A crowd of over 22,000 helped propel Nashville SC to a crucial home victory on late Sunday night. Nashville picked up all three points against expansion side Austin FC. In my Points Off Playoff Pace model, Nashville gains ground and finds itself above the playoff line for the first time this year.
Explaining Points Off Playoff Pace
For those unfamiliar, the Points Off Playoff Pace (“POPP”) table is a set of standings that I created that aims to show how a club is progressing towards earning a playoff spot.
The basic premise that underlies the POPP table is that the target line for making the MLS playoffs is 50 points. In any typical year, 50 points is enough to safely secure a playoff berth.
On average, MLS teams earn roughly 1.85 points per home match and 0.93 point per road game. Rounded up, it comes to two points / one point. Hitting this target of two points per home game and one point per away game would yield 51 points in a 34-game season, one point clear of the playoff target line.
POPP Table as of May 24, 2021
Nashville is beginning to erase the damage of the early season home draws. While still a point behind the target pace, the relatively weaker Eastern Conference allows Nashville to move above the POPP model playoff line and into 4th place on the real table.
The defense looked customarily dominant on Sunday night. Austin officially registered only one shot on target. There were only two clear-cut chances for Verde, a Cecilio Domínguez shot just wide of the post and a VAR overturned goal that would have drawn the match level. But it will take more than just the defense if Nashville wants to stay unbeaten.
Nashville SC heads to Atlanta this week for a big Eastern conference showdown. It’s an important match, not just for the standings (the teams occupy the 4th and 5th spots in the Eastern Conference), but also for establishing early markers in a growing regional rivalry.