So What Now?: Playoff Scenarios and a Guide to Matches That Still Matter

Here’s the short version: DCFC gets the first seed and a first round bye if its the only division champion that wins this weekend, and the second seed and a first round bye if only two division champions win this weekend. If all three division leaders win OR in most cases where DCFC doesn’t, DCFC is locked into hosting a first round match against Rochester Lancers. A Minneapolis draw is basically a win, a Cleveland draw is basically a loss.

But you’re reading a blog about a fourth division soccer club. You probably want the long version.

Detroit City FC clinched the division championship in a very exciting road win over rival Ann Arbor last Sunday. However, they don’t just get to coast in this Saturday’s contest at Kalamazoo, there is still regional seeding to play for. 

The top 2 teams from each of the Midwest Region’s three conferences will make the playoffs, with the champions seeded 1-3 and the runners-up seeded 4-6. The seeding shall be determined among the conferences by points per game, a wild system considering DCFC and the Great Lakes plays 14 games, while the East only plays 10 and the North plays 12. I have a lot of thoughts about who this is an advantage for, and whether or not this system has historically be an advantage or disadvantage for the division that played the most games is a great idea for another post. My hunch is that the teams that come off the worse are the teams that play the fewest games, not the most.

The two division champions with the best PPG get a first round bye, with the third division champion hosting a first round match on Tuesday July 16. After the first round, the semi finals will be on Friday July 19th and the finals on Sunday July 21st, with both rounds occurring at a single venue decided on by vote of the owners. I’d imagine that Keyworth would be seriously in the running to host these rounds for atmosphere reasons, but I can understand why they’d defer to teams with a “higher” seed, and try to spread around playoff hosting.

The truth is Keyworth’s only guaranteed chance to host a playoff match is by DCFC not getting a first round bye, and if that’s something you want I understand where you’re coming from. But I believe they have a better chance at hosting the semis and finals if they get that bye, making both the seeding case and the spreading-the-love case for a Hamtramck hosting bid stronger. Personally I’d prefer the bye whether we host or not.

In the first round, matchups are determined by geography, with the two Easternmost teams playing the two Westernmost teams. This guarantees that Detroit would play the East second place, leaving the second place Great Lakes and North teams to play. (I think this also means if City does get that bye, the East teams will play each other.) In the semis and finals, teams are seeded based on regular season record, meaning the #1 seed is guaranteed to avoid playing another division champ in the semis.

Here’s a look at the current playoff table:

So, if you read the Reddit version of this piece you may have seen a different table and folks, I don’t want to talk about it. This one is right. (And the rest of the math in the Reddit post is right.) Anyways, as you can see City is currently in the third seed, and as both MCFC and CSC have higher possible PPG, to some degree the most likely outcome is that they stay there. But with some help, they can avoid that fate.

Basic scenarios:

DCFC GETS THE #1 OVERALL SEED (AND BYE) IF:

  1. DCFC wins, Minneapolis loses, Cleveland draws or loses.

DCFC GETS THE #2 OVERALL SEED (AND BYE) IF:

  1. DCFC wins, Minneapolis loses, Cleveland wins. OR
  2. DCFC wins, Minneapolis wins, Cleveland draws or loses. OR
  3. DCFC draws, Cleveland draws or loses. OR
  4. DCFC loses, Cleveland loses, Rochester draws or loses.

DCFC GETS THE #3 OVERALL SEED (AND HOSTS RD 1) IF:

  1. Minneapolis wins or draws, Cleveland wins. DCFC result is irrelevant.

Which one of these scenarios is most likely is up for some debate, and depends how you feel about the actual games. DCFC isn’t the only team with stakes: both the East division championship and the rights to the second seeds from the North and Great Lakes division are still up for grabs.

Remaining Games with Stakes

Great Lakes Division:

DCFC @ Kalamazoo FC, 3pm Saturday: DCFC is playing for seeding, Kzoo is playing for pride. They are the only team who handed DCFC a regular season loss so who knows.

AFC Ann Arbor v. Toledo FC, 6pm Friday: Ann Arbor can clinch the playoffs with a win, but a draw or loss leaves them vulnerable to being caught by GR, who is only one point back. Toledo, of course, really sucks with the first meeting being a 4-1 AFCAA win, so the obvious prediction is that AFCAA takes the 3 points and heads to the playoffs, but if that doesn’t happen…

Grand Rapids FC v. Michigan Stars, 7:30pm Saturday: If Ann Arbor doesn’t take 3 points and Grand Rapids does, Grand Rapids steals the last playoff bid. However, Ann Arbor holds the tiebreaker so Grand Rapids would need a win. The Stars did upset the Blues in their first meeting, but GR gets lucky as it will go into the game knowing what the stakes are, due to AFCAA playing first. Am I rooting for Toledo and Grand Rapids this weekend? I’m not committing to saying “no.”

North Division:

Med City FC @ MPLS City FC, 7pm Friday: The match of the weekend. While MPLS has sown up the division, Med City can be caught and miss out on the playoffs. Med City will be going all-out for the win and the chance to clinch the division, hopefully taking the win and opening the door to DCFC’s first round bye. The first meeting was a 1-1 draw at Med City’s place, with Minneapolis scoring an equalizer at 87′. Remember, an MPLS draw is enough for them to clinch the PPG lead over DCFC.

Duluth FC v. LC Aris FC, 7pm Friday: If Med City does lose or draw with MPLS, look for Duluth to take their playoff spot, as they face the North Division’s worst team.

East Division:

Cleveland v. FC Buffalo, 4pm Saturday: Cleveland hasn’t actually clinched the division championship and can do so with a point against FC Buffalo. Buffalo is playing for pride and hopefully will be looking to send their season out on a high note and do a little favor for their old pals in Rouge, while avenging a 3-0 home loss in the first meeting. RIP Rust Belt Derby. Would have loved to see it in the playoffs.

Rochester Lancers @ Erie Commodores FC, 7pm Saturday: Remember Erie? You hate them? They’re not trying to make the playoffs but they are at home against a team that has already clinched the playoffs. This game only matters if Cleveland loses, and barely factors into the DCFC scenarios. Erie did win the first meeting, but a draw last week knocked them out of playoff contention.

A Prediction/Hope

While on paper it might seem that our best hope for a first round bye is a Cleveland draw, I think there’s a better chance that Med City comes out swinging, needed a win to sew up a playoff bid against a Minneapolis team that might have its foot off the gas with the division title in hand. Their first meeting almost resulted in a Med City win, so its not as if they’re overmatched. Buffalo hasn’t had such a bad season that a Cleveland upset is out of the question, but Cleveland has only given up 8 goals this season, second in the region to DCFC’s 5. A weekend where everything goes wild and DCFC stumbles into the first seed and parlays that into hosting the semis and finals would be pretty sweet, but I think that’s something of a long shot. Hopefully the second seed is enough for the league’s owners to send the playoffs to Keyworth. If everything goes chalk, a date with Rochester is hopefully just a warmup for a big playoff weekend.

Yes, this is basically the same post that was posted on the r/DetroitCityFC subreddit, a place where I encourage you to hang out. Miko asked me to post it here, and I’m going to try to post more stat-y and research-y things. You can follow me on twitter @jmwink_, but you don’t have to.

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