The Ins And Outs Of The Championship

The NASL's four-team postseason tournament is just around the corner
NASL Staff (@naslofficial} | Sep 7, 2017

For the fourth year running, the NASL season will culminate in The Championship, the league’s four-team postseason tournament that features a qualification structure unique to American soccer.

Under the NASL’s split-season format, the winner of the Spring Season and the winner of the Fall Season each receive automatic berths – and semifinal hosting rights – in The Championship. The remaining two spots in the postseason come from the league’s Combined Standings. The two teams – outside of the Spring and Fall Season winners – with the best combined records over the course of the Spring and Fall Seasons earn a place in The Championship and round out the field.

Between the Spring Season winner and the Fall Season winner, the team with the best overall record gets the No. 1 seed, while the other claims the No. 2 seed. Either way, both clubs will serve as the hosts of the semifinal round. The qualifiers from the Combined Standings will claim the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds based on their overall finish. The highest advancing seed will host The Championship Final, which is the NASL title game.

So how is The Championship Race shaping up so far in 2017?

Miami FC marched its way through the first half of the year, claiming the Spring Season trophy by a 10-point margin. The success in the Spring for Alessandro Nesta’s men gave them early assurance of a spot in the postseason, but they still have plenty to play for. Miami will surely want to lock up the No.1 seed, which will hand the club home-field advantage throughout The Championship.

Spring Season Champion Miami has picked up where it left off, and is now sitting atop the Fall Season Standings as well. The outstanding form of the Orange and Blue could lead to a scenario that hasn’t yet been seen in the NASL – a club winning both the Spring Season and the Fall Season. If that were to happen, three clubs, instead of two, would qualify for The Championship through the Combined Standings. The top team, not named Miami, in the overall table would claim the No.2 seed in that scenario.

Through the start of seven weeks of the Fall Season, Miami’s lead in the table is seven points, but the club has played the most games in the Fall so far. The second-year side owns an impressive 17-point lead in the Combined Standings.

Outside of Miami, several clubs are positioning themselves well for a spot in the postseason. September is really when the parallel postseason races begin to take shape. The Fall Season race features much-improved sides like Puerto Rico FC and FC Edmonton after both struggling in the Spring Season – so much so that their chances of qualifying through the Combined Standings are slim compared to others. But in the Fall Season, the Eddies sit in second, while Puerto Rico is currently in fourth.

The race in the Combined Standings is where consistency is rewarded. The San Francisco Deltas finished second in the Spring Season and have continued their stellar form since then. The New York Cosmos, Jacksonville Armada FC, and North Carolina FC are also squarely in the hunt for a spot in The Championship, with Indy Eleven not far behind.

With two months left in the Fall Season, anything can happen, especially with multiple ways to qualify for the postseason. Each club is one sizzling run of form away from taking control of the Fall Season race, Combined Standings race, or both.

The final weeks of the season always seem to produce drama. What exactly is in store for 2017, though, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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