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Are the Crew the worst team in MLS history?

November 12, 2007
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There are times when my curiosity gets the better of me. Today was one of those times. I was thinking about the Crew’s recent history of missing the playoffs, and wanted to try to understand how that streak fits into the league’s short history. There are times where it feels like we’re becoming one of the worst teams in the history of the league; is that anywhere close to the truth?

Over the 12-year history of the league, there have been a total of 39 team-seasons which ended outside of playoff position. Chicago, with 10 seasons under their belt, have failed to make the playoffs once – a 10% failure rate. Los Angeles, with 12 seasons, have failed twice (roughly 17%).

Columbus has failed to make the playoffs 5 times in 12 years – or about 42% of the time.

No other team has suffered that many failures, either as a raw total or a percentage. Excepting RSL and Toronto’s 100% failure rate (not hard for clubs that are 3 and 1 years old), the only real competitor was San Jose, which failed to make the playoffs 4 times in 10 years (40%). Still, their early ineptitude was easily forgotten once Frank Yallop started bringing home championships.

Looking at these numbers in a slightly different way, the Crew have failed to make the playoffs for three straight seasons (and 4 of the last 5, if you look a bit further back). The only teams to match that streak are Real Salt Lake (2005-present), DC United (2000-2002), and San Jose (1997-2000). San Jose’s 4-year streak is still the longest in league history, although both RSL and Columbus could equal that next year.

There are a lot of other ways that one could try to establish “the worst team in MLS”. I’m not about to make a claim that absolute without digging much deeper than this analysis goes. But it is somewhat worrying that the club have, in some ways at least, reached unrivaled levels of failure.

Hopefully the team will turn the corner, and next year will see the Crew rise from the ashes to claim glory heretofore unknown. But if recent history is any guide, I wouldn’t bet on it.

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