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Two weeks left in the spring season: Looking at the race for the Soccer Bowl

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NASL_logo_previewThere’s only a couple of weeks left in the NASL spring season. The winner of the spring session wins the right to host the Soccer Bowl in November.

And, four of the seven teams are still alive. Love or hate the new format, the result has been June games filled with playoff or Cup-tie atmospheres. Nowhere was this more evident than in Cary, N.C. on Saturday, as Canadian Paul Hamilton and the host RailHawks came from 2-0 down to beat Minnesota United FC 3-2, thanks to two last-gasp goals from Brian Shriver.

So, let’s look at how the final two weeks of the season can break down:

1. Carolina RailHawks, 19 points, two games remaining, +6 GD
Canadians on roster: CB Paul Hamilton

The RailHawks’ have a two-point edge over Atlanta. The RailHawks host the Silverbacks this coming weekend, then finish on the road at San Antonio. A win over Atlanta gives the RailHawks the league title. But, a draw with Atlanta and a win at San Antonio would likely be enough, as well — thanks to the RailHawks’ superior goal difference.

2. Atlanta Silverbacks, 17 points, two games remaining, +2 GD
If the second-place Silverbacks lose at Carolina this weekend, the gap becomes an unassailable five points. The Silverbacks can win the league by a) winning their final two games — at Carolina and at home to Minnesota — or b) Getting a draw with Carolina, then winning at home to Minnesota AND hoping the RailHawks lose their final game in San Antonio. Or there is option c) If Atlanta and Carolina were to draw, and Carolina would then draw at San Antonio, Atlanta would need to beat Minnesota by FOUR goals in order to take the title.

3. Minnesota United FC, 14 points, two games remaining, 0 GD
OK, this is where it gets tricky. Because of the spread of six in goal difference between Carolina and MUFC, it would be fair to assume that Minnesota is all but eliminated if the RailHawks get another point. So, in MUFC’s perfect world, Atlanta beats Carolina this weekend, then Carolina loses its final game of the season. Minnesota then wins both of its final games; on the road at FC Edmonton and then at home to Atlanta. As well, it would need to make up goal difference, so one-goal margins aren’t going to do it.

4. San Antonio Scorpions, 14 points, two games remaining, -1 GD
Canadians on the roster: Kevin Harmse

San Antonio’s scenario is similar to Minnesota’s; the Scorpions would have a massive goal-difference hole to climb if Carolina gets just a single point more. So, hope for an Atlanta win, then an Atlanta loss in the final game of the season. It would help if FC Edmonton didn’t allow Minnesota to get three points this weekend. San Antonio must beat Fort Lauderdale and Carolina in its final two matches and make up a mountain of goal difference.

Tampa Bay (15 points, one game remaining) FCE (11 points, one game remaining) and Fort Lauderdale (eight points, two games remaining) have been eliminated.

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