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Data Driven: How Nashville SC has Exceeded Expectations this Season

By Nashville SC, 06/14/18, 2:45PM EDT


Each Eastern Conference Team's Expected Points

Since we released the first edition of “Data Driven,” Nashville SC has continued its unbeaten stretch and become the hottest team in North American men’s soccer. The club hasn’t lost in 10 matches in a row and look to make it 11 on Saturday against North Carolina FC.

But, just how much has the club exceeded expectations?

To answer that question, we built upon our strength of schedule metrics from our first “Data Driven” and expanded it to calculate each team’s expected standings points.

The numbers show that Nashville has accumulated approximately 5.74 more points than would be expected given their strength of schedule and home/road split. That's good enough for third-best in the Eastern Conference, trailing only the two best teams in the conference, FC Cincinnati and Louisville City FC. Those two clubs exceeded expectations by 9.52 points and 8.66 points, respectively.

Take a look at each team’s expected performance compared to their actual point total as of Tuesday, June 12:



Expected Points

Actual Points


FC Cincinnati




Louisville City FC




Nashville SC




Pittsburgh Riverhounds




Indy Eleven




Charleston Battery




Charlotte Independence




Bethlehem Steel








Tampa Bay Rowdies




Ottawa Fury FC




Richmond Kickers




Penn FC




North Carolina FC




Atlanta United 2




Toronto FC II





Methodology: First, we calculated the average number of points earned in each Eastern Conference match this season. Then, we subtracted each team’s average opponent points per game from that number to find each team’s expected points per game. We multiplied that number by the number of games played to find each team’s expected total points based on strength of schedule. Then, we calculated the average number of points earned by Eastern Conference teams in home and road matches and determined the expected total points based on home/road splits. We then averaged that number with the expected points based on strength of schedule to find an accurate expected points number. Finally, found the difference between each team’s expected points and actual points to reach our performance metric.

So, if each team in the East performed exactly to expectations, Nashville SC should be in last place in the USL Eastern Conference. Not only has Nashville exceeded expectations, but the club has done so at a higher rate than the next club. The next team on the list, Pittsburgh, has only exceeded their expected point total by 3.29 points.

As if those numbers aren’t impressive enough, they don’t even do Nashville SC justice. The metric also doesn’t take into account the club’s U.S. Open Cup performance in which Nashville SC has advanced to the Round of 16 thanks to a 2-0 upset of the MLS’ Colorado Rapids.

It's a bit of a stretch to say Nashville SC’s run has been “magical,” but given the circumstances as an expansion team with a brutal stretch of road matches against some of the top teams in the league, those numbers are nothing to scoff at. That tough start, coupled with early success, has worked to bring the team together and create some noise in the soccer world.

“The plan certainly on technical front was to build solid foundations,” head coach Gary Smith said on Morning Drive on 102.5 The Game on Wednesday. “By that I mean good characters, a good culture, working environment daily, players that want to improve and have pride playing for the club. On top of that I do believe that if you’ve got the right type of individuals that slowly but surely, you move in a positive direction, the fans see the product on the field and what you hope is that results come with it. The results especially away from home in a tough environment have come a little bit more freely than I maybe expected.”

Now, as the Summer of Soccer is upon us, the team is hitting a stretch of four straight home matches. The club will be looking to continue to defy the odds and keep themselves firmly in a playoff spot.

“I think also the guys have put in a tremendous amount of hard work not just on the training field, but they’ve shown really good character away from home and they’ve picked up points in some really difficult environments,” Smith said. “What we're also seeing is that when we’ve played at home, and our record at First Tennessee Park looks terrific at the moment, we’ve got ourselves into a good groove. That has to continue. We certainly haven’t fulfilled the necessary performances or points tallied that are going to take us to a playoff position at the end of the year. There’s still plenty of hard work in front of us, but we’re certainly in a good position.”

Nashville SC puts its 10-match unbeaten stretch to the test this Saturday at First Tennessee Park vs. North Carolina FC. Tickets are available at