D-Bunked: Probing into the precision of MLS preseason rankings

Posted: March 3, 2011 in D-Bunked

The scene may be beautiful, but its reality is unlikely. Fans of Real Salt Lake or the LA Galaxy stand a much better chance of capturing MLS Cup snapshots according to the preseason rankings.


By Kim DeRaedt

It may not exactly be something to go to Vegas over and Jim Rome probably isn’t burning with anticipation about its release, but the MLS preseason rankings still offer an interesting, if not valuable, peek at the upcoming season’s stories and successes or lack thereof.  Nevertheless, to be ranked as the preseason champion carries little weight if the team plummets in the postseason poll.  Why bother ranking teams aside from providing some water cooler conversation bits to kick about?  Can they really predict the future and just how good are the psychic minds of the business at doing so?

Taking the past three (completed) years’ preseason rankings into consideration, analysts estimated each team’s position and were, on average, nearly +/- 4.5 places away from the club’s actual finishing rank.    

Note within the last few years that predictions are slowly slipping from the resulting reality. 
2008: 3.78571429
2009: 4.4
2010: 4.87500
Average:  4.35357143

So the question begs, what’s worse?  For instance, is it more disappointing when a team finishes in 8th place having been predicted to win the league, or is it a greater letdown to finish lower in general, perhaps to finish in 14th place having been predicted to occupy the 15th slot?  Either way, here is a look at the standings from a unique perspective.  The Expectation Fulfillment Standings (EFS) represent how much better/worse each team has done over the past three years compared with analysts’ preseason prediction for each respective club.  To explain, if FC Dallas was predicted as #9 but finished #5, the club would receive a +4 toward its EFS total.  If FC Dallas was picked at #11 the following season but fell to #14 in the end, the team would be scored -3 and the EFS total would drop to 1.   

Expectation Fulfillment Standings
Columbus Crew                          15
LA Galaxy                                  11
Kansas City Wizards                      8
Real Salt Lake                              7
Colorado Rapids                           5
Seattle Sounders*                       5
FC Dallas                                     3
San Jose Earthquakes                   1
(Goal achieved)
Philadelphia Union*                       0
NY Red Bulls                               -3
Chicago Fire                                -4
NE Revolution                             -4
Toronto FC                                 -6
Houston Dynamo                         -7
Chivas USA                                 -10
DC United                                  -16

*Seattle includes 2009, 2010; Philadelphia includes 2010

With the 2011 season around the corner, the preseason rankings have travelled through the press.  What finish have they predestined these teams to?  Which club will shake up the status quo?

1. Real Salt Lake
2. LA Galaxy
3. NY Red Bulls
4. FC Dallas
5. Seattle Sounders
6. Colorado Rapids
7. Sporting KC
8. San Jose Earthquakes
9. Houston Dynamo
10. Philadelphia Union
11. DC United
12. Portland Timbers
13. Chicago Fire
14. Chivas USA
15. Columbus Crew
16. Toronto FC
17. New England Revolution
18. Vancouver Whitecaps
Rrranking resources: 
2011:  http://www.sbnation.com/soccer/2011/2/7/1978840/mls-preseason-power-rankings-real-salt-lake-only-unanimous-tier-1-team
2010:  http://www.examiner.com/mls-in-national/2010-mls-preseason-power-rankings
2009:  http://mls.theoffside.com/major-league-soccer/mls-offside-preseason-power-rankings.html  
2008:  http://mls.theoffside.com/major-league-soccer/luis-bueno-gives-his-mls-preseason-rankings.html


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