LLeC – week 0 power rankings

The group stage draw is complete, and the Lower League eCup is well and truly under way for its second full season.

There’s no shortage of exciting matchups to be found throughout the groups and divisions, but before we get too deep into the thick of it all, let’s remind ourselves of how the tournament is broken down this year.

There are two divisions that divide everyone participating based on skill. In the Premier Division, clubs/supporter’s groups/other orgs will be represented by one entry. This division will feature competitive players looking to bring their organization some silverware!

Below this is the smallworld Second Division. This tier will be for individuals rather than for club representatives, as players can simply be eSports fans, lower-league soccer community members, or perhaps club owners/staff who want to be involved but aren’t serious FIFA players.

The Premier Division will be divided up by three consoles. Thus, there will be three separate champions in each division. The three consoles are PC, Xbox, and PlayStation, and clubs are allowed to field entries in any/all consoles. The same goes for the smallworld Second Division except for the fact that there won’t be a PC console there.

Now that the group stage draw is complete, you can see who’s participating in which divisions and consoles. Having laid the foundation of the tournament structure, though, let’s get to some predictions!

First, I’ll highlight a few group stage matchups I’m particularly excited to see.

In Xbox Premier Group D, four awesome midwest clubs off the field go head to head in the eSports arena. Minneapolis City and Dynamo St. Cloud are clubs smallworld has written club features on, while Oakland County are expansion power rankings champions from USL League Two last year. Lansing Common are an exciting new project with a lot of momentum, so all four clubs are exemplary. All those matches will be fun to keep an eye on!

Group F on Xbox will feature a real-life derby match in the amateur WPASL. The affectionately-named Connect Four Derby, stemming from a smallworld podcast episode that highlighted the teams’ connect four battle via Twitter, will pit Hayward United against Bateaux FC in the group stage.

An even more fierce rivalry takes place in Group B, again on Xbox, when Union Dubuque and DeKalb County United lock horns. The loser will be hearing about it for ages, so neither side will want to lose this one.

In the Second Division, fellow Group C fam members from last year in Louis Llerandi and Cam Ocampo will be reunited, ironically in Group C. Representing Jacksonville Armada and Tallahassee SC respectively, they’ll certainly put a good game on for all who watch.

Let’s also take a look at the Groups of Death for the Premier Division.

For the PC, it’s definitely Group A. In the absence of last year’s champions, Metro Louisville, Oakland County and Union Dubuque are the top two returning clubs after finishing in second and third. They’re joined by quality challengers in Danubia Men’s Elite of Philadelphia and Battle of the Kits winners Space United.

In Xbox, Group H stands out as a challenging one. West Coast studs Vacaville Elite and Inland Empire FC would have expected to make it out of the group unscathed, but Lone Star Republic will have something to say about that after a successful season of their own. Add the brand-new Lacey Pocket Gophers to the mix, and we’ve got a really tough group on our hands.

Group I is my Group of Death pick for the PlayStation side, sporting some really intimidating sides. Tulsa Athletic top the list after reaching the quarterfinals (losing out to eventual champions Providence City) last year, and their second-round victims Union Dubuque will have high expectations as well. Dynamo FC St. Cloud were also second round participants, and they’ll feel they have something to prove after coming away with three draws in last year’s group stage. Colorful Canadians Cook St. United round out the group and should give all three a good match.

In one final additional factoid before we get to the full-length predictions, smallworld itself will be in action via our Premier Division rep Austin Robillard. We’re drawn into Group B of the Playstation console, but more on that below.

Group Stage Predictions

Time to get all the predicting under way. Starting with the Premier Division PC console, here’s an expert opinion (not) on how the group will shake out.

Keep in mind that the top two finishers in every group are guaranteed a playoff spot, while third-place finishers could qualify based on tiebreakers in the Premier Xbox and PlayStation divisions.

PC Console

Group A – There are just two groups here, and they should both be real crackers. Group A includes two semifinalists from last year’s PC division, 2nd-place Oakland County FC and 3rd-place Union Dubuque. I expect Space United to come in and challenge for the title, but they won’t have it easy. I see Danubia keeping pace but coming just short, Oakland and Dubuque switching places from last year, and Space United landing in between the two veterans.

