There are a dozen league games on Major League Soccer's calendar this week. How many will end in ties? The math says five.
There's been an outbreak of draws in MLS this season, already 64 with the campaign half over. The Chicago Fire have tied 12 of 16 games -- three more and the league single-season record will be theirs -- and the New York Red Bulls have been in even in 10 of 18 (and eight of the last 12).
The Galaxy and Toronto FC already have nine draws, four others -- Colorado, Houston, Seattle and Vancouver -- have eight apiece. In all, 40.51 percent of games this year in MLS have ended in a tie, and nearly a third of them (20) have been scoreless.
Is it an aberration or a new norm? A result of tactics? Product of MLS's rampant parity? More study is required, but what is clear is we've never seen anything like it in MLS.
Since the league debuted in 1996, roughly one-quarter of the matches have ended in draws. This is not exactly true, because MLS tried some oddball stuff to lure in neophytes in the early days, none odder than the shootout that broke ties in the first four seasons.
Technically, every game from 1996 through 1999 had a winner. But 22 percent of them would have been ties had the current format -- the format used virtually in every corner of the globe -- been in place.
MLS introduced ties, for real, in 2000, but even scores first led to 10-minute overtime periods. There was a split of points in not quite one-fifth of games, but add in 47 games that finished with a golden goal in OT and its nearly 27 percent.
On five occasions -- in 1999; in 2003, including games decided with overtime goals; and in 2004, 2006 and 2009 -- more than 29 percent of MLS matches were ties.
The mark last year was only 24.16 percent, including 14 for FC Dallas, which set an MLS record. It was 31.66 percent in 2009, when there were 69 draws -- the most in league history.
So if things go to form this week, we'll see our 69th tie of 2011 Saturday night or in Sunday's game. At this pace, the number will hit 124 by season's end.
And let's not forget the MLS Cup final, coming to Carson in November. Seven of the previous 15 finals went to OT -- including both of the Galaxy's triumphs -- and two were decided on penalties.
This week's rankings:
1. GALAXY (9-2-9, 36 points), Last week: 1
Week 16: Brian Perk debuts in the nets with a PK save and shutout in L.A.'s Fourth of July draw vs. Seattle, its second straight 0-0 result
Remark: Galaxy still No. 1 because no matter the situation, they get the result -- 11 games without a loss and counting
History of draws: L.A. this year is just three off the team record, set in 2009, but L.A. also were tied in a dozen games in 2003, going 2-1-9 in sudden-death overtimes. Per year: 7.35
Next: Saturday vs. Chicago at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel); Wednesday in U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal vs. Seattle in Tukwila, Wash., 7 p.m.
2. FC DALLAS (10-4-4, 34 points), Last week: 2
Week 16: Brek Shea scores in fourth straight game, netting No. 8 in 2-0 win over Columbus as Hoops are first to reach double-digit victories
Remark: Former UC Santa Barbara star Eric Avila back in camp, declining comment after planned loan deal to Atlas, based in parents' native Guadalajara, falls apart
History of draws: Set the MLS mark last year with 14. Per year: 7.02
Next: Saturday at Real Salt Lake, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Tuesday in U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal vs. Real Salt Lake, 6 p.m.
3. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (8-4-8, 32 points), Last week: 3
Week 16: Fredy Montero will rue missed penalty in 0-0 Fourth of July draw at the Galaxy
Remark: Trek south to Oregon promises best atmosphere in MLS history
History of draws: On target to beat 11 posted in inaugural MLS campaign. Per year: 9.96
Next: Sunday at Portland, 1 p.m. (ESPN and ESPN Deportes); Wednesday in U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal vs. Galaxy in Tukwila, Wash., 7 p.m.
