WORLD LEAGUE – Going into Week 10 in the World League, two weeks of inter-conference play remain, four weeks left of the regular season, and the playoff race is still wide open. The franchises showcased in this week’s Premiere Match are 6 win teams that are both thick in the hunt for the post season. The Mexico Aztecs have the #1 spot in the Western Conference, with a two game lead on the pack, and every win gets them closer to securing a first round bye. In the stronger Eastern Conference, the Jerusalem Cheeseheads’ 6-3-0 record is only good enough for 3rd place, and with a 7 win team above them, and a 5 win team on their heels, they need a Week 10 win just to keep pace with the rest of the Conference.
Both of these teams are former World Champions – Mexico in 2013, and Jerusalem in the following season – and they’ve faced each other 5 times. The Aztecs have a big edge in that series, having beaten the Cheeseheads 4 times, Jerusalem’s only win over Mexico coming in the 2015 season. The Aztecs look to be the better team again this time, at least on paper, averaging almost 100 points per game this season to Jerusalem’s 85 and moved into 1st place in total scoring last week on the strength of their 126-84 win over London. Mexico’s success has been largely tied to their star runningback Ezekiel Elliot who’s been having a fantastic year as he’s dodged a 6 game suspension all season. A hearing on Thursday could finally allow the 6 game suspension to move forward this week, possibly giving Jerusalem a big advantage Sunday. For now, though, the betting centers all favor Mexico in this one, giving the Cheeseheads 6 to 1 odds, but Jerusalem is on a 3 game win streak, and if you discount a 3 point loss in Week 6, they’d own a 7 game streak, so don’t call this one until the final whistle blows.
The league leader, AF#14 Scandinavian Stars (8-1-0) will look to keep rolling with a match against Cali Rox (3-6-0), and though they cannot clinch their spot in the post season this week, a win would allow them to do so next week. Just one game behind the Stars, the Old England Patriots (7-2-0) still have their sights on overtaking Scandinavia to capture the Eastern Conference’s first round bye. They play the Dacusville Devils (4-5-0) who also hold the #2 spot in their conference, but with the West mired in mediocrity, their status in the order of things is not nearly as secure as the Patriots’ and this one takes on the urgency of a must win game for the defending champs.
As their ranking at AF#23 would suggest, London Falling (5-4-0) is a much stronger team than their record would indicate, and they get a gift match-up against the last in league City of Champions (1-8-0) this week to try to move up from 4th place in the East. Also better than their 5th place ranking, the expansion Milan Wild Boars (4-5-0) have won 4 of their last 5 games and have a points advantage on every other team in the conference except for Scandinavia, and they’ll look to take advantage of a match-up with the second to last place New Orleans Acadians (3-6-0). Bringing up last place in the Eastern Conference, the Dublin Bay Prawns (3-6-0) are not yet mathematically eliminated from the post season, but they need go on a run starting this week and hope for some help from losses by the teams above them. The good news for Dublin is a Week 10 game against the Buenos Aires Blue Dogs (4-5-0) who started the season strong, but have now lost 3 in a row and dropped 5 of their last 6.
With the exception of Mexico, the Western Conference is just a mess. Even the last place City of Champions with just a single win all season, still have a route to sneak into the post season. Rumours are already stirring from the league offices that a possible restructuring of the schedule format could appear as early as the 2018 season to address the issue of conference parity. If confirmed, it would be the first change to the scheduling formula in three seasons, but for now, two weeks are left of interconference match-ups, and then in Weeks 12 and 13, teams have games on their schedules – one in conference and one out of conference – based on last season’s standings to close oout the regular season.
NOTE: AF rankings used in this story are current only through the Week 8 Top 25