Warning: This is a rant. I plan on having a more serious discussion about the playoffs later, but for now I’m going to vent.
The bottom line is that I’m not terribly impressed with how the playoffs have been done for either the W-League or the WPSL. To say that, I first need to define how to judge playoffs. Here are my criteria:
– The best teams should make the playoffs.
– The difficulty of the path through the playoffs for a team should be in inverse correlation with the success of the team during the regular season, i.e., you do well during the regular season, you’re rewarded with an easier postseason: you play at home, you play lesser opponents, etc.
Now let’s see how this works out in the W-League. Here’s a list of all the top teams by point-percentage (standings points/maximum possible standings points), down to the last team to make the playoffs:
# %age Pts GP Team Notes
1 0.95 40 14 Pali Blues – WC1, Won 1 playoff, FF
2 0.94 34 12 DC United Women – EC1, Won 2 playoff, FF
3 0.83 30 12 Ottawa Fury – FF as hosts
4 0.81 29 12 Charlotte Lady Eagles – EC2, Won 1 playoff
5 0.75 27 12 Long Island Rough Riders – EC3
6 0.75 27 12 Atlanta Silverbacks – DNQ
7 0.74 31 14 Seattle Sounders Women – WC2
8 0.72 26 12 Quebec City Amiral – CC1, Won 2 playoff, FF
9 0.64 23 12 North Jersey Valkyries – DNQ
10 0.61 22 12 New Jersey Wildcats – DNQ
11 0.58 21 12 Laval Comets – CC2, Won 1 playoff
12 0.58 21 12 Virginia Beach Piranhas – EC4
13 0.56 20 12 Fredericksburg Impact – DNQ
14 0.53 19 12 Toronto Lady Lynx – CC3
15 0.48 20 14 Colorado Rush – DNQ
16 0.47 17 12 Hamilton FC Rage – CC4
(Sorry about the formatting. There doesn’t seem to be a good way of doing tables with WordPress.)
CC# = Central Conference, # place regular season
EC# = Eastern Conference, # place regular season
WC# = Western Conference, # place regular season
DNQ = Did Not Qualify for playoffs
FF = made it to the Final Four
What a mess! Despite finishing fifth in a seven-team conference, the Hamilton FC Rage made the playoffs, while five other teams with better records – including the defending champion Atlanta Silverbacks – did not. And the Quebec City Amiral, the #8 team in the league, has a berth in the final four and only needed to get past the #11 and #16 teams in order to do so. (And they had to go to penalty kicks to get past that #11 team.) Three better teams were knocked out because they had to play top teams, and one better team – the Silverbacks again – didn’t get even get the chance to do that, with the #12 Virginia Beach Piranhas getting the playoff spot that rightfully belonged to #6 Atlanta.
And look at the Final Four. Two teams – the Pali Blues and the DC United Women – are there legitimately. The Ottawa Fury are there as the hosts, and kudos to them for not resting on their laurels but competing all season and compiling a record that would have gotten them in regardless. And then there’s Quebec City, about which the less said the better.
Now look at the path the two top teams have to take to get to the final. DC, because they’re a tiny percent behind Pali solely because they had a shorter season, have to face the #3 team in the league on their own home turf. Pali, meanwhile, gets to play a team that shouldn’t even be there.
(Okay, Pali’s a classy team with a lot of talented players, but they’ve always led an annoyingly charmed life. Historically, they’ve played in a patsy conference, making it easy for them to compile a strong regular-season record and get a comfortable seeding in the playoffs. Yeah, the Western Conference was tougher than usual this year, but note that even though the Blues played the Seattle Sounders Women three times, they never faced them with their marquee national teamers on the roster. That’s been the story throughout: Pali has been in the league since 2008 and won the championship twice, but you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times they’ve had to play genuinely strong teams to do so.)
And if you think the W-League is bad, the WPSL is even worse, in its own distinct way. Here you have to make up a new rule that would never have occurred to me but for the WPSL situation: Teams that do well enough to earn a playoff spot should participate in the playoffs.
Here are the WPSL teams that decided not to bother:
%age Pts GP Team Notes
1.00 15 5 FC Milwaukee Nationals – Midwest Conference ineligible
0.79 26 11 New York Athletic Club – Played 1st round, then chose US Open Cup
0.67 20 10 Spokane Shine – Northwest champs couldn’t afford to participate
0.60 18 10 North Bay FC Wave – Pacific North champs did not participate
0.93 25 9 Tampa Bay Hellenic – Sunshine champs couldn’t afford it
0.63 17 9 Florida Sol FC – Sunshine runners-up couldn’t afford it
0.92 36 13 FC Dallas – Refuse to participate when WPSL changed rules late
FC Dallas is a particular disappointment: with Casey Nogueira on board they led the league with 61 goals, but when the WPSL changed the rules late in the season, deciding that winning their conference’s regular-season title wasn’t enough and they’d have to participate in conference playoffs, they refused.
Meanwhile, here’s how the WPSL Final Four got there:
Gulf Coast Texans – The Southeast champions advanced by default due to Tampa Bay and Florida dropping out.
Aztec MA – Beat division rivals New England Mutiny Reserves, then advanced by default due to NYAC dropping out.
Salt Lake United – The Big Sky North champs won a four-team tournament in San Diego.
Oklahoma FC – The Big Sky South runners-up defeated the third-place American Eagles, then advanced by default when FC Dallas refused to participate.
Doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence when only one of the four teams advances legitimately, does it?
Well, at least there’s still the WPSL-Elite, where you don’t have dubious stuff like a team getting home-field advantage for reasons other than being the best team, or dubious, annoying forfeits. Oh, wait.
All right, rant over. I’ll be back on track in a few days.