As the MLS season approaches, MLSsoccer.com marks each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for March 2.
20 – Can anyone hit that number of regular season wins?
Let’s hop in the way-back machine. For you MLS 2.0 types (are we 3.0 now?), this might be a bit painful, but we’re now on a journey back to a time where the stadiums had NFL lines, the uniforms were the color of unicorn vomit, and the games ended in either a win or a loss. There were no draws.
Yeah, that was the MLS of 1996 through '99, and if you look at the yearly standings, you’ll see that they’re a little skewed. The 1998 LA Galaxy, for example, are listed at 24-8-0, which is only good for 68 points.
That’s because shootout wins got the same “W” as regulation wins in the standings, but only counted for a point. For my purposes, we’re counting those shootout wins – and shootout losses – as draws.
By that reckoning, the ’98 Galaxy were a marginally less impressive 22-6-4. Still awesome (they also have the best-ever goal differential at +41), and now a little more reflective of reality.
Also part of that reality is they were and are the only team in league history to record 20 or more wins in a single MLS regular season. San Jose came real, real close last year, but fell one short. Same for the 2011 Cup/Shield winning Galaxy. The 2010 Gals were two wins short, as were the 2005 Quakes and last year's Sporting KC side.
It’s hard to win 20 games. Damn hard, and probably getting harder now that teams are taking the CONCACAF Champions League and US Open Cup seriously. You’ve got to split your squad, manage your minutes and figure out which hot hand to ride.
Add in the fact that European teams are starting to get the hots for MLS talent, and that 20-win mark seems even farther away. Got a scorching young forward you’ll be building around? Maybe not for long.
I’d be shocked if anyone came close this year – 58 points will take the Shield. As Aurélien Collin said, there are 15 teams that can beat the hell out of you in any given week, and parity kills a juggernaut.
So that ’98 Galaxy team will remain snug and secure as the only member of Club 20. And don’t expect it to change any time soon.