All the time we hear discussion about how difficult it is to win on the road in MLS, and how absurd the travel schedule is across the US and Canada, but what exactly are the numbers behind these arguments? Let’s take a look.
Today, August 13, we are a good chunk into the 2019 season, and 297 regular season MLS games have been played. Of those 297 matches, the home team has won 155 times, and lost 78, along with 64 draws.
Win Percentage- 52.19%
Draw Percentage- 21.55%
Loss Percentage- 26.26%
Compared to EPL
In the 2018/2019 season, here are the numbers for home vs. away win percentages. The most obvious difference between the league across the pond and our own is the dramatic increase in travel time that our players have to face. Hell, 5 teams in the EPL are located in London. Last season in the EPL, the farthest distance for an away game was 353 miles between Newcastle and Bournemouth. That is slightly different from the 2600+ mile flight from Vancouver to Orlando. Anyway, here is how much of an impact those miles (among other factors) have on the gameplay:
Win- 181 Games (47.63%)
Draw- 71 Games (18.68%)
Loss- 128 Games (33.68%)
There are many reasons why it is harder to win on the road, and it can vary team by team. Some teams have a more difficult flight schedule. Some teams have road games in quick succession, combining the away atmosphere with both fatigue from travel and fatigue from a previous match. There are specific things that can affect teams individually, but on the grand scale it is wild to think that when people say “Well its twice as hard to win on the road” they are exactly right.
Clearly, simply playing in an away pitch/atmosphere is far more impactful than the distance traveled to get there. This specific sample size of 23 weeks of MLS compared to the 2018/2019 EPL results seems to demonstrate travel being a factor, but not a decisive one, sitting at just under a 5% differential of winning percentage at home. The biggest takeaway that I see is the fraction it is away from doubled odds of winning at home vs. losing.
This year in MLS on average, the home team walks away with at least a point 73.74% of the time.