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Boys soccer postseason notes: Postseason rematches, playoff upsets and the most competitive region

By Patrick Carr - Prep Sports Reporter | May 31, 2023

Getty Images/Creatas RF, Creatas RF

Soccer ball on grass

The high school boys soccer season concluded with last week's state championship games. Here are three thoughts on the season.

REGION REMATCHES IN THE PLAYOFFS

What happens when one team (Team A) sweeps another team (Team B) in the regular season, then the two teams meet in the playoffs later that year?

Answer: Team A wins 70.2% of the time.

Teams are 40-17 in the playoffs against region teams they swept earlier in the regular season, according to a survey of three seasons' worth of soccer results.

Broken down by classification, that 40-17 mark splits out to 13-3 in 2A, 7-4 in 3A, 10-2 in 4A, 6-4 in 5A and 4-4 in 6A.

The 40 games where Team A won the postseason rematch after sweeping Team B in the regular season were more lopsided on paper, from an RPI seeding perspective, than the 17 games where Team B beat Team A after being swept in the regular season.

In other words, the lopsided matchups by seeding tend to lean towards the better-seeded team, while the closer matchups tend to go either way.

Of the 17 games where the team that was swept in the regular season flipped the script in the playoffs, eight involved area teams. This year alone: Syracuse got swept by Farmington in the regular season but won the teams' 6A quarterfinal game, Box Elder beat Viewmont in the 5A first round and Morgan beat Ogden in a 3A semifinal.

From the data, we draw some unsurprising conclusions.

If you're in 6A, 5A and 3A, and you sweep a region team in the regular season, then you see that same team again in the playoffs, watch out. The "sweeping" team is only 17-12 in the postseason rematch in those three classifications, and 10-8 combined in 6A and 5A.

Explaining the coin-flip-esque data in 6A and 5A is easy: there's more parity in those classifications. Explaining 3A is harder because the three-year data isn't totally consistent (more on that below).

If you're in 4A or 2A and you sweep a region team in the regular season and see the same team in the playoffs, the sweeping team is 23-5 in the rematch.

Most of the 4A playoff games featuring a rematch of a regular-season region sweep happen in early-round games that are lopsided on paper and in reality.

Every year in 2A, the same handful of private and charter schools are light-years above 2A's middle tier, which itself is miles above 2A's bottom tier, which itself includes teams that literally showed up an hour late and a player short for playoff games this spring.

One caveat with the data is realignment, which took place between the 2021 and 2022 soccer seasons. That drastically changed the landscape of classifications, along with Layton Christian and Real Salt Lake Academy Charter High moving out of 3A mid-alignment for this season.

Looking at 2022 and 2023, the most recent prep sports alignment, the team that sweeps a team in the regular season is 25-8 in a playoff rematch, for a 75.8% win percentage.

The numbers break down to an 8-2 record by the sweeping team in 2A, a 4-2 mark in 3A, 6-1 in 4A, 5-1 in 5A and a 2-2 record in 6A.

PLAYOFF UPSETS IN GENERAL

Piggybacking off the above, we took a look at postseason upsets in general, with an "upset" being defined as a team with a worse seed (a higher number, but a lower "seed") beating a team with a better seed (a lower number, but a better seed).

The last three years, better-seeded teams are 222-94 against worse-seeded counterparts in the playoffs for a 70.3% winning percentage.

Broken down by classification, better seeds are 43-26 in 6A (.623), 59-24 in 5A (.711), 30-15 in 4A (.667), 44-14 in 3A (.759) and 46-15 in 2A (.754).

6A consistently has upsets, 3A had just one upset in 19 tournament games this season (Morgan over Ogden in the semifinal) after having eight upsets out of 18 games two years ago, and most 2A upsets happen in the quarterfinals and beyond.

Sorting each round of the playoffs from the "chalkiest" to the most upset-laden, we find the quarterfinals are basically a shot in the dark.

Better seeds are 31-29 (.517) in the quarters, 9-6 (.600) in the finals, 19-11 (.633) in the semis, 75-23 (.765) in the first round and 82-22 (.788) in the second round.

A year-by-year look reveals that 2021 was full of upsets, with better-seeded teams going 63-35 in tournament games, compared to 78-33 in 2022 and 71-26 in 2023.

A few more notes:

  • Region 1 teams are 11-8 on the road in the 6A playoffs in the last three years.
  • A Region 1 team has played for the 6A title in four straight years.
  • 6A's last three champions have been seed Nos. 12, 18 and 1.
  • 5A's last three champs have been seed Nos. 1, 2 and 1.
  • 5A No. 10 seeds are 8-3 the last three postseasons.
  • Morgan and St. Joseph have played in three straight semifinals.

THE MOST COMPETITIVE REGION

It might be Region 5.

In 2022, three teams went 6-4 in region games and shared the Region 5 title, with a fourth team at 5-5. The last-place team beat two of the three region winners.

This season, one team went 7-3 and three more went 6-4. The last-place team beat the region champion and one of the 6-4 teams.

Going further, Region 5 games were decided by an average of 1.2 goals this season. That was up from last season's average of 0.97 goals. (Games that went to penalty shootouts were decided by zero goals, officially.)

For context, Region 1 games were decided by 2.24 goals this season and 1.64 last year.

Next season, Region 5 welcomes Roy and Clearfield, two teams that have generally been competitive with Region 5 schools (Roy was in Region 5 until 2019).

Connect with reporter Patrick Carr via email at pcarr@standard.net, Twitter @patrickcarr_ and Instagram @standardexaminersports.

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