The math of qualifying

With four matches left to play in their inaugural season, Nashville SC look firmly set to finish in a playoff position. That’s not something I necessarily expected to happen (I did predict them to finish in 10th place, after all).

Nashville SC are currently in eight place in the Eastern Conference, with a tally of 25 points from 19 matches. The top 10 sides in the conference will qualify for the playoffs, and Nashville have a four point lead on Inter Miami in 10th place.

FiveThirtyEight’s predictions give Nashville a 93% chance of qualifying for the playoffs and a 26% chance to finish in seventh place. They’ve broken down each remaining match with percentage odds for each possible outcome:

Opponent

Montreal
Chicago
Dallas
Orlando

Win %

26%
40%
41%
18%

Draw %

26%
26%
28%
25%

Loss %

48%
34%
31%
57%

I’ve broken down the playoff picture using a simple points per game model. Nashville have the potential to finish the season with 37 points, which could move them as high as fifth place.

On pure points per game, Nashville are on pace to take 5.26 points from the next four matches. Obviously, that’s not a possible outcome, but it’s a benchmark.

A win and two draws would be enough to finish in either seventh or eighth place, which would see them host a play-in round match.

If Nashville take more than six points or more from their remaining matches, say two wins and a draw, they’ll push New England for the sixth place spot in the conference. Three or more wins would put them firmly in contention for fifth place.

Nashville could officially clinch a playoff berth as early as Wednesday night. A win tonight against Montreal, followed by a Miami loss and an Atlanta loss or draw would ensure that the Boys In Gold finish higher than 10th.

Similarly, wins against Montreal tonight and Chicago on Saturday would guarantee a playoff spot, regardless of other results.

Four points from the final four matches would mean the lowest Nashville could finish would be 11th place. If Miami is able to win all three of their remaining matches and Nashville takes four points, they would just miss out on the playoffs due to tiebreakers (in this scenario, Miami would have nine wins to Nashville’s six or seven).

What this all boils down to is that realistically, Nashville need to shoot for a minimum at least five points from their next four matches. That would secure a playoff berth and likely a home play-in match. Anything more than that would challenge for a spot in the top six.

Nashville have the added benefit of playing half of their remaining matches at home. To borrow a phrase from head coach Gary Smith, they’ve turned Nissan Stadium into a fortress, with a 4W-4D-1L record at home. Their sole loss came in their opener back on February 29.

Nashville are in a great run of form, losing just twice in their last thirteen matches. While they may have been a long-shot at the start of the season, with four games to play, they’re not just sneaking into a playoff spot. They’re turning into a team no one wants to play.

Comments

  1. Hey Ben! Thank you for this insight, as a California fan of Nashville SC, I appreciate all the information and expertise you provide! Hopefully we can see Rios in the starting unit with hopefully 30 minutes of Jhonder mixed in!

    1. Hey Shovik, glad you enjoy it! I’m hopeful we’ll see Rios get the start tonight, too. He’s been really, really good throughout the season, but really rounded into form the last month or so.

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