  1. Union Dubuque
  2. Space United
  3. Oakland County
  4. Danubia Men’s Elite

Group B – In stark contrast to Group A, South Bend Lions are the only team to return to the PC console. Dutch Guard are a Kingston Stockade supporter’s group, and that’s a pretty well-supported side, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see somebody with some skill emerge from their ranks. Delaware Rising and Lansing Common are very much question marks, being new to both eSoccer and existence as a soccer club at all. I’ll give the two known entities the nod here, but this group is wide open.

  1. Dutch Guard
  2. South Bend Lions
  3. Lansing Common
  4. Delaware Rising

Xbox Console

Group A – Louis from Jacksonville Armada was hard done by a last-place finish last year after dropping some close results. He’s got a lot of skill and a chip on his shoulder this year, and I’m backing him to take Armada to the playoffs this year. I’ll take new expansion club Delaware Rising of Ohio as the second qualifier here.

  1. Jacksonville Armada
  2. Delaware Rising
  3. Swan City Syndicate

Group B – This group will have nothing but entertaining and skilled teams. UK-based club 1874 Northwich should provide a serious threat to Midwest Premier League rivals Union Dubuque and DeKalb County United. Hoboken FC was a Group C rival of smallworld’s last year and had a lot of quality. I’ll take DeKalb and Hoboken here, but expect a very tight race for the top two and for this to be a group where a third-placed side moves on as well.

  1. DeKalb County United
  2. Hoboken FC 1912
  3. 1874 Northwich
  4. Union Dubuque

Group C – smallworld’s group stage home last season will be an exciting one yet again in 2021. Metro Louisville FC were early favorites to win it all last year after a truly dominant group stage display. They’re certainly going to have title ambitions this season as well, but standing in their way is an ambitious new Danubia side as well as fellow ethnic club United Serbians. Rebels FC should pose a threat as well, but this one is going to be all Metro.

  1. Metro Louisville
  2. Danubia Men’s Elite
  3. United Serbians
  4. Rebels FC

Group D – We chose Dynamo FC St. Cloud to win their group last year, and that didn’t pan out so well for us at smallworld HQ. We still love DFCSTC and their fantastic kits, but we’ll not be making that mistake again this year. Instead, we’ll opt for 2020 runner-up Jonah Garcia and the Crows’ exemplary commentary team, with Lansing Common beating out fellow Michigan side Oakland County for second place.

  1. Minneapolis City SC
  2. Lansing Common FC
  3. Oakland County FC
  4. Dynamo FC St. Cloud

Group E – LAME United is in this group and we’re contractually obligated to hate them. So they’re gonna finish last. Tallahasee SC is tasked with keeping them down there alongside a quietly consistent Evan Warwick for the ‘Mingos and a USL Championship side in Hartford Athletic. Forward Madison should go through here in first, while Hartford pick up the second auto qualification spot.

  1. Forward Madison
  2. Hartford Athletic
  3. Tallahassee SC
  4. Lane United FC

Group F – Hayward United and Bateaux do battle in this group alongside an Elitists FC side who’ll be hoping they live up to their name and the formidable Louisiana Krewe. Krewe finished second in smallworld’s group last year and showed a lot of quality, so I see them topping the group here. I think Bateaux get the better of their bitter rivals and it’s enough to earn them a spot in the postseason.

  1. Louisiana Krewe
  2. Bateaux FC
  3. Hayward United
  4. Elitists FC

Group G – This group is made up of mostly unknowns, but what I do know is that Northshore United is one of the scariest teams on Xbox. I feel like media outlet The Soccer Plug will provide the only real challenge for the Louisiana outfit in the group stage, and those two will pass the group stage with flying colors. Kirkland FC and Cultures United will be left to battle for a potential 3rd-place berth, buoyed by the quality competition they’ll have already faced.