4. REAL SALT LAKE (7-3-6, 27 points), Last week: 4
Week 16: Fabian Espindola's 83rd-minute strike completes Utahns' second comeback in 3-3 Fourth of July draw vs. New England
Remark: RSL robbed with Nat Borchers red card three minutes into the season's wildest and most questionably officiated clash
History of draws: Hit double digits two of the past three seasons, on target to do so again. Per year: 7.83
Next: Saturday vs. FC Dallas, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Tuesday in U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal at FC Dallas, 6 p.m.
5. PHILADELPHIA UNION (7-4-6, 27 points), Last week: 5
Week 16: Carlos Ruiz's 84th-minute redirection delivers a 2-2 draw at D.C., retains Philly's command in the East
Remark: Disappointing Sebastien Le Toux says he should play up top with Danny Mwanga, admits he can't argue with results
History of draws: Seven in year one, a mark the next one ties. Per year: 8.61
Next: Saturday at San Jose, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
6. NEW YORK RED BULLS (5-3-10, 25 points), Last week: 7
Week 16: MLS Player of the Week Joel Lindpere scores early, scores late, and Red Bulls pull out 2-2 draw at San Jose
Remark: Sporting director Erik Soler: "I have no doubt" Red Bulls will be Eastern Conference champs, top three in Supporters' Shield race
History of draws: Two more will tie team record set in 2006, but big year was 2003, with 13 (four decided in OT). Per year: 6.77
Next: Wednesday vs. Toronto FC, 5 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday vs. D.C. United, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Tuesday in U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal at Chicago, 5:30 p.m.
7. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (5-5-6, 21 points), Last week: 8
Week 16: Steven Lenhart's fifth provides a lead the Quakes can't hold onto in 2-2 tie vs. New York
Remark: Quakes leave 10,000-seat Buck Shaw for the day, draw 41K+ to Stanford Stadium for thriller with Red Bulls and 1994 U.S. World Cup team reunion. Lenhart on the change of venue: "It's like eating a double-double at In-N-Out versus a Big Mac at McDonald's"
History of draws: Took a record 39 games to shootout the first four seasons, hasn't topped double digits since return. Per year: 8.66
Next: Wednesday vs. Chivas USA at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports West); Saturday vs. Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Tuesday in friendly vs. West Bromwich Albion (England), 7:30 p.m.
8. COLUMBUS CREW (6-5-6, 24 points), Last week: 6
Week 16: Streaking Crew run into mighty Dallas in the Texas heat, surrender second-half goals in 2-0 loss
Remark: Run of form doesn't extend to the road, where Crew is 1-4-3 with five goals and has been shut out four times
History of draws: Crew set the official mark, with 13 in 2004 (tied by three rivals), until Dallas' total last year. Per year: 7.87
Next: Wednesday at Vancouver, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
9. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (5-6-5, 20 points), Last week: 10
Week 16: C.J. Sapong and Aurelien Collin score four minutes apart and ex-Wizards' unbeaten streak reaches eight with 2-1 win at Portland
Remark: Hot Sporting has to like the schedule: 10 of the next 11 are at home
History of draws: Hit nine six times -- add OT-era deciders, and it's 11 twice -- and tied a dozen in 2005. Per year: 7.93
Next: Wednesday vs. Colorado, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday vs. Chivas USA, 4:30 p.m. (Galavision); Tuesday in U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals vs. Richmond Kickers, 6 p.m.
