Vancouver Whitecaps claimed the 7th and final USL1 playoff spot last night and they didn’t even have to kick a ball to do it.
Although most fans felt that the Caps spot was assured several games ago, the playoffs were mathematically confirmed by Miami losing 2-1 at Charleston Battery to leave them 8 points back of Vancouver with 2 games remaining.
Miami have actually fallen to 9th place now after a late season collapse that left some fans questioning how much the team wanted to make the playoffs.
Their 8th place was taken by Minnesota Thunder who trounced the second placed Puerto Rico Islanders on Thursday evening. That win left Minnesota on 30 points, six behind Vancouver with two games left, but the Whitecaps have the tiebreaking head to head sewn up against the Thunder to secure at least 7th place.
For those that don’t know, the top 7 teams in the 11 team USL1 make the playoffs. I know, I know. It makes the whole season pretty much pointless but that’s how they seem to like things in North America. The League title itself is nothing compared to the playoff winners. Crazy and just one of the reasons many football fans outside of the continent struggle to take the North American leagues seriously.
The team that finishes top of the table after the 30 regular season games wins the Commissioners Cup and receives a first round playoff bye. This season, that team should be Portland Timbers who have a 5 point gap at the top with 2 to play. Barring some serious crashing bottles they should secure the first Championship in their history and with the way they’ve played this season, deservedly so.
All that could mean nothing though depending on how they fare in the playoffs.
Vancouver’s playoff scenario is still very much up in the air. They could still finish 6th but I would say that unless Rochester Rhinos fail to take anything from their final two games it’s looking unlikely. Since one of the Rhinos games is against the faltering Miami, we can expect 7th.
That would mean a first round two-legged playoff match up against the second placed team. Just now that’s Puerto Rico but it could still be Charleston Battery or Carolina Railhawks that are our opponents. Still with me?!
All three are winnable ties. I prefer Puerto Rico from a footballing sense as I fancy our chances of winning that over two legs and it would give us the Concacaf Champions League qualifier we never had. From a logistical point of view, the players hate it and the whole trip can take up to 26 hours due to airport stopovers en route.
Get through that and the Portland Timbers await. Again, nothing to fear from the match up and it gives both sets of fans a chance to travel to the away leg. A real toughie for both teams though.
No matter what it’s going to be a hard playoff run if Vancouver want to record back to back USL Championships.
With two home games remaining, this is the Caps chance to find what line up to go with into the playoffs. The crazy match scheduling has led to a lot of changes and rotations and I doubt that Teitur Thordarson even knows who his best starting eleven is. The fans on the terraces can’t agree on that.
It’s important that the Caps get some momentum going and confidence flowing as they face the playoff road ahead and that starts tomorrow with the game against Austin.
The season starts now.