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Preview: How much is your home field worth?

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It would be completely obvious to state that playing at home is a benefit for a soccer club. In other leagues, the aura that has come with some stadiums can play into the minds of opponents. For example, walking into Old Trafford or Camp Nou is surely intimidating, but how much of that is because you are in an opponents stadium and not because that opponent is one of the best teams in the world? History does not play in as much here; there is just the building, the team, and its fans. There is no magical aura of invincibility. (Yet.)

So, I am trying to analyze the benefits of home-field advantage in the MLS. There are several problems I've encountered and therefore this is only a preview of the entire research which I'll be doing. I won't be going into this much detail with the other teams, but you'll get a chart like the second one below with each included and ranked. As any chart by an amateur statistician, it may be loaded with good intentions that fall short, but give me a chance anyways.

The first problem derives from the early MLS's habit of not following international standards. For example, games ended in penalty shootouts until 1999. For the sake of this post, I regard every game ending in a shootout a draw instead. It really doesn't change anything, in the four years the Wizards went 16-14 in shootouts, and therefore lost two points total over four years in this study. Both of those difference making points were earned on the road.

Secondly, there are many other factors that we associate with home-field advantages. Attendance, and more specifically the percent of capacity, should in theory increase the home-field advantage. Other factors such as field conditions might play a part as well, as any DC United fan will tell you when we beat them 3-0 in 2010 it's because CommunityAmerica was narrow, not because their team was bad. In the Pacific Northwest, it frequently rains and therefore they play on turf is another example. In the post over the whole league, I'll include an attendance chart to gauge if that causes a large deviation in numbers.

Lastly, I must admit that someone out there is a wonderful Sporting KC fan. The Internet is a horrible place to research even with its convenience of being there all the time. I can find the win-loss records of every team for every season on MLSsoccer.com, and that includes home win-loss records. Problem is I need the penalty shootout wins and losses for each team, and I will be done much faster. Fortunately, someone has posted the results of every match for every season on Wikipedia, and despite it not being a reputable source for a research paper, politics, or anything controversial, it will do for results which I can then check back on. So far only one team has a results table and match by match details for every season and that is us, so kudos to Sporting fans for helping me out.

(Charts after the jump)

Sporting KC's Home Field Advantage

Here is a year by year look at the results:

Sporting KC
Overall Home Away
Year Stadium Pld W D L Pts PPG Pld W D L Pts PPG Pld W D L Pts PPG Home-Away Ratio Home Away Difference
1996 Arrowhead Stadium 32 12 7 13 43 1.344 16 9 3 4 30 1.875 16 3 4 9 13 0.813 2.31 1.063
1997 Arrowhead Stadium 32 12 9 9 45 1.406 16 8 6 3 30 1.875 16 3 3 8 12 0.750 2.50 1.125
1998 Arrowhead Stadium 32 10 6 16 36 1.125 16 9 2 5 29 1.813 16 1 4 11 7 0.438 4.14 1.375
1999 Arrowhead Stadium 32 6 8 18 26 0.813 16 5 5 6 20 1.250 16 1 3 12 6 0.375 3.33 0.875
2000 Arrowhead Stadium 32 16 9 7 57 1.781 16 11 1 4 34 2.125 16 5 8 3 23 1.438 1.48 0.688
2001 Arrowhead Stadium 27 11 3 13 36 1.333 13 8 1 4 27 2.077 14 3 2 9 11 0.786 2.64 1.291
2002 Arrowhead Stadium 28 9 9 10 36 1.286 14 7 3 4 24 1.714 14 2 6 6 12 0.857 2.00 0.857
2003 Arrowhead Stadium 30 11 9 10 42 1.400 15 8 3 4 27 1.800 15 3 6 6 15 1.000 1.80 0.800
2004 Arrowhead Stadium 30 14 7 9 49 1.633 15 9 3 3 30 2.000 15 5 4 6 19 1.267 1.58 0.733
2005 Arrowhead Stadium 32 11 12 9 45 1.406 16 6 6 4 24 1.500 16 5 6 5 21 1.313 1.14 0.188
2006 Arrowhead Stadium 32 10 8 14 38 1.188 16 7 5 4 26 1.625 16 3 3 10 12 0.750 2.17 0.875
2007 Arrowhead Stadium 30 11 7 12 40 1.333 15 7 3 5 24 1.600 15 4 4 7 16 1.067 1.50 0.533
2008 CommunityAmerica Ballpark 30 11 9 10 42 1.400 15 9 4 2 31 2.067 15 2 5 8 11 0.733 2.82 1.333
2009 CommunityAmerica Ballpark 30 8 9 13 33 1.100 15 4 5 6 17 1.133 15 4 4 7 16 1.067 1.06 0.067
2010 CommunityAmerica Ballpark 30 11 6 13 39 1.300 15 7 3 5 24 1.600 15 5 3 7 15 1.000 1.60 0.600
2011 Livestrong Sporting Park 34 13 12 9 51 1.500 17 9 6 2 33 1.941 17 4 6 7 18 1.059 1.83 0.882

And here are the result totals and totals for each stadium:

Sporting KC Totals Overall Home Away
Stadium Pld W D L Pts PPG Pld W D L Pts PPG Pld W D L Pts Home-Away Ratio Home-Away Difference
Arrowhead Stadium 369 133 94 140 493 1.337 184 94 41 50 325 1.771 185 38 53 92 167 0.904 2.22 0.867
CommunityAmerica Ballpark 90 30 24 36 114 1.267 45 20 12 13 72 1.600 45 11 12 22 42 0.933 1.83 0.667
Livestrong Sporting Park 34 13 12 9 51 1.500 17 9 6 2 33 1.941 17 4 6 7 18 1.059 1.83 0.882
Team History 493 176 130 185 658 3.739 246 123 59 65 430 1.748 247 53 71 121 227 0.919 2.12 0.829

Conclusions

Most of these are going to be quite obvious, because our data shows how average we have been over the course of our franchise.

First, to be an elite team you must be able to win on the road or at least perform as well as an average home team. In our two best seasons, 2000 and 2004, we had two of our best years on the road, and as the playoffs transition to home-and-home series for both the quarter and the semifinals, road toughness will be more important. Also, the Supporter's Shield is a far more important in terms of ensuring you don't play on the road in the MLS Cup.

It may seem funny that the ratio makes Livestrong seem like less of a home field advantage than Arrowhead or CommunityAmerica. However, there are some years when the Wizards were just awful road teams. In comparison to the rest of the league, last year's team was much closer to league average than the 2000 and 2004 teams and 2008 is an anomaly that may have something to do with the unfamiliar field. Last year's home performance was fantastic, but our road performance after June was solid as well which makes Livestrong look worse. However, given the crowd support and love Sporting has been getting, don't expect last year's number to be the anomaly in five years. If the team improves, expect a higher number towards the massive 2.41 PPG the Los Angeles Galaxy posted last year

An average MLS team should win around 45 points a year. That just means they should win lose and draw every three games, for a total of 1.333 PPG. Last year every team above this level made the playoffs. The 2002 and 2007 teams are perfect examples of average teams. Fifty is probably the safe number over a 34 game schedule to make the playoffs for certain.

The last thing I would like to point out is I never saw the Wizards play a road game in person in the 1990's, but I am so happy about that after looking at this. I have a feeling when I'm done that will be the worst four year stretch on the road any team has had.