For the New York Cosmos, the next three weeks could have a big impact on the North American Soccer League title chase, or absolutely none at all. The boys in green are in a unique position due to having already won the spring season title, and in doing so, clinching a home semifinal match when the playoffs arrive.
The NASL playoff structure seems pretty straightforward at first glance, with the following format being used:
Easy enough, the top seed hosts the lowest seed, while the second seed hosts the third. The highest seed remaining then host the final, highlighting the importance of finishing with the number one seed.
This is where the split season format used by the NASL makes things interesting, however. The number one and number two seeds are awarded to the spring and fall season champions, with the higher seed being determined by which of the pair finishes the highest in the combined table in a scenario where there are different spring and fall champions, as there will be this season.
Two Different Winners In Fall And Spring Season
#1 Seed: Out of the two teams that win the Spring or Fall Season, the top seed goes to the team with a better combined record (Spring and Fall) than the other.
#2 Seed: Out of the two teams that win the Spring or Fall Season, the #2 seed goes to the team with the second best combined record (Spring and Fall).
#3 Seed: Excluding the two teams that won either the Spring or Fall Seasons, the third seed goes to the team with the best overall record in the Combined Standings (Spring and Fall).
#4 Seed: Excluding the two teams that won either the Spring or Fall Seasons, the final seed goes to the team with the second best overall record in the Combined Standings (Spring and Fall).
This season, we could see an odd scenario, in which Minnesota United wins out, finishes atop the combined table, but winds up as the number three seed and doesn't host a playoff match. Let's take a look at where things stand at the moment to really understand where we're at.
Of the three teams with a chance at the top seed, New York probably finds themselves in the most comfortable position. Regardless of how results go between now and the end of the regular season, the worst-case scenario for the boys in green in the number two seed, giving them a home semifinal match, and a very real possibility of hosting the final for the first time since the reboot should they advance that far.
Minnesota United, on the other hand, appear to be in the most precarious position of the three, as they could win all of their final three matches comfortably, yet still end up on the road, either in New York or Ottawa. The Fury have put themselves in a great position with their perch atop the fall table, and can afford to drop points between now and the end of the season without losing that spot.
While I'm not a big fan of the split season format, in this instance, it's probably a very good thing for the Cosmos and their fans. Ottawa has put themselves in a commanding position atop the fall table, with a three-point cushion and a large lead in GD, which serves as the first tiebreaker. This means that Minnesota United's only real hope of overtaking Ottawa would mean that the Fury collapsed down the stretch, and given the way they've been playing since the fall schedule got underway, that's hard to imagine.
For New York, the focus now becomes winning their final two matches, while hoping that Ottawa drop points in one of their last three. Cross your fingers...