I am alive. I haven’t written anything in four months mainly for two reasons: (1) This season burned me out and I just didn’t friggin feel like doing anything for a while, and (2) Unlike 2015, this fall was utterly devoid of any real news pertaining to City.
Things have perked up over the last few weeks, however, and now there are a few items worthy of discussion. I planned on covering the NASL/USL/MLS expansion drama and what it has to do with City, but I’ve decided to save that for my annual State of the Club post which will be up sometime in January. Maybe by then the NASL will have kicked the bucket and will make my analysis that much easier, but for now I’d like to focus on the latest annual reshuffling of the NPSL’s Midwest divisions.
Sidenote: I’m going to call them “divisions” even though the league bizarrely insists on calling them “conferences.” In every major sport in North America, the nomenclature goes: League – Conference – Division, with a descending number of teams in each. NPSL for some reason goes: League – Region – Conference. Everyone I know uses the word “division” to describe the group of teams that City plays in the regular season, and it just sounds better, so that’s what I’m going with.
Anyway, the formats of the past two years (single 12-team table in 2015, east & west divisions in 2016) seemed to provide good balance and worked well – i.e. the teams that truly deserved to make the playoffs made it and the ones that didn’t deserve it didn’t.
With the rebooting of the old Central Division, now known as the North, the Midwest Region is returning to the unbalanced, poorly structured format of 2014, in which Detroit City finished one point behind Lansing United for most overall points, but failed to qualify for the 4-team playoff because it didn’t win its division and had a lower points-per-game average than the wildcard qualifier.
Not to dwell on the past, but just look how stupid this is:
The North Division has not been fully announced, but it at least appears that it will consist of a full complement of clubs:
Unfortunately, two of those clubs are veritable dumpster fires that will likely provide the five or six clubs above them with 6 free points apiece. Detroit City supporters may remember the Minnesota TwinStars from the 2015 season in which they did this:
Meanwhile, Eau Claire has built a remarkable legacy of ineptitude, documented below in full gory detail. I’ve taken the liberty of adding in last year’s stats to give a full picture of what we’re dealing with here.
It’s truly incredible they’ve lasted so long. You have to wonder what they’re actually trying to accomplish as a club.
Meanwhile, the Great Lakes and East divisions will line up as such:
The Great Lakes loses Dayton, but gains FC Indiana, which was about just as bad in 2016.
Also joining the division are Milwaukee Torrent. The Torrent went 6-0-0 in 2016, playing in the Midwest’s provisional Central division. Four of those wins came against the aforementioned TwinStars and Eau Claire, so it’s unclear how good they really are. As the westernmost and most isolated club in the division, travel will be one of their biggest concerns.
The playoff format has not yet been announced, but if it consists of three division winners + one wildcard team determined by points-per-match, as in 2014, the second place team in the North will probably have a leg up due to an easier schedule, which would cause justifiable frustration for at least one club in the Great Lakes or East. Adding in the fact that the number of matches played will not be consistent across the divisions, it further complicates the math as the teams that play more will have a little more margin for error.
All that aside, the yearly lesson remains: The only real way to avoid the mess is to stay above it by winning your division and not leaving anything to chance.
Update: On Minneapolis City’s website, they include this bit of information:
That would mean that the North, just as the Great Lakes, would consist of eight teams. If two teams from each conference/division qualify for the playoffs, the format would likely include first-round byes for the top two overall seeds.