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Fit to be tied in MLS
by Ridge Mahoney, May 22nd, 2009 7AM

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[MAKING A LIST] The percentage of ties normally fluctuates from year to year in MLS, yet never in the league's history has it come close to the percentage of tied games nearly equaling that of home wins, which it is on pace to do.

MLS Results (2000-09)
YEAR
Home Win
Away Win
Tie Game
2009
42.6%
17.6%
39.7%
2008
50.4%
22.3%
27.1%
2007
46.7%
27.7%
23.9%
2006
47.9%
22.9%
29.2%
2005
47.9%
29.2%
22.9%
2004
48.0%
21.3%
30.1%
2003
47.3%
25.3%
27.3%
2002
55.0%
29.3%
15.7%
2001
52.3%
30.0%
17.2%
2000
54.7%
27.7%
17.8%


In 68 games played prior to Memorial Day weekend, 29 (39.7 percent) have finished even. With more than two-thirds of the 225-game season still to be played, it is quite likely that this percentage will drop to figures closer to the norm. However, factors such as bye weeks, players lost to international callups and a surge in late goals could persist for an entire season and significantly influence the final numbers.

Ties have cut into both home and away wins at this juncture. The figures for home wins (42.6 percent) and away victories (17.6 percent) are lower than any registered for a full season since the league abandoned the shootout after 1999 and thus incorporated ties into its standings.

The highest percentage of tied games is 30.1 percent in 2004, the year after the league stopped playing a 10-minute, sudden-death overtime if the teams were tied after 90 minutes.

As might be expected, the percentage of ties increased when overtime was dropped. During the four-year experiment, more than one-quarter (25.1) of overtime matches (43 of 171 games) produced goals, a statistically significant differential, since the additional 10 minutes increased playing time only by 11.1 percent. Yet in the last year of overtime, the percentage of tied games (27.3 percent) nearly matched the high-water mark of the following season without OT. In the first three years of overtime, the percentage of ties topped out at 17.8 (in 2000).

As the chart shows, the percentage of games won by the home team hasn't deviated all that much. Last year's figure of 50.4 percent (106 of 210 games) falls in the middle between the extremes of 55 percent in 2002 (with overtime) and 46.7 percent in 2007 (no overtime).

But ties have fluctuated dramatically, and in some cases independently of the percentage of home victories. In 2005 and 2006, the figures for home wins remained exactly the same (92 of 192 games, 47.9 percent) but away wins and ties were the reverse of each other - 44 (22.9 percent) and 56 (29.2 percent) -- in consecutive 195-game seasons. Since overtime was dropped, which coincided with more teams moving into their own stadiums, the percentage of home wins has remained virtually the same.

Away teams won only 22.3 percent of games last year, the second-lowest figure since 2000. Ties accounted for 27.1 percent of results in 2008.

The heavy incidence of ties this season has produced some bizarre team records. At 1-1-7, the Galaxy leads the field, yet Chicago (3-0-6), D.C. United (3-1-6), and Columbus (1-2-6) are only slightly less grotesque. Last year, those teams played a combined total of 26 ties; this year, they already have 25.

Tying on the road is usually acceptable, but the Galaxy, at 0-0-4, is a bit much. (Still, that's just as many points, four, as a more conventional 1-2-1.) At home, the Galaxy is 1-1-3, and three other teams - the usual suspects -- have more ties at home than wins: Fire (1-0-3), D.C. (2-0-3) and Crew (1-0-3).

Kind of fades the glow of being unbeaten at home, doesn't it? Win a game, willya?

The league record for tied games in a post-shootout season by a team is 13, set by Columbus in 2004 (30-game schedule) and tied by both Houston and Chivas USA in 2006 (32 games). Not surprisingly, those are also the seasons of the highest percentage of ties league-wide. All three of those teams also made the playoffs, as did the low-flying, high-tying MetroStars (9-11-12) along with the Dynamo and Chivas USA three years ago.

Can teams tie their way into the playoffs this year? If certain teams keep tying at the current rate, especially in the Eastern Conference, it can happen.

Lost in the criticism of the last-place Crew's poor start is the fact it is only six points behind conference co-leaders D.C. United and Chicago, which both have 15 points. By contrast, Western doormat San Jose (1-5-2, 5 points) is already 18 points behind Chivas USA (7-1-2, 23 points and trails second-place Seattle (4-2-3, 15 points) by 10.


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