10. COLORADO RAPIDS (5-5-8, 23 points), Last week: 9
Week 16: Without Conor Casey, Rapids can't solve Tally Hall in 0-0 draw vs. Houston as home winless skid reaches seven
Remark: Champs' struggles boil down to one number: 106, as in number of minutes Casey and Omar Cummings have been on the field together
History of draws: Ten in each of the last two seasons, on target to hit that total again in a couple of weeks. Per year: 7.29
Next: Wednesday at Sporting Kansas City, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Sunday vs. Vancouver, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
11. D.C. UNITED (4-5-7, 19 points), Last week: 11
Week 16: Andy Najar's wondergoal not enough in 2-2 draw vs. Philadelphia
Remark: Fred departs for Melbourne Victory, and the Brazilian's little brother, Junior Carreiro, is released
History of draws: Unofficially posted MLS's high mark with 14 in 2002, but five were decided in OT. All 13 counted in 2009. Per year: 7.29
Next: Saturday at New York, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
12. HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-6-8, 20 points), Last week: 12
Week 16: Hall's spectacular saves fuel 0-0 draw at Colorado
Remark: Two Danny Cruzes? Not quite. Colombian trialist goes by Daniel
History of draws: Tied 13 in their first year, 11 in their third after moving from San Jose. Per year: 9.98
Next: Saturday vs. Toronto FC, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
13. CHIVAS USA (4-7-6, 18 points), Last week: 13
Week 16: Nick LaBrocca's superb performance awarded with a goal in 1-1 draw vs. Chicago
Remark: Some pluses: Goats haven't been shut out in seven games, since May 21, and have lost by no more than a goal
History of draws: Never again neared the 13 posted in 2006. Per year: 7.68
Next: Wednesday vs. San Jose at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports West); Saturday at Sporting Kansas City, 4:30 p.m. (Galavision)
14. CHICAGO FIRE (2-4-12, 18 points), Last week: 14
Week 16: Dominic Oduro's pace leads to early goal, but Fire fades in 1-1 draw at Chivas USA
Remark: Four straight draws and 11 in the last 13 games -- and a 10-game unbeaten streak, all competitions
History of draws: Tie at Chivas tied the team record set two years ago, on pace for 25. Per year: 7.77
Next: Saturday vs. Galaxy at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel); Tuesday in U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal vs. New York, 5:30 p.m.
15. TORONTO FC (3-7-9, 18 points), Last week: 17
Week 16: Penalty kicks secure two victories over Vancouver, in 1-0 league win and 2-1 triumph to capture Canadian Championship and berth in CONCACAF Champions League
Remark: Can additions of German star Torsten Frings and Dutch goalscorer Danny Koevermans (136 in 253 league games with Sparta, AZ and PSV), both past 30, restart Aron Winter's project on the right course?
History of draws: Tied club record with their ninth. Per year: 9.09
Next: Wednesday at New York, 5 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday at Houston, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
16. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (3-8-7, 16 points), Last week: 18
Week 16: Irvine's Benny Feilhaber creates two goals, but Revs let two leads disappear in 3-3 Fourth of July draw at 10-man Real Salt Lake
Remark: Coach Steve Nicol says he's "absolutely flabbergasted" after tie in Utah. "I feel like we just threw two points away"
History of draws: Has tied a dozen three times, once each in the shootout ('99), overtime ('03) and FIFA rules ('06) eras. Per year: 7.87
Next: July 13 in friendly vs. Manchester United (England), 5 p.m. (ESPN2); July 17 vs. Philadelphia, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
17. PORTLAND TIMBERS (5-8-3, 18 points), Last week: 15
Week 16: Kenny Cooper starts on the bench as Timbers lose third in four home games in 2-1 decision vs. Sporting Kansas City
Remark: Darlington Nagbe's incredible strike has gone viral around the world, will test Eric Hassli's for Goal of the Year. "I don’t think he’ll ever score another one as good as that," John Spencer says
History of draws: Just three so far. Per year: 5.88
Next: Thursday in friendly vs. America (Mexico), 8 p.m.; Sunday vs. Seattle, 1 p.m. (ESPN and ESPN Deportes)
18. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (2-8-8, 14 points), Last week: 16
Week 16: Whitecaps drop two in Toronto, and the second hurts: a 2-1 defeat that sends TFC to the CONCACAF Champions League
Remark: Rookie Michael Boxall, a Kiwi central defender from UC Santa Barbara, gets four straight starts from Tom Soehn
History of draws: Eight halfway through season one. Per year: 15.69
Next: Wednesday vs. Columbus, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday at Colorado, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
All times Pacific