For a good rundown of the 2017 NPSL Midwest Playoff format, check out this article on Detroit City’s official website.
A brief summary:
Three Midwest divisions, top two teams from each division qualify for playoffs. Seeding is determined by points-per-game. #3 hosts #6 and #4 hosts #5 on Saturday, July 22nd. The winners of those two matches advance to play #1 and #2 the following Friday (June 28th), with the Midwest Championship taking place on Saturday the 29th. Each of the final four teams can submit bids to host the regional tournament.
Midwest Region – Great Lakes West Conference
To be blunt, City has a tough schedule. There are 14 league matches this season as opposed to 12 in 2016, and the 4 match cluster in the last week of June calls to mind the brutal stretch that the team opened last season with. They are much better equipped this time around, however, and the better roster depth coupled with no Open Cup commitment should result in a much more successful season. It may take some time for the team to gel, so I don’t think they’ll finish first in the table, but I do expect them to qualify for the playoffs.
Talking to fellow blogger Robert Sherman and seeing them beat Milwaukee 3-1 in the first league match of the season, I’m sold on the quality of Ann Arbor’s squad. They’re going to be a scary team to face, and the return of Dario Suarez makes them all the more lethal.
Grand Rapids returns much of the roster that finished first in the division in the 2016 regular season, and newcomers Milwaukee won the provisional Midwest Central last year with a perfect 6-0-0 record. I see them as the other two main competitors for playoff spots.
After the top four, there should be a bit of a drop-off down to the next tier. Kalamazoo outperformed most people’s expectations last season and I think they’ll just edge out Lansing for 5th place in the table.
Finishing up with the bottom two, Michigan Stars lost their coach (Andy Wagstaff – SVSU) and a bunch of key players, including three who are now on City’s roster (Shawn Lawson, Roddy Green, Dalton Amez). They’ll slip back down to their usual place, but FC Indiana (winless in 2016) will be this year’s divisional punching bag.
Playoffs and Beyond
Last year, City’s focus as a club revolved around beating the Michigan Bucks in the U.S. Open Cup and on Keyworth Stadium and everything surrounding its reopening. With no Open Cup commitment or stadium distraction this year, what’s first and foremost on everyone’s mind is finally winning some trophies.
While I predicted City to finish 2nd in the regular season, I really think having a more constant roster with less turnover will result in greater cohesion and more late-season success. That being said, with last season still fresh in my mind, I can’t bring myself to predict an NPSL league title. What I will do is pick them to win the Midwest Regional Playoff Tournament and make it to the NPSL league semi-final, aka the national final four.
5 Wild Guesses
(1) City will score at least 28 goals in the regular season (an average of at least 2 per match) and allow fewer than 14 (an average of under 1 per match).
(2) City will not lose a league match at Keyworth Stadium. The toughest tests will be the first two matches – Milwaukee and Grand Rapids, and the last two – Ann Arbor and Lansing.
(3) A new home attendance record will be set, and it will be greater than 8000. The regular season average will be a healthy 6000+.
(4) This prediction didn’t work out last year so I’m taking another crack at it: Three players will score at least 5 goals in competitive matches. No City trio has ever accomplished this, and I’ll go one step further by picking Jeff Adkins, Tom Catalano, and Shawn Lawson to do it.
(5) On that note, Shawn Lawson will lead the team in goals, and Cyrus Saydee will lead in assists.