MLS Front-Office Efficiency: 2015 edition

With the end of the 2015 MLS regular season, it is time to generate a new edition of the Front-Office Efficiency table.  As with last year, the table will be displayed as an infographic on this page and the Soccermetrics SlideShare page, and as twenty individual panels on the Soccermetrics Twitter feed.

The calculation of the efficiency metric is unchanged from version 4.0 earlier this year, and you can read more about the process here.

Some observations:

  • DC United and FC Dallas, which had the second and third lowest payroll costs per point in 2014, remained in the top three positions of the Front-Office Efficiency table in 2015.  Adjusted for inflation, FC Dallas’ efficiency this season is the highest in the Designated Player era and is 33% greater than their efficiency in the 2010 season when they advanced to the MLS Cup Final.
  • New York Red Bulls underwent wholesale changes to the roster and coaching staff during the 2014-15 offseason as their 2015 payroll was slashed by two-thirds in real dollars and by three-quarters in 2007 dollars.  Their regular-season performance has to rank among the most impressive in the Designated Player era, not only because they won so many points with a reduced payroll, but also because they extracted so much from their higher-priced talent.  Of the 50 most efficient MLS sides adjusted for inflation, only one side (RSL in 2012) had a higher utilization rate than this season’s Red Bulls.
  • Last season, the top six teams in the Front-Office Efficiency table made the playoffs.  This season, four of the top six advanced to the playoffs.
  • There were five teams with available payrolls above $10 million, and all of them were in the bottom of the Front-Office Efficiency table.  Three of these teams qualified for the playoffs.  Seattle and LA were a little less efficient than they were last season, while Toronto was a little better.  The Sounders and Galaxy had lower utilization rates than last year, but it’s difficult to repeat utilization rates of 65-70% year-on-year.
  • The two expansion sides — Orlando City SC and New York City FC — attempted resource-rich strategies, and were successful in putting their most expensive players on the field as often as possible, but they were not successful in winning enough league points.  The final outcome isn’t too surprising for a first-year side.
  • As with last season, there is a mushy middle of teams with payroll costs of $55-70k per point, but about half of those teams advanced to the playoffs.
  • Chicago Fire have been in the news for most of the season due to the dysfunction on the field and in the front office.  Their position in the Front-Office Efficiency table is a good indication of that dysfunction.

Matt Doyle wrote on Monday that perhaps MLS front offices will move away from building teams around expensive Designated Players and seek to identify and develop homegrown and mid-priced international talent. This year’s Front-Office Efficiency table illustrates the differences in the multiple team-building strategies in the league.

The infographic is below.



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