  1. Northshore United
  2. The Soccer Plug
  3. Cultures United
  4. Kirkland FC

Group H – Remember how we said Northshore is one of the scariest teams here? Well, meet the team that beat them. More accurately, meet the 14-year old who represents Inland Empire FC. He’s the owner’s son, and he made it all the way to the semifinals last year. He’s sure to have improved even more from last summer, and despite a formidable group surrounding him, he shouldn’t have much trouble getting out of this group. Below IEFC, fellow UPSL clubs Lone Star Republic and Vacaville Elite will fight for second alongside a brand-new Lacey Pocket Gophers side who will have a cold welcome to the eCup in a group like this.

  1. Inland Empire FC
  2. Vacaville Elite FC
  3. Lone Star Republic
  4. Lacey Pocket Gophers

Group I – The Guererros figure to lead the pack in Group I. They’ll face strong competition from West Coast counterparts Sporting Arizona and LA Wolves. San Antonio Runners had a solid season last summer as well, so the fight for a second playoff spot should be well worth keeping an eye on.

  1. Oxnard Guerreros
  2. San Antonio Runners
  3. LA Wolves
  4. Sporting Arizona

PlayStation Console

Group A – Danubia is an exciting new team that could be successful. San Lee were the best 4th-place finisher in any group last year and have a lot of ability. Rebels FC have potential as well. But truthfully, none of that matters. FC Motown will mop the floor with all three of these clubs, and that’s solely because of their own dizzying quality. They took home the PlayStation title last year with little room for doubt, and the practice squad member of Motown (who’s legitimately a FIFA pro, by the way) is back with the intention of doing the same this year.

  1. FC Motown
  2. Danubia Men’s Elite
  3. San Lee FC
  4. Rebels FC

Group B – GET HYPE Y’ALL, smallworld is playing once again! Instead of Danny at the controller, we’ve brought in Austin Robillard, who you can read more about here. This is no easy group, but we’re backing Austin to take us to the knockout stage in style. Behind us will most likely be Phil Baki, representing the Manatees of Biscayne Bay SC, but our media derby with Zack of TriSocPod will be no easy task, either. Josh Ranft (soon to be announced as a part of some awesome things at smallworld!) has taken the reigns of his Eau Claire, WI-based Bateaux FC, and he’ll certainly not be a pushover. It’ll surely be a fun group stage to be a part of!

  1. smallworld soccer
  2. Biscayne Bay SC
  3. Bateaux FC
  4. TriSocPod

Group C – We’re rooting for longtime lower-league supporter Brett Mullenix and the team(s) he’s playing for, SKADI Soccer and Agema FC (all one team. somehow.) SKADI/Agema will struggle to keep up with last year’s runner-up Providence City, though. I do like them to beat newbies Delaware and La Barra, as much as I love the latter’s awesome efforts as a Latino SG for Forward Madison.

  1. Providence City FC
  2. SKADI Soccer/Agema FC
  3. Delaware Rising FC
  4. La Barra 608

Group D – USL Championship has invaded Group D. Colorado Springs Switchbacks are the only club in the group and will have high expectations. Magic City Brigade are the supporter’s group for Birmingham Legion, and they should be competitive as well. Brickyard Battalion are the SG for Indy Eleven and I’d imagine they’ve got someone good on the sticks. Meanwhile, a rep from a separate eSports event called eUSL is part of the eCup this year also. All this said, who the heck knows how they’ll finish. I just kinda picked some stuff tbh. Watch this be my most accurate group prediction.

  1. eUSL
  2. Colorado Springs Switchbacks
  3. Brickyard Battalion
  4. Magic City Brigade

Group E – This group of just three teams figures to be a fun one. smallworld supports all these clubs, and they’re all brand-new to the eCup. It’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top, but we’re betting that honor goes to Steel FC. The fun part will be seeing how far these guys can go in the playoffs.

  1. Steel FC
  2. Lansing Common FC
  3. Sunflower State FC

Group F – Hoboken are the only returning team here, and they showed enough last year to convince me they’ll top Group F. Black Rock will have a chance to prove itself in a three-team group, and same goes for OCFC as they venture into PlayStation play.

