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The Case for Points-Per-Game

The MLS standings don't accurately reflect the form of the league's teams, says Bill Urban of USSoccerPlayers, because of the big discrepancy between the number of games each has played. Los Angeles, for instance, may have the second-worst record in the league with 14 points, but it's only played 14 games, whereas Houston, the league's points leader with 34, has played 20. That means L.A. has six games in hand against Houston, worth a possible 18 points.

The subject has talked about in the blogosphere for quite some time; critics, including Urban, think MLS should add a new category to its statistics, something like a points-per-game average (PPG) to replace total points as the de facto measure of a team's form. As Urban says, soccer isn't a statistical game, but PPG "tells you much about the level at which a club has played, and serves as a fair indicator of that team's playoff prospects."

It's often looked at as a positive thing when a team has games in hand -- as if that's an automatic three points per game. But PPG actually measures past performance, whereas standings only take maximum points into account. Case in point: in the West, fifth-place L.A.'s PPG is 1.0, which is actually better than fourth-place Colorado, whose PPG is 0.95. Same thing at the top: second-place FC Dallas has a better PPG (1.74) than first-place Houston (1.7).

Read the whole story at USSoccerPlayers »

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