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06 / 27

Kick This Around – a Lansing United blog

WRITTEN BY: Dave Ellis
PUBLISHED ON: June 27, 2014

With apologies to Jim Mora, I’m going to talk about playoffs.

The NPSL postseason model is a bit of a throwback in American sports, in that it drastically cuts down the number of teams in regular season play when the playoffs arrive. In the Midwest Region, there are 15 total teams in the three conferences. Each conference champion will advance to the postseason, along with one second place team to be determined by a point-per-game system due to unbalanced schedules. So by percentage, almost 3 out of 4 teams will not play past their last regular season match. Compare that to the five major sports leagues in North America:

LEAGUE                 Playoff Teams                   Total Teams        % Who Make Playoffs

NBA                                     16                                         30                           53

NHL                                     16                                         30                           53

MLS                                     10                                         19                           52.6

NFL                                      12                                         32                          37.5

MLB                                     10                                         30                          33.3

NPSL Midwest                   4                                           15                          26.6


This system probably best equates to teams in England trying to make the top four and the lucrative UEFA Champions League spots for the following season. In the Premier League, three teams automatically make the Group Stages, while the fourth place team has to play a qualifier to make it. That’s pretty close to three conference champions and a wild card.

Looking at what’s left for the teams in the Great Lakes West Conference with Lansing United, you can all but eliminate the Cincinnati Saints and Michigan Stars FC from playoff contention. It’s not mathematically impossible, but either one would have to post a perfect set of results from here on. So let’s look at the top three – Indiana Fire, Detroit City FC, and Lansing United. Here’s how they stand and what’s left for each team:

TEAM                    Games Played     Points    To Play  Home    Away     Points/Gm

Indiana Fire                      10               18            4            0             4          1.80

Detroit City                        8                17            6            3             3           2.13

Lansing United                 9                15            5            4              1           1.67


Indiana does sit in first, but you can see it’s a precarious spot. They’ve been impressive at home with 5 wins and 2 draws in their 7 matches, but they play all their remaining games on the road where they haven’t won in three tries (2 losses and a draw here at Lansing United).      Detroit City still has to make up an abandoned match at Buffalo so they have the most matches left. We’ve seen that NPSL teams can sometimes have trouble getting all their players for road matches, and you would think a 10pm game on July 4th at the Michigan Stars will be a tough ask – as will the season finale. That’s when they have to make their first appearance here in Mid-Michigan when Lansing United hosts them at MSU’s DeMartin Stadium on the same day as the World Cup final. Your “Hoops” (a great nickname from European teams who wear jerseys similar to our vertical stripes) are right in the thick of the race for the conference title.

The wild card spot gets a little more tricky. No one in the Great Lakes East is above 1.33 points per match, so they’re not really a factor. In the Central Conference, the Quad City Eagles are poised to run away with the top spot averaging 2.67 points per match. Behind them, the Madison 56ers and Minnesota United Reserves are on 1.88 and 1.67 respectively. But Madison has just two matches left, both against Minnesota United. And the MU Reserves have four left – the two with Madison and two with Quad City. That means someone is guaranteed to fall out, and it’s possible they can all cancel each other out as well.

Suffice it to say, the last five matches will be crucial for Lansing. And you can be a big part of the push by providing the same high level of support you’ve all contributed so far.

I was going to mention the World Cup, but all the coverage you can find has been so good and so extensive that there really isn’t a lot I can add – except for one parallel I found. One of the hidden great stories that you may not have heard about was the responsibility of Japan’s fans, who cleaned up the trash in their section after each of their matches ended. I’d like to applaud all the Lansing fans who have been doing the very same thing at Archer Stadium this season. One of the facility workers for the City of East Lansing remarked that you’ve left very little trash in the ground when matches have ended, so kudos to the responsible fans – we appreciate you on a whole new level.

Let’s leave it all on the field down the stretch. But thanks for picking it up after the match too.