As you may have heard, the North American Soccer League is changing the way it does things next year - splitting its season into two halves, leaving the month of July open, and taking its two split-season champs into a one-game "Soccer Bowl" to be played at the winner of the higher champ.
As I am wont to do, I decided to have some fun with numbers, taking the time to apply next year's playoff process to this year's schedule, and this is what I found.
First, there are two ways to look at these hypotheticals.
The first is to take the team's first 14 games, figure out the champ, then add up results from each team's second 14 games. Although this is a good indicator of who's done the best in the first and last halves of the seasons, the NASL schedule is not balanced.
So keep that in mind while looking at these numbers. The results of this year's NASL after all teams had played their first 14 games:
- San Antonio (8-2-4, 28 points)
- Puerto Rico (7-4-3, 24 points)
- Minnesota (6-3-5, 23 points)
- Tampa Bay (6-5-3, 21 points)
- Ft. Lauderdale (5-5-4, 19 points)
- Carolina (4-5-5, 17 points)
- FC Edmonton (3-8-3, 12 points)
- Atlanta (1-8-5, 8 points)
So in this hypothetical, San Antonio would have earned the right to host the Soccer Bowl. Who would they play? Here are the NASL team's records since their respective halfway marks in the season:
- Tampa Bay (6-2-4, 22 points with 2 games left)
- Carolina (6-3-3, 21 points with 2 games left)
- Atlanta (5-4-3, 18 points with 2 games left)
- San Antonio (5-4-3, 18 points with 2 games left)
- Puerto Rico (4-5-4, 16 points with 1 game left)
- Ft. Lauderdale (4-5-4, 16 points with 1 game left)
- FC Edmonton (2-5-6, 12 points with 1 game left)
- Minnesota (2-6-5, 11 points with 1 game left)
Result for the hypothetical 2012 Soccer Bowl: either Tampa Bay, Carolina or Atlanta at San Antonio (note: if San Antonio wound up winning the second split season as well, Tampa Bay would get the nod as its opponent for best overall record)
But of course, some teams played each other 2-3 times in the first 14 games, while others didn't meet until August.
So the second way to do this hypothetical, to better show the format of the NASL's future split-season format, was to break down the schedule further, taking the results from each team's first two meetings and compiling them in their own standings.
- San Antonio (8-1-5, 29 points)
- Puerto Rico (8-3-3, 27 points)
- Minnesota (5-4-5, 20 points)
- Ft. Lauderdale (5-4-5, 20 points)
- Tampa Bay (5-5-4, 19 points)
- FC Edmonton (3-7-4, 13 points)
- Carolina (2-6-6, 12 points)
- Atlanta (1-8-5, 8 points)
Which means these would be the standings for teams in their third and fourth meetings with other NASL opponents.
- Carolina (8-2-2, 26 points)
- Tampa Bay (6-3-3, 21 points)
- Atlanta (5-4-3, 18 points)
- Ft. Lauderdale (5-5-3, 18 points)
- San Antonio (5-5-2, 17 points)
- FC Edmonton (3-5-5, 14 points)
- Puerto Rico (3-6-4, 13 points)
- Minnesota (2-7-4, 10 points)
Result for the hypothetical 2012 Soccer Bowl: Either the Carolina RailHawks or the Tampa Bay Rowdies at San Antonio.
Either way, both scenarios would boil down to San Antonio at home against either the RailHawks or Tampa Bay - who have two games left this season, both against the other.