Hard to believe that we’re already four weeks into the group stage of the eLeague that’s become a surprisingly important part of my life recently!
Most everyone is down to just one more game to play, and in some groups, it’s all down to Matchday 5 to determine who advances and who goes home.
SmallWorld will keep going with its Power Rankings on just the leaders in each group, especially since Lower League eCup itself has you covered with bracketology every week now!
With that being said, even if we don’t get into the teams on the bubble, there’s plenty to tackle at the top of the table for each group. Let’s see who get the honors this week!
Group A – Inter Detroit: My Motor City miracle is one of the few preseason picks I’ve made that’ll hold true. They’ve got one more match to make their Group A title official, but unless they lose by double-digits to Levi United, they’ll hold onto the lead in all likelihood.
Group B – Metro Louisville: This week, we found out why poor Adam of the Tropics never got the Power Rankings lead he’s been begging for all season. He dominated his previous competition, but Metro put him in his place, keeping a clean sheet and putting 9 goals past the Tropics to leave no doubt about their rightful place in 1st. They’re a true favorite to win the entire thing at this point with a +43 GD.
Group C – SmallWorld’s group, see details below
Group D – Amish Country United: They’ve done their brand-new Icarus FC kits proud all season, as their record now stands at 5-0-0 with one match to play. They’ve tackled every obstacle until now, and I don’t see that changing when they go up against a lackluster Fall River Marksmen side.
Group E – Atlantic City: The Aces are in control of Group E, and they’re fully deserving of their Power Rankings lead, just as they have been all season.
Group F – Forward Madison: It was back to winning ways for the Mingos against Elmwood Elite last week, so they’re in good position to finish things off this week and claim the title of Group F.
Group G – OlyPen Force: Everything held to form again this week, meaning the Force are on nine points along with Laredo Heat and Union Dubuque with just one match to go. None of those three play each other, so it could very well come down to goal diffential. Assuming it does, OlyPen will have the advantage barring anything wild.
Group H – Oly Town Artesians: The Artesians are absolutely manhandling Group H, claiming a +37 GD after four wins from four games. They could end Denton Diablos’ hopes of advancing if they continue that path of destruction, but even if they don’t, Oly Town has locked down the title and the respect of everyone in the eCup. They’re a team SmallWorld will be watching as a real title contender.
Group I – Minneapolis City: This is another preseason prediction that’s panned out, as the Crows continue to control Group I with their fancy graphics and pregame shows on Twitch. Considering DeKalb County’s goal differential, a slip-up would likely mean that the Midwestern side would take over the title at the last moment, but I don’t see that happening. The Crows are ready for a deep playoff run.
Group J – FC Tucson: Well, Group J is going to be an interesting one to watch this week. Dallas Soccer Alliance and FC Tucson are deadlocked with one match remaining, and they play each other! It’s a winner-take-all situation that should create an exciting event. But it gets better: the two sides are even on goal differential as well as points. They’re also equal on goals scored. I have no idea what that tiebreaker will be if they draw, so I’m kinda hoping that happens just to see the scenario go down! I do think Tucson will end up taking it outright, though.
Group K – Inland Wolves: The Wolves are still preying on the rest of the league, and that trend should continue against a Long Beach City team that hasn’t won to date.
Group L – Lone Star Republic: The team from Texas has shot down each opposing team it’s faced, and that’s not likely to change when they face bottom-of-the-table River Town FC. Even if not, though, Republic have already guaranteed the title in Group L.
Group A – Miami Soccer Academy: The Miami outfit is already confirmed as the winner of Group A, and they can build on their momentum even further when they take on second place Greenspoint Gunners.
Group B – FC Motown: Motown is going to have to take care of business against Palm Beach Breakers this week, but as long as they do, they’ll get what their quality of play has deserved this campaign, which is a top-of-the-table finish in Group B.
Group C – NY International: The CSL club out of New York has game on the eSports pitch just like they do on Twitter. They’ve won three straight heading into their toughest match yet against fellow undefeated club Lazers SC. This title tilt will determine the winner of Group C, but I think NYIFC has what it takes to get over the line in first place.
