Breaking Down a Soccer Box Score
Attendance at MLS games has increased every year since 2013. Surprisingly, MLS outperforms the NBA and NHL in annual average attendance. The Atlanta United expansion team led the MLS with 48,200 people per match in their inaugural season. The Seattle Sounders had been solidly on top since 2009. Expansion is warranted in MLS, and the model is working. Why is this important? It could lead to more opportunities to bet on the MLS in the United States. This is only going to increase in the future. Increased interest in the sport will also bring inexperienced bettors and more public money.
Let’s get into the basics of breaking down a soccer box score. The box score tells the story of any sport that the final score may hide from you. Soccer is no exception to that rule. Let’s look at an extreme example of how a box score in MLS can lead you to a bet. Here’s an abbreviated version of the box score for LAFC vs Portland match from July 15. Final score: 0-0.
|6||Shots on Target||6|
|5||Shots off Target||2|
It’s important to know some basic info that’s not easy to find, unless you track it yourself. An average MLS match for the current season has 10.02 shots on goal (SOG). SOG is defined as any shot attempt that would or does enter the goal if left unblocked. Hitting the post or crossbar is a SOG only if the ball goes into the goal. The average goals scored per match is 3.14. That makes our scoring ratio 3.19 SOG per goal. So we have a rough expectation that every 3 SOG should equal 1 goal. This match did not even come close to that. We saw 12 SOG and ZERO goals. Maybe the goalie overperformed. Maybe the defense was bad and the offenses got plenty of chances and just happened to always fire right at the goalie. Either way this sets up for low expectations of goals for both teams the next match.
LAFC played again on July 22 vs Minnesota United and lost 5-1, giving up eleven SOG themselves. The total was 3&3.5. It was an easy winner by halftime. There were a total of 18 SOG in the match.
Portland, on the other hand played the Montreal Impact. The Impact has been at the lower end of the SOG chart the entire year. They are among the bottom three for average goals per match with 2.11 in their current form cycle. This was enough to keep me off of the over in this match with a widely available total of three. 2-2 was the final score and the over would have cashed in this match as well. There were a total of 10 SOG in the match. There’s clearly more to soccer than just the basic box score. However, don’t overlook the amount of information you can gather by simply paying attention to some simple metrics. It’s a great starting point for analysis.