Jeff Bradley: Four-man race for the Golden Boot doesn't mean it will end that way

It occurred to me as I watched Vancouver's Camilo Sanvezzo score a pair of goals last weekend to move to the top of the Golden Boot race, that maybe, just maybe, we're in the midst of an unprecedented four-man battle for scoring supremacy in MLS.

Look at the numbers: Camilo has 12 goals, Chicago’s Mike Magee and Montreal’s Marco Di Vaio each have 11 and Philadelphia's Jack McInerney has 10. There has to be something historic brewing, right?


The Elias Sports Bureau told me that all of this is quite normal in MLS, and that to have four players jockeying for the top spot at this point in the season is actually low compared to some other years.

In six of the league’s 18 seasons, four or more players have been within two goals of the lead on July 15. In 2003 there were six players within striking distance of leaders Ante Razov and Tayor Twellman in mid-July, and in 2005 there was an 11-man race at this point in the season, including the likes of Jeff Cunningham, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Christian Gómez and Twellman, who ended up winning the race by a hair over Jaime Moreno.

So no, what's going on this year is not novel. But what’s intriguing is that, aside from Di Vaio, none of the preseason Golden Boot favorites are all that close to the top. Robbie Keane and Thierry Henry have seven apiece. Two-time Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski's got five. Eddie Johnson only has four.

Other storylines? Sure.

Consider that McInerney will be just 21 years old when the season ends, potentially making him the youngest Golden Boot winner in league history if he can finish the job.

Di Vaio, meanwhile, turned 37 years old on Monday and is halfway to becoming the oldest Golden Boot winner in league history. Yes, historians will tell you that former MLS legend Preki won the MLS scoring title at 40 years old in 2003 (when the league combined goals and assists), but Twellman and Carlos Ruiz shared the Boot itself that year.

Magee, currently in his 12th season in the league, has a chance to become the longest-tenured first-time winner in league history. He’s already scored more goals this season that any other in his career, and he has 17 games left to go.

And Camilo? Well, he's got a chance to become the first player to ever win both the Maltese and MLS league scoring titles. But we digress…

A look at the past tells us that it’s really anyone’s race at this point, but the man in front (Camilo) does have a slight edge. The man leading the league in goals on July 15 went on to win the Boot seven times in 17 years (41 percent), most recently Wondolowski in 2012 and Donovan in 2008. 

But six times in the past a player has come from the back of the pack after July 15 and eventually won the race. That was the case each year from 2009-2011, when Jeff Cunningham, Wondolowski and Dwayne De Rosario, respectively, were all after thoughts at this point of the season and went ahead and won the award anyway. So don't sleep on Sporting Kansas City's Claudio Bieler, Columbus' Dominic Oduro or Philadelphia's Conor Casey, in addition to Keane, Henry or Wondolowski.

So forget what you think you know about the Boot race, and expect a fight to the finish.

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