Group D – Forward Madison: It’s another final-day match with the group title on the line here in Group D! The Mingos have some ground to make up against Elmwood Elite, but they’ve got the perfect opportunity to do so on Saturday. They’re down three points, but they have a GD advantage, so if they win, they claim the title. Should be one of the best matches of the entire group stage!
Group E – LSA Athletico Lanier: The playoff picture is set here in Group E, but the title race is the exact opposite. All four playoff teams (San Lee, DeKalb County, Vlora, and LSA) are within two points of each other. Vlora and LSA are even on nine points, and Vlora has a six-point goal differential advantage. However, LSA gets a more favorable matchup in Inter Detroit while Vlora has to face DeKalb. Speaking of, DeKalb and San Lee both have seven points, and DeKalb is just two GD off of Vlora, while San Lee are well out of the goal differential picture. I think Vlora will do their part and beat DeKalb, but they won’t do it by enough goals to keep LSA from storming back and taking the top spot right at the death. It’ll be fun to see what all four of these teams can do in the knockout stages.
Group F – Greenville Triumph: The Triumph still haven’t lost yet, but they do have to travel outside Group F this week and face unbeaten Dynamo FC St. Cloud. If they don’t get the job done, their +22 goal differential should see them through as champions, and if so, it’ll be another SmallWorld-predicted winner from the preseason!
Group G – Houston Hotshots: There have been a lot of draws in this group, as evidenced by the fact that the top team in the league has just two wins. That team is the Hotshots, and they control their own destiny in Group G. They face a weaker side in Oak City United, so they should get the win they need to be title holders.
Group H – AFC Mobile: Well, Mobile won the game that mattered most against fellow powerhouse Tulsa Athletic, and that will almost certainly be enough to give them the win here. If they lose against Little Rock Rangers, though, the door is wide open for Tulsa to sweep in and take the lead back just in time.
Group I – Milwaukee Bavarians: Just one more match stands between one of the most storied sides in US soccer and the pinnacle of their group. As long as they get a result against San Antonio Runners, they’ll finish atop the group and head into the playoffs with a first-round bye.
Group J – FF Premier: Inland Wolves could still potentially do the double in winning their Xbox and PS4 groups, but it’s not likely. FF Premier is living up to their name and looking like a strong candidate for a deep playoff run. They have a date with PDX FC, the clear minnow of the group that’s given up 51 goals, to seal the deal.
Group K – Union Dubuque: This one is getting interesting. Union Dubuque and Oxnard Guerreros are both undefeated thus far and face off on Saturday. The Guerreros, however, still haven’t made up their rescheduled game against Coyotes FC. If the Guerreros win, all they’ll need to do is win the rematch with Coyotes, but they’re running out of time to fit it in before the draw for the Knockouts. Either way, the winner looks like they’ll emerge with the title one way or another, and I feel like it’ll be Dubuque.
Group L – Riverside City FC: The academy side still haven’t lost, so as long as they win the two matches they still have to play, the title of Group L champion is all theirs. Inland Empire Republic will look to put the pressure on, having just one loss and four wins from five games.
Group M – Duluth FC: There’s still work to do for the Minnesota side, starting tonight against Oly Town Artesians. After tonight’s match, they still have another to play on Sunday against Lone Star Republic. Unless we see any surprise slip-ups, though, Duluth will handle both opponents and win the group.
PC – Metro Louisville: The new NPSL side is really strong on all three consoles, and that’s no exception in the PC division. They’ve got some close competition, but they’re still unbeaten for now.
And now, for a look at SmallWorld’s group, Xbox Group C.
