For those who thought the fun ended in the NPSL at the end of the conference season, there’s good news: the playoffs are right around the corner! The North Conference will send two teams to the Midwest Region playoffs that run from July 14-21, going up against the top two sides in the Great Lakes and East Conferences. Conference winners receive the top three seeds in the tournament, with rank determined by points per game; runners up are also ranked by PPG in slotting the fourth through sixth seeds. The top two seeds get a bye into the semifinals at a neutral site on the 20th and 21st—Minneapolis City noted in their newsletter last week that it’ll likely be somewhere in Michigan—with the remaining four seeds playing first round games determined by geographical proximity.
For the North’s teams, the playoff outlook is starting to get much clearer. Wednesday night’s results eliminated Minnesota TwinStars and Dakota Fusion, with Sioux Falls Thunder and LC Aris already having been knocked out. This leaves room for Minneapolis City, Duluth FC, VSLT, and Med City to claim berths. Minneapolis City, Duluth, and VSLT are also able to claim top spot in the conference, guaranteeing either a berth in the semifinals or a home first round game.
The path for qualification for Minneapolis City is straightforward: draw either game against Duluth and Dakota Fusion and they’re in by virtue of holding the season result tiebreaker over VSLT, who would then only be able to match them on 29 points. A win against Duluth FC would clinch the top spot, while a draw would give them the chance to take top spot against Dakota Fusion on the final day by equaling or besting the points gained from Duluth’s game next Friday; a loss against the Fusion could still see the Crows claim the title should Duluth fail to make up an eight goal difference in that scenario. Should Duluth beat City, however, City will need to win with a Duluth draw or loss against Med City.
Duluth FC holds the inside track to get into the playoffs as well. Should they get a win in either of their remaining games, they’ll qualify with a dropped point by VSLT. Drawing out would also get them in should VSLT lose any of their remaining games. If they lose either against Minneapolis City or Med City but draw the other game, they’ll need dropped points from two VSLT games, while losing each game could still get them through should VSLT only get four points from their games and Med City fail to get full points against Dakota Fusion. To claim the top spot, Duluth essentially has to beat Minneapolis City and get an equal or better result against the Mayhem than the Crows do against the Fusion; if Duluth draws against City, they can go top by winning that Friday match against Med City if Minneapolis loses to Dakota and Duluth scores eight more goals than Minneapolis, while a loss in Osseo would mean curtains for their chance at tops.
Things get a little bit more complicated with VSLT for a couple reasons. First and foremost, to leapfrog Duluth will require them to beat the Bluegreens on points due to the season record tiebreaker. Thus, a combination of two wins in the games against Aris, Sioux Falls, and TwinStars would suffice if Duluth lose both games, two wins and a draw will work if Duluth earn a draw, and winning out will qualify Los Trapos if Duluth wins one game and loses another; if Minneapolis City lose both of their remaining games, VSLT would get in front of them by winning all three. That final scenario is also VSLT’s only chance at winning the league, as a single point for City or four points for Duluth would put each side ahead at the top of the table. The other complicating factor: we haven’t yet heard when VSLT will be completing their game against Aris that was abandoned on June 9 after 19 minutes.
Med City, to be frank, need some mayhem to advance. They’ll need to beat Duluth next Friday and hope that Duluth also lose to Minneapolis City for any chance of advancing. From there, they’ll also need VSLT to get four or fewer points in their final games by virtue of Los Trapos’s lead in the season series. Minneapolis City has already secured more points than the Medics can earn, so topping the table is out of reach should they make the playoffs.
Depending on which teams advance, the North sides could potentially host playoff games or receive byes. Minneapolis City have the highest possible points per game in the Midwest Region; should all of the top sides win out, their 2.428 PPG would get the better of the Great Lakes Conference leader AFC Ann Arbor and the East Conference leading Erie Commodores at 2.417; a win and a draw would put them ahead of Erie’s current 2.222 points per game, while a win and a loss would drop them to 2.214. Duluth meanwhile can take some comfort in potentially hosting as a #3 seed, as winning out would put them to 2.214 and four points would put them at 2.071, while VSLT’s slim chance of winning the conference by picking up all nine possible points would likely be the only way to host a playoff game with 2.071 PPG. The ideal scenario for the North’s second place finisher would be for the East Conference winner to be the #3 seed, as the geographic matching would likely pair them with the second-place team from the Great Lakes, allowing a North team to host as a #4 or even a #5 seed.