West is Best: Western Conference is dominant in MLS, and has been for some time
Over the weekend, we saw the Eastern Conference’s top two teams journey west for inter-conference matchups after winning four of their previous five games. Sporting Kansas City and D.C. United both headed back east with their tails between their legs after losing by multiple goals.
The Western Conference beating up on the East is not something that occurred just this weekend; it’s been happening all season. In 73 games between the two conferences so far, the West has won 33 while the East has taken all three points in just 17 games.
East vs. West 2014
You can see the effect in the conference standings. San Jose, the eighth-place team, would make the playoffs in the East if the season ended today. This dominance of the West has been apparent not just this year, but in almost every season since 2009. Since then, the West has won 41 percent of the games between the two conferences while the East has won just 31 percent.
East vs. West since 2009
Over the same timespan, Western Conference teams have taken home four of the five MLS Cups and three of the five Supporters’ Shields.
East vs. West Trophies since 2009
Some would even argue that the Red Bulls only won the Supporters’ Shield because they were in the weaker Eastern Conference.
With the season winding to a close, the MLS schedule has not given the East much of a chance to get even with the West. The two conferences face off just 17 times over the next two-and-a-half months, with more than half of the 17 coming before September 9. The last game between the East and West comes on October 4, when Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe and the rest of Toronto FC visit the Galaxy. The last three weekends of MLS are made up exclusively of intra-conference battles.
After this season, the conference landscape is likely to change with the additions of New York City FC and Orlando City SC. Generally expansion franchises don’t fare too well in Year 1, but that may change with these two big-spending clubs. They will look to help the East reclaim conference supremacy – remember, teams on the right side of the map dominated the early-to-mid aughts – when they enter MLS in 2015.