Schedule Analysis: 2014

The 2014 NPSL schedule (at least the part we care about) has been out for more than a day and a half, and now that the dust has settled a bit I thought I’d take a closer look.

First though, a little info on some of the new teams that people are wondering about.

Dearborn Sports Enterprise purchased the club formerly known as FC Sparta Michigan and has rebranded it as Michigan Stars FC – they have no affiliation with Sparta or the previous ownership group. MSFC is also completely separate from the other two teams owned by DSE, the Dearborn Stars (which play in a lower league), and Motor City FC, the newly-formed women’s team. It’s unclear exactly where Michigan Stars will play, though Madonna University in Livonia (which hosts the Dearborn Stars) looks like the most likely site.

Westfield Select is located in Westfield, Indiana, 20 miles north of Indianapolis. That is all the information that exists on this team.

Fort Pitt FC Regiment is located in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, 15 miles east of Pittsburgh. That is all the information that exists on this team.

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More interesting is the new conference setup and playoff format.

Great Lakes East Conference: Buffalo, Cleveland, Erie, Fort Pitt

Great Lakes West Conference: Cincinnati, Detroit, Lansing, Michigan, Westfield

Central Conference: Bordo, Eau Claire, Madison, Minnesota Twin Stars, Minnesota Utd. Reserves, Quad City

The first-place finishers in each of these three conferences and the second-place team with the highest points-per-game qualify for the Midwest Regional Playoffs – a 4-team single elimination tournament to be played July 18-20.

I hated the old playoff format in which the first place team in the Central Division automatically qualified for the regional final while the top 4 teams in the 5 (2012) or 6 (2013) team Great Lakes Division had to go through an extra round of games to determine a division winner. The new format rewards the strongest teams and simplifies the playoff qualification process: win your conference or finish second and hope for some help.

To break it down to the most basic level, DCFC must finish with more points than Cincinnati, Lansing, Michigan, and Westfield to earn a guaranteed spot in the Midwest Playoffs.

All in all I think this new setup is a big step in the right direction. Kudos to the commish and whoever else was involved with the decision.

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Finally, we come to the schedule itself:

2014 DCFC Pocket

  • The first thing to note is that the regular season has grown from 12 games to 14. For a league with a 10-month offseason, any increase in meaningful games is definitely welcome. On a side note, Detroit City FC’s recent e-mail to season ticket holders stated that a home friendly (TBD) will also be played.
  • Getting off to such a fast start in 2013 was a huge boost to the team, and the potential for a similar start exists this season. The first three games are at home against expansion sides that also happen to be conference opponents. A 3-0 start would make DCFC the team to beat in the Great Lakes West.
  • The toughest stretch is the following six games, five of which are on the road, including Rust Belt Derby rivals Buffalo and Cleveland.
  • If DCFC finds itself in a battle for first, the final five games may give them an advantage: 3 are at home and the 2 “road” games involve short trips to Michigan Stars and Lansing.
  • I was initially disappointed by the lack of Saturday games, but with the expanded schedule came the need for more two-game (Friday and Sunday) weekends. I’m sure the players prefer having a day between games to having to play home and away on back-to-back days.

Less than 3 months to go…

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