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Is the MNUFC vs. SKC Cancellation a Sunday Blessing?

How has Sunday’s cancellation affected MNUFC’s odds to host a playoff game?

Real Salt Lake v Minnesota United FC Photo by Jeremy Olson/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Prior to Wednesday’s match vs. the Colorado Rapids, Minnesota United confirmed one of its players tested positive for COVID-19. Despite the confirmed case, the match continued as scheduled and resulted in a 2-1 win for the Loons. Later in the week, MLS formally announced that the playoffs would be seeded according to points per game (PPG), resulting in the Loons clinching a playoff spot for the 2nd consecutive year.

Yesterday afternoon, Minnesota United confirmed that a second player tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in the cancellation of Sunday’s match vs. Sporting Kansas City.

The Loons entered the weekend in 4th place in the Western Conference, controlling their own destiny for the final home playoff spot. With the cancellation of their final road game of the 2020 season, it leaves the Loons with just 2 home games before the 2020 MLS playoffs.

The question is, now that their most difficult remaining game of the season was cancelled, and that MLS confirmed the playoffs would be seeded according to PPG, how has this impacted MNUFC’s chances to host a playoff game in 2020?

To determine this, I began with three assumptions:

  • Assume a 3-way race between MNUFC, LAFC, and FC Dallas for 1 home playoff spot
  • Assume that 1 of Seattle, Sporting Kansas City, and Portland would not be passed by 2 of MNUFC, LAFC, and FC Dallas
  • Assume that Colorado will not earn a first-round home playoff game, which I currently have at a 0.3% chance

I used FiveThirtyEight’s match probabilities to construct a probability/logic table that would list all possible scenarios. Using the match probabilities, I then calculated the probability of each scenario. Once I determined who had the highest PPG in each scenario, I summed the probabilities for all scenarios in which each team was determined to have the highest PPG. The results are shown below.

NOTE: MLS’ tiebreaking procedures were followed and the probabilities were awarded to the team with the most wins. However, the probabilities were split evenly amongst tied teams when the tiebreaking procedure came down to goal differential.

After FC Dallas’ win over Houston, but prior to the cancellation of MNUFC and Sporting Kansas City, the probabilities for 4th place were:

Before Cancellation

Team Odds
Team Odds
MNUFC 36.2%
LAFC 42.4%
FC Dallas 21.4%

Then after FCD’s win over Houston, and after the cancellation of MNUFC and Sporting Kansas City, the probabilities for 4th place are:

After Cancellation

Team Odds
Team Odds
MNUFC 49.9%
LAFC 35.1%
FC Dallas 15.0%

The odds after cancellation largely reflect the fact that MNUFC now has 2 home games remaining, while LAFC has 1 home game and 1 road game, and FC Dallas with just 2 road games left.

This all shows a 21% net swing in favor of MNUFC, increasing their chances from approximately 13 to a coin flip.

While it’s frustrating to not tune into the Loons on a Sunday night, the increased odds of a home playoff game is certainly a silver lining.