The most important thing in soccer is scoring goals. The notion of “defense wins championships” might be true, but teams that dominate on offense brings fans together, grabs headlines, and captivates fans from all over the world. With that in mind, we will go deep into the numbers to see which teams are scoring the most and fewest goals in some of the best soccer leagues in the world.
For this exercise, we have left out the 2019 MLS playoffs and the ongoing 2020 MLS Is Back Tournament. The former limits some factors due to the fact that they are one-legged knockout matches, while the latter doesn’t really reflect the tendencies of the league, as it’s being played under extreme circumstances, such as no fans and a neutral venue.
If we analyze the data from the 2019 MLS season, there's some interesting information to digest. Last year’s campaign saw the Seattle Sounders winning the title in a thrilling final match against Toronto FC. However, the Sounders couldn’t be classified as a “high-scoring” unit -- they ended the 2019 season with four-straight matches that netted two or fewer total goals, including three with under 1.5 goals.
The team that finished the most games with over 2.5 goals turned out to be the San Jose Earthquakes, as 26 of their 34 regular-season contests ended with at least three total goals. As for average goals per match, Los Angeles FC paced the entire Western Conference -- and the league -- with an average of 3.58 goals per contest, followed by the Colorado Rapids 3.55 goals per contest. Oddly, LAFC only ranked sixth in the column, as 21 of their 34 matches ended with three or more goals. This reflected a clear tendency for them -- they either scored in bunches, or got involved in low-scoring contests.
The Minnesota United and the Vancouver Whitecaps found themselves at the other end of the spectrum. Only 15 of Minnesota’s games finished with over 2.5 goals, while the same outcome happened in 18 of Vancouver’s contests. Minnesota, in fact, was the only team in the West -- and one of four in the entire league -- that saw under 50 percent of their games finish with three or more total goals.
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Unlike the Sounders, Toronto FC were among the most “entertaining” teams in the MLS when it comes to finishing matches with three or more goals. Toronto finished second in that category in the East, as 21 of their 34 matches featured over 2.5 goals. That was tied for second-best in the Conference with New York City FC.
The team that paced the Eastern Conference in that particular stat was the Montreal Impact, as 25 of their league matches featured three or more goals. They were the second-best team across the league in that category, trailing only the Quakes. Just like it happened in the East, however, the tendency to get involved in high-scoring matches didn’t result in Montreal pacing the Conference in total goals per match. That honor belonged to Toronto FC -- 3.20 goals per fixture -- and they were followed closely by the Philadelphia Union -- 3.17 -- in second place.
At the other end of the spectrum, we found DC United (14 games with over 2.5 goals), Columbus Crew (15) and Orlando City (16). In surprising fashion, all three teams saw under 50 percent of their games tallying three or more goals. DC United also ranked as the “less entertaining” side of the bunch, with their games averaging only 2.4 total goals per fixture.
It’s hard to draw conclusions from the 2020 MLS season since it only featured two matches before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the stoppage of competition. However, there were a few tendencies worth noting.
The Earthquakes picked it up where they left off in 2019, as they paced the entire league with 5.0 goals per fixture and both of their matches featured over 2.5 goals. In fact, eight teams -- San Jose, Minnesota, Sporting Kansas City, Colorado, FC Cincinnati, Montreal, DC United, and Atlanta United -- saw both of their games finish with over 2.5 goals.
At the other end, the Los Angeles Galaxy, New York City FC, Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake all featured under 2.5 goals in both contests. NYCFC and RSL both averaged just 1.0 goal per fixture.
The MLS is often criticized due to the fact that the organization isn’t really one of the top leagues in the world, but that’s just fine. The league is less than 30 years old and has taken gigantic leaps forward in recent years. The arrival of young talents and established star players has allowed them to increase the level on a year-to-year basis.
One thing we can conclude about the league is that the entertainment is present in most of the teams. The tendencies explained in this article are the perfect example for that statement.
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