MLS today announced that for the 2012 season, Goals For will be the tiebreaker in the final standings. The current leaders in Goals For are San Jose, Los Angeles, and New York. These changes were agreed to back in April, after being presented in January. The announcement has also resulted in many MLS fans coming to the realization that Goal Differential wasn't the MLS tiebreaker before.
This is actually a move from head to head to goals for. With MLS moving from the double round robin format to an unbalanced conference based schedule, head to head no longer worked as a tiebreaker. While the EPL uses goal differential, it's unfair to assume that's the FIFA standard. In fact, every league and competition is different.
These rules were not announced in April when they were adopted, instead MLS choosing to announce the rule change midseason to bring attention to the playoff race. A gimmick PR move and one that sparked a lively debate on twitter.
The other point of contention is why MLS chose to switch to Goals For instead of Goal Differential. Head to head is a terrible way to break ties, but Goals For still has a terrible flaw. It completely devalues the contributions of the defense. Seattle is currently fourth in the west in Goals For. Is it's the last day of the season and they're up 4-0 and locked in a tie with Real Salt Lake or the Galaxy, will we see them pull their keeper in the 85' for an extra striker. Finishing 5-4 would be more advantageous to them then finishing 4-0.
That's not good soccer. That's silly carnival stuff. Right now Seattle is second in Goal Differential in the West, owing to their stellar defense. With goal differential as a tiebreaker, keeping clean sheets is just as important as scoring hat tricks.
MLS has said, in choosing GF over GD, that defense doesn't matter. They've said it loud, and they've said it clear. Fans of soccer shouldn't be okay with this.
Update: It wasn't really enough to justify another article, but I did go back and read the press release. Here is the list of tiebreakers in order for when two or more teams are tied on points:
- Goals For (See column labeled GF on www.MLSsoccer.com/standings page)
- Goal Differential (GD)
- Fewest Disciplinary Points (Posted here)
- Road Goals
- Road Goal Differential
- Home Goals
- Home Goal Differential
- Coin Toss (2 teams) or Drawing of Lots (3 or more)
The Galaxy are currently second in the West in Goals For, fourth in Goal Differential, and fourth in Disciplinary Points. Also, MLS provided this chart which shows playoff spots if the playoffs started today:
Conference Semifinals (1st leg): DC/CHI winner vs. Houston (1) VAN/LA winner vs. San Jose (1) Sat. Nov. 3 or Sun. Nov. 4 New York (3) vs. Sporting KC (2) Seattle (3) vs. Real Salt Lake (2)
Conference Semifinals (2nd leg): Houston (1) vs. DC/CHI winner San Jose (1) vs. VAN/LA winner Wed. Nov. 7 or Thu. Nov 8 Sporting KC (2) vs. New York (3) Real Salt Lake (2) vs. Seattle (3)