TAMPA, Fla. – With three weeks to go in the PDL regular season, the battle for a place in the playoffs picks up this weekend as postseason berths could be sealed on the road to the PDL Conference Championships. With 32 games set to take place between Friday and Sunday, we take a look at the games that will reshape the playoff picture during the next three days.
The Victoria Highlanders need just a point against the Washington Crossfire on Saturday night to clinch a place in the postseason, but will be looking for all three points as they pursue the division crown and a place in the Western Conference Championship. With both the third-place Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 and second-placed Portland Timbers U-23s, the Highlanders could clinch the division title with a win and draw, with their second game of the weekend coming against the Sounders FC U-23, but the task will not be easy as the Sounders themselves need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The division-leading Fresno Fuego and second-place Ventura County Fusion meet on Saturday night at Ventura College with the division title on the line. Should the Fuego take victory on the road, they would clinch the division title. For the Fusion, a win would not only keep their hopes of a division title alive, but also help try to stave off the charge of the LA Misioneros, who sit two points behind the Fusion and are idle this weekend.
The Western Mass Pioneers and GPS Portland Phoenix face off on Saturday night in a critical contest in the Northeast Division. Both teams enter on 17 points, but the Phoenix have played one fewer game. After falling 4-1 to the Pioneers in their first meeting this season Portland will be aiming for revenge, and prime position to reach the playoffs, with a victory on their home turf.
MID ATLANTIC DIVISION
With five teams within three points of each other at the top of the division standings, the Mid Atlantic continues to be a fight for the three berths available to the postseason. Second-place Reading and fifth-place Baltimore meet on Friday evening in the biggest contest this weekend, with United aiming to keep pace with Ocean City for the automatic bye into the Eastern Conference Championships, and the Bohemians looking to pull even with Reading as they try to keep their playoff hopes alive with four games to play.
SOUTH ATLANTIC DIVISION
The top two teams in the division meet as the Carolina Dynamo host the West Virginia Chaos on Saturday night, with the Chaos needing a victory as they play their penultimate game of the season. While West Virginia sits in second place, it has played three games more than the third-place SC United Bantams, and four more than the Dynamo and fourth-place Southern West Virginia King’s Warriors, who face key games against the Northern Virginia Royals and Virginia Beach Piranhas. A win for the Dynamo would strengthen their chances of defending their division crown, and could end the Chaos’ playoff hopes.
The Ocala Stampede and Panama City Beach Pirates will continue their battle for the Southeast Division title this weekend as the Stampede remain at home to face Mississippi, and the Pirates hit the road for the first game of two in South Florida. The Stampede have the tougher task of the two on paper as they host the Brilla on Friday night at 7 p.m. ET (USLNation.com), while the Pirates will visit Ft. Lauderdale Schulz Academy, which is currently winless, on Saturday night. Orlando City U23s will also face the Brilla on Sunday as they try to remain in contention with three games to play, but the Lions will likely need help with both Ocala and Panama City Beach holding a two-point lead with two games in hand apiece.
MID SOUTH DIVISION
Oklahoma City FC will try to regain second place in the Mid South Division, overtaking the idle Laredo Heat, as they visit the Houston Dutch Lions on Saturday night. With four games remaining for the division-leading Austin Aztex, Laredo and OKC, none of the three sides can afford much room for error, but Oklahoma City might be wary of a Houston side that claimed one of its two wins this season when the two teams met on May 30. Should OKC take victory, it would set up a key clash with Laredo next Thursday, which could decide which side moves into the postseason, and which stays home.
An all-Canadian clash between defending PDL champion FC London and the Toronto Lynx highlights the weekend schedule in the Great Lakes Division, with London aiming to stay within touching distance of the division-leading Michigan Bucks, and Toronto looking to continue its recent run of form. The Lynx are undefeated in their past five games, with their three wins in that span including a 2-1 win against the River City Rovers in midweek that moved them into third place. Should the Lynx take victory, they would move within a point of London for second place, and solidify a top-three position, which would land them in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
While the Thunder Bay Chill have all-but wrapped up the division title, the battle for second place continues this weekend as the Real Colorado Foxes host the Springfield Demize for a pair of key games in Highlands Ranch, Colo. The Foxes currently sit in second place, and hold a four-point advantage against the Demize. Springfield has also played two more games than Real Colorado, meaning victory in both games is almost essential to the Demize’s playoff hopes, but the Foxes enter the contests in better form, having won their past two contests. The third-place Des Moines Menace will also be a keen observer of the two games while they try to take victory against the St. Louis Lions on Saturday night.
The top developmental men’s league in North American, the 2013 PDL features 64 teams within four conferences throughout the United States and Canada. The PDL season consists of 14 regular season matches for each team, seven home and seven away, and provides elite collegiate players the opportunity to taste a higher level of competition while maintaining their eligibility. In addition to league play, PDL teams compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as well as various exhibitions. The PDL has proven to be an important stepping-stone for top professionals now playing throughout the world.