The kind of statistical information that has been available to fans of leagues around the world will soon be available to fans of MLS. The league announced a new partnership on Friday with Opta Sports, the organization that fuels such stat-heavy features as The Guardian's Chalkboards.
"For many aspects of our business, we wanted granular information about the matches in real-time," said Chris Schlosser, MLS's director digital strategy. "We want to provide that information for use in broadcasts, for fans and for coaches.
"What we’re doing is bringing in live data capture which we’ll use to drive live scoring."
Schlosser explained that the league will continue to work with Elias Sports Bureau on bigger picture statistical information such as all-time leaders and the league's record book. What Opta will be doing is much more focused on gameday data such as tackles, passes, shots and possession percentages. Combined, it will give us all a much fuller picture of what is happening on a micro level during MLS games.
"You’ll see us expose a lot more data over time and allow fans to perform their own analysis in a lot of ways," he said. "We’re trying to figure out which data, which statistics should be shared with the public. Our goal is to provide much deeper statistics and information."
Schlosser said the league's website will be undergoing a significant overhaul in terms of what statistics will be available, as well as how they are organized and displayed. Although Opta will start compiling that data as soon as the season starts, don't expect to see much of it at First Kick. Schlosser said the plan is to roll it out for public consumption some time in April.
Before that happens, though, we can look at such leagues as Germany's Bundesliga, which contracts with Opta for its gameday stats. Among the more interesting features on that site are charts that show the movement of the ball leading up to goals, who many aerial battles are being won, how teams are attacking and where individual players are passing the ball and how many of those passes are successful.
The relative importance of this information will of course be left for each of us to decide for ourselves. Up until now, though, almost all meaningful analysis of MLS was left entirely to observational biases. For the first time, MLS fans will be able to draw their own conclusions based on universally accepted and available information. This won't settle those kind of debates, but it will at least give a somewhat objective platform on which an argument can be built.