading nature and narrative of playoff positioning.
If the season ended right now, here’s what the combined table would look like on total points:
1. DC United – 28pts
2. Seattle Sounders – 26 pts
3. Vancouver Whitecaps -26 pts
4. Sporting KC – 24 pts
5. Portland Timbers – 24 pts
6. FC Dallas – 22 pts
7. New England Revolution – 21 pts
8. LA Galaxy – 21 pts
9. Houston Dynamo – 20 pts
10. Toronto FC – 19 pts
11. San Jose Earthquakes – 19 pts
12. Real Salt Lake – 18 pts
13. Orlando City – 17 pts
14. NY Red Bulls – 17 pts
15. Columbus Crew – 16 pts
16. Philadelphia Union – 15 points
17. Montreal Impact – 14 points
18. Chicago Fire – 14 points
19. Colorado Rapids – 14 points
20. New York City FC -11 points
You see D.C. United at the top with 28 points. The Union sit in 16th place, while the gap between 10th place and last place is just eight (!) points. If Philly had pulled off a win or draw against NYC last week, the team could be anywhere from 12th place to 15th place, despite that sub-par record.
The better way to look at the table in June is to organize the teams by their “PPG” total, or “points-per-game”, which nullifies the discrepancy created by the uneven schedule.READ MORE: 16-Year-Old Ahjaon Jackson Shot, Killed While Coming Home From Work With Twin Sister, Philadelphia Police Say
1. Seattle Sounders – 1.86
2. DC United – 1.75
3. Sporting KC – 1.71
4. Vancouver Whitecaps – 1.63
5. Toronto FC – 1.58
6. FC Dallas – 1.57
7. Portland Timbers – 1.47
8. Montreal Impact – 1.4
9. New England Revolution – 1.4
10. San Jose – 1.36
11. Houston Dynamo – 1.33
12. NY Red Bulls – 1.31
13. LA Galaxy – 1.31
14. Orlando City – 1.21
15. Real Salt Lake – 1.2
16. Columbus Crew – 1.14
17. Chicago Fire – 1.08
18. Colorado Rapids – 1.00
19. Philadelphia Union – 0.94
20. New York City FC – 0.79
You see the Montreal Impact jump from 17th place to 8th place. That’s due to the Impact playing the fewest amount of games (10) among all 20 teams. When the club made its improbable run to the CCL final, league games were rescheduled to accommodate, and that turned the numbers upside-down.
That’s also why Philadelphia, with 16 games played, moves all the way down to 19th place in the PPG column. On game-by-game performance, the Union is well behind the rest of the league, which is something that manager Jim Curtin said in his post game presser last weekend.
“The points per game column is the only thing that tells the true story at this stage of the year and we’re not doing well enough in that column. There are teams with games in hand that we’re ahead of in the standings and the loss column is way too high right now. We have way too many losses, especially in our building where our fans were great tonight with a packed house. Seems like when we finally get some momentum going forward that we can’t keep it going, so that part was difficult. But the east is the east and a lot is going to change from now through the next 18-20 games for some teams. So it’s going to be a fight to the end, and we have dug a hole again that we’ll have to fight our way out of.” (Jim Curtin, 6-6-15)
This isn’t dissimilar from last season. John Hackworth’s team started with a record of 3-7-6 before he was let go during the World Cup break. Curtin took over a club that didn’t have much margin for error, simply because the poor start set the team back in the PPG column.
Curtin did a very good job of turning things around, but we all knew that just a few losses along the way would be significant setbacks for a team that needed to quickly make up points. In cases like this, you’re slowly bleeding through the summer while other clubs play their “games-in-hand.”
So yes, the Union is still in the playoff race, and maybe we should thank the new MLS postseason rules for keeping this season interesting. Otherwise, it’s probably irresponsible to talk about current position or mention the playoff line at all.MORE NEWS: Philadelphia Community Still Wants 'Real Justice' For Walter Wallace Jr. A Year After Fatal Police Shooting
Right now, the points-per-game number is the only thing that matters.