Although the Cosmos are in the driver’s seat for the Fall title, there are still a handful of teams within striking distance. The Cosmos have 38 points through 19 games and are 2-2-1 over their last five games with victories over Carolina and Ft Lauderdale, draws against Ottawa and Edmonton, and a loss while visiting Indy. Up next, they take a road trip to play Jacksonville, on the verge of being eliminated, followed by the home finale vs Miami, and finishing out the year with what is likely to be the last trip ever to Minnesota. They control their own destiny as seven points out of those three games would lock up the Fall, regardless of other team’s outcomes. This is definitely feasible given the Cosmos home dominance, the fact the Armada haven’t gotten a result against the Cosmos since July of last year, and Minnesota’s poor recent form. Anything less than five points over the last three games would be disappointing, and would put the Cosmos at risk of letting the Fall title slip.
Prediction: Win at Jacksonville, win vs Miami, and win vs Minnesota. First place with 65 total points.
Edmonton is the immediate threat to the Cosmos’ title hopes. They sit just behind NY with 33 points, but also have a game in hand. The Eddies have to travel for three of their final four games, as next up they visit a spiraling Fort Lauderdale in the midweek game before going to Minnesota this weekend. Jacksonville is their last home contest, then they round out the season with a showdown vs Miami at FIU. Like the Cosmos, the Eddies are 2-2-1 over their last five games, but their suffocating defense has allowed only 9 goals through the Fall. Their next three encounters are very winnable, and Edmonton could need all nine points to overcome the distance behind first place.
Prediction: Win at Fort Lauderdale, tie at Minnesota, win vs Jacksonville, tie vs Miami. Second place with 58 points.
Indy have followed their special Spring run with a decent showing in the Fall, finding themselves third in the overall standings with 45 points, but have five games left compared to the majority of the competition having only three or four. This obviously gives them a chance at more points, but also means they will have to play more games over the same amount of time. The schedule isn’t doing them a lot of favors, as they travel to Jacksonville midweek, before returning to Indy for a tough match-up vs Carolina this weekend. They then immediately repeat the same trip with a midweek game in Tampa and their home finale against Puerto Rico. That is a lot of travel in just a two-week span, and to top it off they end the year at Rayo OKC. They’ve also been an average 2-2-1 over their last five, but have already secured at least the second seed regardless of how they finish the year, and could still make a run for the first seed if they win out and get some help, which is unlikely.
Prediction: Win at Jacksonville, loss vs Carolina, win at Tampa, win vs Puerto Rico, tie at Rayo. Third place with 55 total points.
Miami are definitely a team worth watching over the last few weeks. Their rise through the Fall after a disappointing Spring Season has been well noted, but their recent form has slowed as we approach the finish line where they have gone just 1-1-3 over their last five. They are currently in third place with 29 points through 18 games, and anything less than a victory or three points by the Cosmos would end their title hopes. With a Fall title looking bleak, they can still make The Championship by securing fourth place. Currently they sit in seventh, two points behind fourth place Minnesota, and behind both Tampa Bay and Carolina by one point. The match-up against Tampa this weekend could almost be viewed as a must win for either team, as they could both use the three points to climb the standings and put some distance between themselves from the log jam of five teams within three points of fourth place. They then visit Jacksonville for their last leg of the Coastal Cup, but then face the tall task of visiting the Cosmos and rounding out the year against Edmonton at home. Given their recent form, it seems that Miami may have to wait until next year to revisit their postseason aspirations.
Prediction: Loss vs Tampa, win at Jacksonville, loss at Cosmos, tie vs Edmonton. Seventh place with 40 total points.
Minnesota currently sit in fourth on the combined table with 38 points through 29 games, but their recent form of 0-2-3 through five has landed them in seventh place in the Fall, already eliminated from title contention. Their three final match-ups don’t do them any favors as well, as they host Edmonton before traveling to Carolina, and finish up the year with a visit from New York. Their form and schedule points to an early off-season to end their final NASL season, but if they are able to right the ship they could go into the first round with a bang.
Prediction: Tie vs Edmonton, loss at Carolina, loss vs Cosmos. Eighth with 39 total points.
Tampa Bay have found themselves in the all too familiar fifth place overall and a pitiful ninth place in the Fall. With a 2-2-1 record through their last five they need wins in order to break free of being the first team missing the playoffs for the second consecutive year. A Friday night battle vs Miami could give either team a great advantage moving into the final three showdowns. After visiting Miami, the Rowdies host Indy and Ottawa before traveling to Jacksonville to finish the year. They’ve given themselves the opportunity, but it remains to be seen if they take it.
Prediction: Win at Miami, loss vs Indy, win vs Ottawa, tie at Jacksonville. Fifth place with 44 total points.
Carolina arguably have the “easiest” schedule to finish out the year. A midweek home game against Rayo could help jump them up the standings before visiting Indy this weekend in a contest that is sure to have plenty of fireworks (and smoke bombs). They then return to Wake Med one last time to face Minnesota in another match that can help them move up the standings before ending the year with a quick trip to Puerto Rico, which could end up being a trap game. They definitely have the best chance to finish in fourth, whether or not they pull through is the real question.
Prediction: Win vs Rayo, win at Indy, win vs Minnesota, tie at Puerto Rico. Fourth place with 47 total points.
Rayo is the last team that has somewhat of a real chance to make the postseason, although it is unlikely. Over the last five games, they are getting results, as they have gone 1-4-0, but the lack of wins could put them too far behind. Should they find a way to get over the hump over the last four games, they are still within striking distance of a postseason berth. If Carolina doesn’t have the best schedule to make it, Rayo does. After their midweek visit to Carolina, they host Ottawa. Following the Fury, Rayo travels to Fort Lauderdale in a very winnable road game before coming home to finish out the year against Indy. Should they take care of business they could give themselves a very intriguing first round meeting against the Cosmos.
Prediction: Loss at Carolina, win vs Ottawa, win at Fort Lauderdale, tie vs Indy. Sixth place with 42 total points.
Regardless of how things work out, the race for the last spot is likely to come down to the last day, leaving no shortage of drama for what has been a very competitive season overall.