Photos by John King, Pete Guion and Scott Houghtaling – UltiPhotos.com
With only three weeks left in the regular season there are still a lot of questions about the postseason landscap. The only teams that have answers are the Stags and the Rumble: Portland has a spot in the playoffs and New York has been edged out of contention.
There are a few things that can muddy the postseason picture. What happens when teams tie? The first deciding factor is head-to-head matchups in the regular season series. For example, over the course of the season Boston and D.C. play each other three times, and right now they are tied at 1-1. Their game this weekend will decide that series. Now this is only important if they tie in their final record. If say they both go 5-5, then whoever has the better record in the series wins the tiebreaker.
There’s also the issue of teams playing each other four times in a season. Right now the Rainmakers lead their series with the Nighthawks 2-1. If Vancouver wins their next game against the Rainmakers and tie the series and they end up with the same record at the end of the season, the tiebreaker goes to point differential.
The Spinners are in their best position in three seasons, but they aren’t out of the woods yet. Even a win this weekend won’t guarantee a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals, although it will certainly help. With both of the of the other East Coast competitors sitting at 4-3 the Spinners are only one game ahead. The Spinners will need to secure a win over either the Whitecaps or the Current to make sure they go to the postseason for the first time in MLU history.
Last season’s champions are only a game behind the Spinners and are in a great position to make a playoff run. The most important game for D.C. is coming up this weekend as they take on Boston. Right now the team series is tied at 1-1 and a win will tip the series in their favor for head-to-head matchups. The Current can also take the number one seed in the conference by winning out as they’ve already taken a 2-1 lead in their series with the Spinners, although they’d have trouble beating the Spinners out in point differential if they dropped a game to the Spinners to tie the series at 2-2.
After a rough start to the season the Whitecaps are back in position to see the postseason for the third consecutive season, although they don’t have an easy path. Simillar to D.C., Boston needs two wins to have a chance at the playoffs, but they also need one of those wins to come against the Current. Unless the Spinners lose out, it is likely that the deciding factor on who takes the second spot in the East comes down to who wins the D.C.-Boston series. This weekend’s game is the most important game of the season for both teams.
Boston can also take the number one seed in the conference by winning out, although they would also need the Spinners to lose two games as the Spinners have already taken that series 2-0.
New York Rumble
After a rough start to the season, things got worse for New York with the loss of Jibran Meiser. They now they sit at the bottom of the conference without a chance to get back in. Even if they win out, the best they can place is third, which would also depend on D.C. losing out. But the Rumble still have a spark and could be one of the biggest deciding factors in the playoff run for the East. If any team drops a game to the New York squad, they will see their chances of reaching the finals greatly diminish. While the Rumble may not be able to make it themselves, they do have a lot to play for.
With a late season bye the Stags are set as the number one seed in the West. Even if they lose out, only the Rainmakers could tie their record and with the Stags up 2-0 in that series, they already have the head-to-head. Portland was in this situation last season and floundering in the finals after taking it easy for a few games. They must maintain their intensity if they want to make sure they don’t suffer a repeat of last year’s playoffs.
Two games ahead of the Dogfish and three ahead of the Nighthawks, the Rainmakers have the best chance to face the Stags in the Western Conference Finals. But it isn’t over yet. The Rainmakers face the Stags in Portland, and while the last loss to the Stags was close, they were missing their star Mark Burton. Right now the Nighthawks remain the Rainmakers’ biggest threat to a playoff spot. Even with a win, the Nighthawks also can finish 5-5 and have the point differential tiebreak (their head-to-head would be split 2-2). Right now Seattle has the point differential, but the Nighthawks have been involved in some of the highest scoring games in MLU history. Two wins or a win over the Nighthawks in Week 11 guarantees the Rainmakers another trip to the postseason.
San Francisco Dogfish
The Dogfish face a tough road to make it to the finals because they don’t control their own destiny. Even if they win out, they still need Seattle to lose all of their remaining games to have a shot at the playoffs. Already down 0-2 in their head-to-head series with the Rainmakers, tying the Rainmakers at 5-5 does nothing for them. The Dogfish are not out, but they are going to need a lot of luck to keep them in the race.
A team sitting this far down in the standings usually never has a shot of seeing the postseason, but the Nighthawks are still alive and have slightly better odds than the Dogfish. While the Nighthawks only have one win for the season, it’s against the only team that matters in this race, the Rainmakers. If they win out, the Nighthawks will be 5-5, and if the Rainmakers don’t get another win, the Nighthawks could directly advance to the Western Conference Finals against the Stags again. Even if the Rainmakers do pick up one more win, the Nighthawks could beat them in point differential. While this is going to be a tough road for the Nighthawks, it isn’t unfamiliar territory. Last season they had a very rocky start and were able to go on a tear. At the end of the season, they found themselves on a trip out to Philadelphia to face the D.C. Current.
While only the Rumble and the Stags have a clear playoff picture, the road for the rest of the teams is going to be tough. Be sure to follow all the ultimate action throughout the rest of the season to find out who is going to be the next MLU Champion.