MLS Front-Office Efficiency: 2016 edition

The 2016 Major League Soccer regular season came to a close two weeks ago, so it’s time for a new edition of the Front-Office Efficiency table.  As was the case last year, this table is displayed as an infographic on the Soccermetrics SlideShare page and as twenty individual panels on the Soccermetrics Twitter page.

The efficiency metric is version 4.0 which was developed in 2015.  You can read more about the process here.

This year I finished syncing and standardizing the salaries and players in my database, which resolved some clerical errors in player names and salaries that were present in the MLS Players Union data.  I recomputed the efficiency ratings from previous seasons, and the results agree within 5%.  The bottom line is that I have a lot more confidence in my data and the analysis tools than ever before.

At any rate, here are some observations:

  • The three clubs with the lowest payroll costs per point (highest efficiency) in 2015 — FC Dallas, DC United, and New York Red Bulls — remained in the top three in 2016.  FC Dallas had the highest Front-Office Efficiency for the third consecutive MLS regular season and, adjusted for inflation, the two most efficient seasons of any team in MLS’ Designated Player era.  (It’s very possible that FC Dallas are spending significant amounts of money on their academy system, but we have no access to their spending in this area so those expenditures aren’t incorporated in this analysis.)
  • The five sides with the highest payroll costs per point in 2015 — Seattle Sounders, Orlando City, LA Galaxy, Toronto FC, and NYCFC — remained in that group in 2016.  In fact, the only clubs that switched places in the efficiency list were Toronto FC and NYCFC, which swapped places in the bottom two.  New York City’s payroll went up as their Designated Players were available for a full season, but they won 17 more points, so they were slightly more efficient than last year.
  • Since they started play last season, NYCFC have been very good as getting their most expensive assets on the field as much as possible.  Their 69.6% utilization rate was the highest in Major League Soccer for two seasons (LA Galaxy, 2014).
  • Last season, four of the top six teams in the Front-Office Efficiency table advanced to the playoffs.  This year, five of the top six were in the playoffs and three of them received first-round byes.
  • In the league as a whole, it took on average about $100k of available payroll to win a point in 2016.  This is almost three times the average payroll cost to win a league point in 2007.  That figure may be misleading as payrolls in Major League Soccer remain bimodal.
  • That said, with the exception of FC Dallas, DC United, and Chicago Fire, MLS teams appear to be spending more money on players — around $5-6 million in available payroll.  The cost per point increases as a result, but if you adjust for inflation the amount of money spent to win league points is 30% less than that spent at the start of the DP era.

The Front-Office Efficiency infographic is shown below.  You can find an updated table of costs per point in real dollars and standardized win costs in the ProjectData repository on GitHub.



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