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MLS history gives edge to playoff teams hosting 2nd leg

LA Galaxy's Landon Donovan hoists MLS Cup 2011

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

As Supporters' Shield winners, it's commonly said that the San Jose Earthquakes have "home-field advantage throughout the playoffs."

But with two playoff rounds consisting of a two-leg, home-and-home series and the Quakes hosting the second leg in each case, is there really an edge?

"As long as it's home-and home, no one really has an advantage,” says LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena on whether it's better for a team to host the first or second leg in a playoff series.

MLS managers on playoffs: Better to host 1st or 2nd leg?

Well, history disagrees with Arena. The numbers indicate that if you're at home for the second leg of a playoff series in MLS, you're more likely to advance.

There have been 36 home-and-home series in MLS history since they were introduced as part of the playoff format in the 2003 postseason. And a little over 60 percent of teams (22 of 36) have made that "home-field advantage" count in the second leg pay off.

In Arena's defense, it's not an overwhelming number, especially if you take into account that the team with the better regular-season point total hosts the second leg and should be expected to advance.

In total, home teams have compiled a 22-5-9 in those second legs with those five losses resulting in some of the biggest upsets in MLS playoff history. Like the Earthquakes bouncing New York in Thierry Henry's first season (2010), Real Salt Lake ousting Columbus in the start of their miraculous cup run (2009) and the Red Bulls shocking Houston in 2008 en route to their first appearance in MLS Cup 2008.

A run-through of all 36 home-and-home series in MLS playoff history tell this story:

TEAMS WITH SECOND LEG AT HOME WHO DID NOT ADVANCE: 14
2011 West Semis: Real Salt Lake over Seattle Sounders (3-2 on agg.)
2010 East Semis: SJ Earthquakes over NY Red Bulls (3-2 on agg.)
2010 East Semis: Colorado Rapids over Columbus Crew (5-4 on PKs)
2010 West Semis: FC Dallas over Real Salt Lake (2-1 on agg.)
2009 East Semis: Real Salt Lake over Columbus Crew (4-2 on agg.)
2008 West Semis: NY Red Bulls over Houston Dynamo (4-1 on agg.)
2008 West Semis: Real Salt Lake over Chivas USA (3-2 on agg.)
2007 East Semis: Chicago Fire over D.C. United (3-2 on agg.)
2007 West Semis: Kansas City over Chivas USA (1-0 on agg.)
2006 West Semis: Colorado Rapids over FC Dallas (5-4 on PKs)
2005 East Semis: Chicago Fire over D.C. United (4-0 on agg.)
2005 West Semis: LA Galaxy over SJ Earthquakes (4-2 on agg.)
2005 West Semis: Colorado Rapids over FC Dallas (5-4 on PKs)
2004 East Semis: New England Revolution over Columbus Crew (2-1 on agg.)

TEAMS WITH SECOND LEG AT HOME WHO ADVANCED: 22
2011 East Semis: Sporting KC over Colorado Rapids (4-0 on agg.)
2011 East Semis: Houston Dynamo over Philadelphia Union (3-1 on agg.)
2011 West Semis: LA Galaxy over NY Red Bulls (3-1 on agg.)
2010 West Semis: LA Galaxy over Seattle Sounders (3-1 on agg.)
2009 East Semis: Chicago Fire over New England Revolution (3-2 on agg.)
2009 West Semis: LA Galaxy over Chivas USA (3-2 on agg.)
2009 West Semis: Houston Dynamo over Seattle Sounders (1-0 on agg.)
2008 East Semis: Columbus Crew over Kansas City (3-1 on agg.)
2008 East Semis: Chicago Fire over New England Revolution (3-0 on agg.)
2007 East Semis: New England Revolution over NY Red Bulls (1-0 on agg.)
2007 West Semis: Houston Dynamo over FC Dallas (4-2 on agg.)
2006 East Semis: D.C. United over NY Red Bulls (2-1 on agg.)
2006 East Semis: New England Revolution over Chicago Fire (4-2 on PKs)
2006 West Semis: Houston Dynamo over Chivas USA (3-2 on agg.)
2005 East Semis: New England Revolution over New York (3-2 on agg.)
2004 East Semis: D.C. United over New York (4-0 on agg.)
2004 West Semis: Kansas City over San Jose (3-2 on agg.)
2004 West Semis: LA Galaxy over Colorado Rapids (2-1 on agg.)
2003 East Semis: Chicago Fire over D.C. United (4-0 on agg.)
2003 East Semis: New England Revolution over New York (3-1 on agg.)
2003 West Semis: San Jose Earthquakes over LA Galaxy (5-4 on agg.)
2003 West Semis: Kansas City over Colorado Rapids (3-1 on agg.)