SmallWorld led off in our toughest matchup of the season to date, a tussle with LA Krewe. The GCPL side defended their spot in second place with relative ease, knocking SmallWorld off its POTW perch and unbeaten streak in the process. The Krewe took control early, going up 3-0 in a 20-minute span and bringing a 3-1 lead into halftime. SmallWorld roared to life in the second half, pulling within one in the 56th minute and again in the 70th, after Krewe scored a fourth, making the score 4-3 with 20 minutes to play. SmallWorld continued to fight hard and go for a third late equalizer in four matches, but it wasn’t to be this time, as Krewe put the game away with an 81st minute goal to solidify the score at 5-3. It’s not exactly the result we were hoping for, but a deserved one considering the gap in quality and one with a lot of positives to take away. We’re gearing up to face Northshore United next, and that could be a difficult evening for us. FINAL: SW 3 – 5 LAK
Next up, it was Jacksonville Armada taking on Olde Fields Battalion in an elimination match. Both sides knew they needed a win to be practically alive, and one side got its wish. Olde Fields started out hot, scoring a quick opening goal, and as it turned out, they never looked back. 3-0 was their halftime advantage, and they only grew the lead in the second half. Armada pounced on a late consolation goal, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Florida boys in with a shout at the playoffs. It does, however, keep Olde Fields very much in the mix, but they’ll have to replicate this feat one more time. FINAL: OFB 4 – 1 JAX
Finally, we saw leaders Northshore United in action Sunday afternoon against Hoboken FC in a match with a lot riding on it for the non-Louisiana teams. Hoboken was always going to be second-favorite against Northshore, but they’ve got a lot of quality. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite show on the pitch, as a tough first-half display led to a 3-0 Northshore advantage. It only got worse, with two red cards given to the New Jersey side in the second period of play, and 5-0 was the eventual scoreline by the end of the proceedings. It’s a tough hit to Hoboken and their goal differential, but they still have a good shot at making the top four. Northshore, meanwhile, continue their dominant ways… FINAL: NOR 5 – 0 HFC
With these results in mind, let’s progress to the Power Rankings this week for Group C. First, though, a look at the current standings:
- Northshore United, 12 pts +18 GD
- Louisiana Krewe, 9 pts +3 GD
- SmallWorld Soccer, 5 pts 0 GD
- Hoboken FC, 4 pts -5 GD
- Olde Fields Battalion, 4 pts -7 GD
- Jacksonville Armada, 0 pts -9 GD
And here are your Group C Power Rankings!
- Northshore United: There’s not much room for debate here. They took care of their fixture yet again, this time against a stingy Hoboken side with a lot to play for, and they’ve now officially locked up first place in the group. They’ll be in the running for a Final Four spot or beyond, without a doubt.
- Louisiana Krewe: It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it was more than enough on the day for Krewe as they took down SmallWorld and cemented their 2nd place finish and playoff berth. They could certainly surprise a few people in the playoffs, and they’ve got one last tune-up match against Olde Fields Battalion before they head into the knockout stage.
- Hoboken FC 1912: In an instant, Jacksonville went from one of the tougher opponents in the group to finish the season with to the easiest. Hoboken looked better than their scoreline suggested, with two odd red cards skewing things towards the end. They should take care of an already-eliminated Armada and see themselves through to the playoffs after all, but if they falter, that could all go out the window.
- SmallWorld Soccer: I’m still backing myself to move on and finish in the top four, though I would be feeling much more comfortable right now if I’d have earned at least a draw against Krewe last time out. I can’t reasonably expect a positive result against Northshore this week, so I’ll be hoping for helpful scorelines elsewhere to get me through. Namely, one of Olde Fields and Hoboken needs to lose for me to be secure, and I think that loss will come from…
- Olde Fields Battalion: I’m really impressed by the fact that this is even a conversation right now. Olde Fields finally came alive and proved the hunch I had about their quality in preseason, but I still feel like it’s a bit too little, too late. They have some ground to make up, and they’re going to have to do it against a really good LA Krewe squad. The momentum is with them, but they’ll probably need more than a draw since their goal differential is worse than Hoboken’s. It’s possible, but it’s a long shot.
- Jacksonville Armada: This, on the other hand, is not possible. It’s now been four games, and Jacksonville still has nothing to show for any of them. I’ve believed in them all the way until the end, but I can’t argue with the math: Armada are officially out of the running for the playoffs. They can do me a big favor by beating Hoboken, and I think they’ll be motivated to do that to have something positive to take away from the season, but I think the defense is too leaky to handle a precise team like Hoboken.
So it’s all down to the final matchday! Wednesday night is a Group C doubleheader, as Krewe and Olde Fields do battle at 8:30 PM Easter, while SmallWorld takes on Northshore United in what could be a bloodbath at 9. Then, Hoboken tries to punch their ticket in the playoffs against an Armada team looking to come up with something positive in their swan song on Saturday at noon EST.
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