It’s crunch time in the NPSL Sunshine Conference as the seven teams in the division head into some vital games that will help shape the final season standings.
How do the playoffs work? What’s at stake? Well the top three get in. On July 11th the semi final will take place between 2nd and 3rd in the table at the ground of the higher placed team. The winner of that game goes on to the final game against 1st at their place on Saturday, July 14.
Win that game, you’re Sunshine Conference champ and move on to the South Region playoffs. This takes the form of a semi final and final as well. The Sunshine Conference champion goes up against the winner of the Southeast Conference playoff on July 17th. Which is a Tuesday. Winner of that game advances to the South Region playoff final versus whoever won the game between the Lone Star and Heartland Conference champs on July 21. Confused? Yeah. I was too. It’s all broken down here. http://www.npsl.com/playoffs
But let’s concentrate on the Sunshine Conference. It looks like this right now.
THE MIAMI FC 2
Miami FC 2 went three points clear at the top, with 21 points in total, after a narrow win in Naples in their last game. Incredibly, they are not even guaranteed a playoff spot as 4th place Naples United can finish on 22 points if they win their three remaining games. Miami FC 2 have a bye this weekend but will be guaranteed a playoff spot without kicking a ball if Miami United lose their last game away at Palm Beach United and Jacksonville Armada win on the road in Naples.
FC have two games remaining, both at home, against Naples United on July 3rd and Boca Raton on July 7th. One win guarantees a top two finish but they need to win both and hope the Armada drop points somewhere to end up in top spot. The team’s form looks good, they’ve won six of their last seven games with the only loss coming on the road to the Armada back on June 6th. FC should finish first or second, but must keep getting points on the board to keep the pressure on Jacksonville.
REMAINING GAMES: vs Naples United (July 3, 7pm), vs Boca Raton (July 7, 7pm)
Up the I-95 in the Bold City the Jacksonville Armada have been getting the job done too. They are three points behind FC with a game in hand but the ace up their sleeves is that if they finish level on points with Miami they are guaranteed to finish 1st as they hold the upper hand on the head-to-head between the two teams (One win, one draw). That’s the first tiebreaker. It can’t come down to goal difference.
The pressure’s on the Armada this weekend. They travel to Naples United on Saturday and the game is a must win if they want to keep their destiny in their own hands. Since beating Miami the Fleet’s form has been up and down. After that game they lost 4-2 in Palm Beach, tied themselves up in Hialeah 1-1 against United, blitzed Boca 7-0 and drew 0-0 with United at home. In their last game they got their noses by Palm Beach 3-2 at home.
Their other two games are away at Storm FC on July 4th and at home to Naples on Saturday 7th. All these games are winnable for Jacksonville, but they must stay perfect to give themselves the best possible chance of finishing first.
REMAINING GAMES: @ Naples United (June 30, 5:00pm), @ Storm FC (July 4, 2:30PM), vs Naples United (July 7, 7:30pm)
Miami United have suffered a severe case of cup hangover and their league campaign has gone totally off the rails. They’ve simply drawn too many games and are out of real contention for 1st place. This weekend is their final game and it’s a good job they are cup specialists because this game is a cup final. They are up against Palm Beach United on the road. PBU have taken the most points off the top three and got a 2-1 win when they played United in Hialeah. There is no chance of Palm Beach rolling over for them as PBU must win this game to keep their own playoff hopes alive.
Since trashing Storm FC 9-0 on May 12 the goals have dried up for United. Indeed if you remove Storm from the equation they haven’t managed more than one goal a game since May 5th. Palm Beach however are good going forward. They’ve scored more goals than the Armada in the same number of games. It’s a must win match up for both teams and should be a cracker. You’d bet on United coming 3rd in the table, but a loss on Saturday would change that thinking.
REMAINING GAMES: @ Palm Beach United (June 30, 7pm)
Although they are 4th and 5th, both Naples United and Palm Beach United will have an eye on beating Miami United to 3rd spot. Both teams have motivation to rip up scripts on Saturday. Naples United need to beat Jacksonville to give themselves a slim hope at 3rd. If they lose, they’re done.
They have a big hand in how the top of the table plays out as their last three games are all against Jacksonville and Miami. Even if three wins is a pretty impossible task they’ll certainly be down to grinding out a point or two to try to finish above PBU if Palm Beach falter.
Palm Beach United cannot be discounted and have a much better shot at 3rd than Naples. If they manage a win against Miami United their last two games are winnable road trips, Boca and then Storm FC. Three wins in their last three games would put them on 21 points and get them in the playoffs, unless Naples somehow also manage three wins. They do have half a chance.
NAPLES UNITED FORM: WDWWL
REMAINING GAMES: vs Jax Armada (June 30, 5pm), @ Miami FC 2 (July 3, 7PM), @ Jax Armada (July 7, 7:30PM)
PALM BEACH UNITED FORM: LLWWL
REMAINING GAMES: vs Miami United (June 30, 7pm), @ Boca Raton (July 3, 7PM), @ Storm FC (July 7, 6pm)