NASL League Format

My original intent was to blog about last weekend’s results, which resulted in a three-way tie atop the NASL table. But I think I’ll wait a few days until the league posts video of the matches. (If you can’t wait, they’ve got video of the previous week’s matches on their YouTube channel.) Instead, just a quick look at the league format.

The NASL has chosen a double-season format that’s similar to the Argentine Premiera setup. The teams play a Spring Season and a Fall Season. Each half-season lasts three months, and points don’t carry over between half-seasons. For 2013, the Spring Season runs from April 6 through July 4, and the Fall Season from August 3 to November 2.  Each season consists of a full double-round-robin competition — each team plays every opponent twice, once each at home and away.

The winners of the two half-seasons meet at the end of the year in a one-game championship called the Soccer Bowl to determine the overall winner of the league. The match is hosted at the Spring winner’s home field. If the same team wins both half-seasons, the team with the second highest point total for the year will play in the match.

Unsurprisingly for US-Canadian soccer, there is no system for promotion and relegation.

The odd piece for 2013 is that the seasons are unbalanced. The New York Cosmos will only start playing in the Fall Season. So the Spring Season has 7 teams, but the Fall will have 8. In the Spring season, that works out to three games each weekend, with one team taking a bye. In the Fall, of course, there will be a four-game slate each weekend and no byes.

The current schedule has seen 4 weekends already, getting us about 30% through the Spring Season. There were two 0-0 draws, both on opening day (Tampa Bay-Carolina and Minnesota-San Antonio). At the other end of the scoring charts, we find a 3-4 win by Atlanta in Tampa Bay on April 20. Carolina, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay lead on 7 points, though both Carolina and Minnesota have a game in hand. And at the bottom of the league, San Antonio and Fort Lauderdale both sit on 1 lonely point — though again, Fort Lauderdale is a bit worse off, having played one more game already.

Next year will see a much more robust schedule, with four more teams slated to enter the competition. There is a bit of uncertainty about this — common, I suppose, for a lower-division league like this. But more on that later.

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