  1. Hoboken FC 1912
  2. Black Rock FC
  3. Oakland County FC

Group G – G stands for Giovanny Cañas and the Greenville Triumph team he represents. He’ll be in full control here, while South Bend Lions and Jacksonville Armada will provide a quality challenge for him. This is a group of three that has the potential to send all its members to the next round, mostly dependent on which cross-team opponents they draw.

  1. Greenville Triumph SC
  2. South Bend Lions
  3. Jacksonville Armada

Group H – I genuinely have no clue here. I’d imagine Space United will bring some heat given how many people are representing them in the second division that didn’t getten chosen for the Premier side. Like United, though, all three of their opponents are new to the eCup. I’ll go with my biases and take former podcast guest Louisville Lightning to finish second.

  1. Space United FC
  2. Louisville Lightning
  3. FC Harrington
  4. SF Metro FC

Group I – So many tasty matchups here. Dynamo FC St. Cloud are underrated on the PlayStation side and should prove that here. Union Dubuque will probably be the best last-place finisher in the entire eCup this year. I’m bullish on Cook Street United’s quality as a new club in the mix, but it’s a tough ask for them to get out of this group. Serious title contenders Tulsa Athletic won’t make it any easier, and they’ll feel they came up short of what they could have done after exiting early in the playoffs last year.

  1. Tulsa Athletic
  2. Dynamo FC St. Cloud
  3. Cook Street United FC
  4. Union Dubuque FC

Group J – AFC Mobile are a pretty easy pick to win the group unless something crazy has changed on the sticks for them. They’ve got the quality to go all the way and nearly did last year, falling short in the quarterfinals to Providence City, who went on to win the title. Meanwhile, newbies Lacey Pocket Gophers have a real shot at second place alongside a LSR team that’s much weaker on PlayStation than Xbox and SPAM FC.

  1. AFC Mobile
  2. Lacey Pocket Gophers
  3. SPAM FC
  4. Lone Star Republic

Group K – Inland Empire FC are new to the PlayStation side of things, and I don’t expect them to be quite as formidable here as they are on Xbox. They’ll meet an underrated AC Miracle Hill team that could really get its chance to show how much quality it really has. Peak XI FC and Cultures United provide some fresh blood, and they should both be fairly competitive here. I’ll give the nod to Cultures to find a second-place spot here.

  1. AC Miracle Hill
  2. Cultures United FC
  3. Inland Empire FC
  4. Peax XI FC

Group L – This group is a great candidate for Group of Death as well. Vlora managed to top a solid group last year, Oxnard Guerreros made the semifinals, and Inland Empire Republic racked up a +40 GD in their group last summer – including a loss! City Legends weren’t too shabby last year, either, but they could struggle to keep up among three elite sides. This could go anybody’s way, but I’ll take Vlora after their ability to win a similarly tough group last year, and I’ll go with Oxnard to finish second. IE Republic should definitely go through as a third-place team and do some playoff damage as well.

  1. Vlora FC
  2. Oxnard Guerreros
  3. Inland Empire Republic
  4. City Legends FC

Now, let’s take a gander at the Second Division groups, starting with the Xbox side.

Group A –

  1. Sole2Soul FC
  2. Lansing Common II (@An_Le7)
  3. Metro Louisville FC
  4. Peak XI FC

Group B –

  1. CS Montreal ’67
  2. eUSL II
  3. Hayward United II
  4. Lansing Common II (@LordWalken)

Group C –

  1. Cook Street United FC
  2. Tallahassee SC
  3. Jacksonville Armada

Group D –

  1. Swan City Syndicate
  2. Lansing Common II (@SteveBsMu)
  3. Oly Town Artesians

And now for its Playstation counterpart:

Group A –

  1. TriSocPod
  2. Magic City Brigade
  3. Space United II (@NASAspaceflight)
  4. Bell County FC

Group B –

  1. The Red Watch
  2. Inter Philadelphia
  3. Oly Town Artesians
  4. Space United II (@Alejand86457841)

Group C –

  1. Vlora FC
  2. Jacksonville Armada
  3. eUSL II (@AlexNapoles)
  4. La Barra 608

Group D –

  1. Metro Louisville
  2. Space United II (@LAFC_BARRON)
  3. eUSL II (@JoeyTUCCI3)
  4. Little Rock Rangers

Here’s where the predictions get wild and I really start to embarrass myself. It’s time to take a shot in the dark at the semifinalists, finalists, and eventual champions of each of the five divisions.

