With the penultimate games of the NASL season being played this weekend, the list of clubs fighting to stay in postseason contention could narrow considerably tonight, and it all hinges on the results of a pair of games.
At time of writing, Minnesota United, Rayo OKC, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, Miami FC and the Carolina RailHawks are still alive and in contention for the final postseason spot. The reward for the winner? A postseason showdown with New York at Shuart Stadium.
Minnesota United are in pole position with 41 points and a +6 goal differential while Rayo OKC are just behind them, also with 41 points but a +3 goal difference.
The Rowdies had a chance to pull even with them on points and Miami could have been just a point behind, but the Florida clubs blew their chances in their midweek encounters, losing both.
If Minnesota United or Rayo OKC win:
- Miami would be eliminated, regardless of their result against the Cosmos
- Carolina, playing United, would also be eliminated
- The Strikers, playing OKC, would also be out
- The Rowdies would only stay in the race with a against Ottawa
If United and OKC draw:
- Carolina would still be eliminated
- The Strikers stay alive another week, but their current -8 goal differential makes a postseason appearance extremely unlikely
- The Rowdies would still need a win or a draw to keep their chances alive, but a draw with their goal differential at 0 would also make their chances of reaching The Championship slim
- Only a win in New York would keep Miami’s dreams alive in this scenario
Losses by the top two clubs would be the most entertaining scenario for the league leaving the race wide open entering the final week of regular-season play:
- The Strikers would pull even on points with the leaders
- Carolina would sit just a point behind
- The Rowdies would stay in the race regardless of their result
- Miami FC would still require a win or a draw to stay in the race next week.
The only thing we know? Nobody clinches tonight.
The eyes of NASL fans will certainly be glued to the fields, their TVs and their phones as they celebrate another week of life or mourn the end of their 2016 postseason hopes.