NEW YORK – Lets crunch some numbers, shall we? In Womens Professional Soccer, there are six teams. Four of those six clubs make the playoffs - 66 pecent calculations (to my knowledge, thats the highest percentage of teams in a pro league to make the playoffs). In the unconventional playoff format, three clubs get home-field advantage for a round of the playoffs. Two clubs get byes for the first round. One club gets a bye until the WPS Championship.
Did you get all that? Because theres still one more nugget of information you need. Three teams - Boston Breakers (4-5-4, 16 pts), Sky Blue FC (4-5-4, 16 pts) and magicJack (5-5-2, 16 pts) - are deadlocked, with only two capable of making the postseason. Slightly less enthralling (but still compelling in its own right), the Western New York Flash (8-2-3, 27 pts) and Philadelphia Independence (8-3-3, 27 pts) are tied for first place, and if you remember back to (and infer from) our quick playoff primer, regular season champion hosts the WPS Championship. Sure, the playoffs arent for another three weeks, and a lot can happen, but that doesnt make this weeks action any less important. In fact, with five clubs jumbled up so close (with seven points, Atlanta Beat is way behind the rest), these games seem to matter that much more. So on Wednesday night, fans of the womens game will get a treat: All three of clubs fighting for those last two playoff spots will be in action. Playing simultaneously (both games kicking off at 7 p.m. ET), magicJack will host Sky Blue FC at FAU Soccer Field in Boca Raton, Fla., while the Breakers will host the Independence at Harvard Stadium in Allston, Mass. After a couple of lackluster road matches last week, magicJack is looking to right the ship at home. Hope Solo and Shannon Boxx are still yet to return to action post-World Cup, but Christie Rampone, Megan Rapinoe and Abby Wambach (of the US regulars) have gotten back onto the pitch. MagicJack may still be in a transition phase, adjusting to the way coach Wambach wants things run.
On the other side be the New Jersey-based club. Casey Nogueira has stepped up for her side, netting a brace this weekend against Philadelphia in a 2-0 win. Defenders Carrie Dew, Kendall Fletcher, Anita Asante and Brittany Taylor held WPS leading scorer Tasha Kai (as well as substitute Amy Rodriguez) in check. With midfielders Heather OReilly and Tobin Heath back, Sky Blue should match up well through the midfield with whomever magicJack throws at them. In Boston, the Breakers have a bit more of a challenge with Philadelphia. In two prior meetings, Philly had come away with a 2-0 win at home and a 1-1 draw in Boston. The Breakers, however, are coming off a solid effort against the other first-place club, WNY Flash, coming away with a 2-2 draw. Kelley OHara got back into the club-soccer flow with a brace, but the Breakers twice blew one-goal leads at home. While Philly doesnt have the likes of Marta, Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan, they arent a pushover in attack, having Rodriguez, Kai and Veronica Boquete at Paul Riley's disposal. And this is a match that Philadelphia really needs. With Western New York holding a match in hand, any lost points - even if its on the road - will prove costly. If any team knows how important having home field in WPS is, its Philadelphia, who lost in the WPS Championship last season after fading down the stretch. Philadelphia is keenly aware of the importance of home field advantage come playoff time, having failed to win last year's title match in Hayward, Calfornia four days after eliminating the Breakers in Boston. As Wednesday nights matches should be two hard-fought battles, the playoff picture isnt guaranteed to be clearer when the final whistles blow. Regardless, well certainly have a better idea what to expect from each of these four clubs as we inch closer to the conclusion of the regular season.