Finals Predictions

Premier PC: This one should be fun. In one of the big upsets of the eCup, I have South Bend outdoing their previous 6th-place finish and upsetting a strong Union Dubuque side. I like Space United to handle Dutch Guard and find their way past South Bend as well to take home the trophy.

Semifinals – Union Dubuque v South Bend Lions AND Space United v Dutch Guard

Finals – South Bend Lions v Space United

Champion – Space United

Premier Xbox: The Crows should find their way back to the semifinals at least. As fun as a redemption story would be, though, I don’t see them getting past a Metro Louisville side that deserved more from last year’s playoff run. Meanwhile, Northshore should get the semifinal berth they probably deserved last time out, but I have them losing to Inland Empire for the second straight year. From there, Fabian will lead the club his father owns to eCup glory, taking down Metro Louisville to make it happen. This is going to be an excellent few matches once we get down to this point in the season.

Semifinals – Northshore United v Inland Empire FC AND Metro Louisville v Minneapolis City

Finals – Inland Empire FC v Metro Louisville

Champion – Inland Empire FC

Premier PlayStation: It’s so hard to pick at this point. I think Tulsa and Greenville will surprise some and find the semifinals, leaving out Providence City, Vlora, Guerreros, and Tulsa Athletic. I’ve got a lot of faith in Giovanny, though, and Austin, of course. That semifinal will be a thriller, but I think Austin will pull it out for us. On the other side, Mobile will avenge their agonizing defeat in the quarterfinals against Tulsa Athletic, but only to come up short against the FIFA pro at Motown. In the end, itll be the only repeat winner in the eCup, but smallworld’s name will be right in the conversation thanks to Austin.

Semifinals – FC Motown v AFC Mobile AND smallworld soccer v Greenville Triumph

Finals – FC Motown v smallworld soccer

Champion – FC Motown

Second Xbox: this one will be interesting. It’s almost entirely unknowns here, so I’m going with a known entity in TLH SC and some others that have me intrigued to make the semis. Something about Sole2Soul has me thinking they’ll be good, so I’m taking them as champions over Cam and the Battle Lions.

Semifinals – Sole2Soul FC v Swan City Syndicate AND Tallahassee SC v CS Montreal ’67

Finals – Sole2Soul FC v Tallahassee SC

Champion – Sole2Soul FC

Second PlayStation: I didn’t give Armada the benefit of the doubt in the Xbox Second Division, so I’ll give it to them on PlayStation. I have TriSocPod going through to the finals as well past Metro Louisville, who brought in a streamer from England last-minute to take on the second-division task. In the end, I’ll give it to Zac and Zach of TriSocPod.

Semifinals – Jacksonville Armada v The Red Watch AND TriSocPod v Metro Louisville

Finals – Jacksonville Armada v TriSocPod

Champion – TriSocPod

There you have it! Every group on every console in both divisions has been predicted. Stay tuned weekly on Monday mornings for updated predictions after each week of group stage action, right here at smallworld soccer.

All the action is available to stream for free on the eCup’s official Twitch channel, and you can find schedules by team, by group, by division, and even an entire list of all eCup matches on their website.

Stay weird and support local soccer!




By danny kotula

danny kotula is an aspiring sports writer and play-by-play commentator. unfortunately, he is not good at either one. his interests include watching soccer and listening to obscure music genres, and those aren’t even his most boring ones. he was born in Tacoma, Washington but has called South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, California, Georgia, and Costa Rica home over the course of his life. he generally knows where to put a comma, which is by far his most redeeming quality. he is writing this in third person as if he were famous enough for someone to write him a biography, but don’t be fooled. he’s not famous.

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