When compared to any other soccer league in the world, home field advantage in MLS is arguably the most impactful. There are multiple factors to consider, but the one that stands out the most is the amount of travel teams have to do to get to games.
For example, take Orlando City’s most recent travel to Columbus this past Saturday. The two cities are separated by 947 miles and a roughly two-hour flight. That’s still a team in the Eastern Conference, as well. In comparison to the Premier League, a flight in England from Everton to London would be a 212-mile journey and just a one-hour flight.
Over the past three years, no team in MLS has won more than seven road games. The best road team in 2015 was the Vancouver Whitecaps with a 7-7-3 record, while in 2016, New York City FC had the best away record, also 7-7-3. With those records, both teams finished second in their respective conferences.
Since joining MLS in 2015, Orlando City has only totaled eight away wins over the last two years. In 2015, the Lions managed a 5-9-3 record away from the Citrus Bowl and in 2016, compiled a 3-7-7 road record.
While it’s important to try to get results on the road, it’s not crucial to getting into the playoffs. Winners of the Eastern Conference last year, the New York Red Bulls had the same away record as Orlando City did, 3-7-7. The difference between the first place team and the eighth place team was keeping that home field advantage. The Lions only managed a 6-4-7 record at Camping World Stadium, while the Red Bulls were 13-2-2 at Red Bull Arena.
Orlando has started the 2017 season off on the right foot, securing two wins at home in the first two tries. With the new stadium as a fortress, Orlando needs to take advantage of playing in front of its own fans, not simply to send them home happy, but because the club has a better chance of securing a top-six spot in the standings if it can win 10 or more games at home. If the Lions are able to secure a number of draws away from home and take care of business at Orlando City Stadium, they would be in prime position to make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.