In its fourth season of play the Evergreen Premier League is having its most competitive season yet. The month of July will decide the championship as a group of clubs fight for the top of the table. For a while now Seattle Stars FC have been at the top, but now other clubs are playing matches in hand and making things very interesting.
When Vancouver and Bellingham won their matches on Saturday June 24 they both signaled that the race is far from over. The defending champion Victory have only played 6 matches. They will play their 7th on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Seattle Stars have not yet played Vancouver and still have matches against Bellingham and WPSS Shock left to play. Let’s handicap the race using the data below.
(Cover photo: Jon Bergman Photography. Hammers v. Victory)
SEATTLE STARS FC
The Stars have six matches left on their schedule. They are currently averaging 2.4 standings points per match. Continued form projects them to finish the season with 32 points. That would have been enough to win any of the three previous EPLWA seasons.
The Stars’ remaining schedule is as follows: @ Bellingham United, Vancouver Victory, @ Oly Town Artesians, @ Olympic Force, WPSS Shock, @ Vancouver Victory.
The Stars have just 2 home matches left, and 4 away. They start July with a bang traveling to the Hammers on the 2nd and hosting the Victory on the 8th. It’s fair to say that Seattle will need at least one big away result (at Bellingham or at Vancouver) to win the league in 2017.
The Hammers have six matches left on their schedule. They are currently averaging 2.0 standings points per match. Continued form projects them to finish the season with 28 points. That total would not have been enough to win any of the previous three seasons.
The Hammers’ remaining schedule is as follows (Home matches in red): Seattle Stars, WPSS Shock, @ Spokane Shadow, @ Vancouver Victory, Olympic Force, Yakima United.
The Hammers have to be feeling good about finishing with 4 of 6 matches at home. If they gain ground when they host the Stars (July 2) and WPSS Shock (July 9) then there’s no reason they can’t win it all. It might come down to their road trip to play the Victory in Ridgefield on July 22nd.
The Victory have 8 matches left on their schedule. They are currently averaging 2.2 standings points per match. Continued form projects them to finish the season with 30 points. That total would have been good enough to win two of the previous three EPLWA Championships.
The Victory’s remaining schedule is as follows: Oly Town Artesians, @ Spokane Shadow, @ Yakima United, @Seattle Stars, @Oly Town Artesians, WPSS Shock, Bellingham United, Seattle Stars.
The Victory are poised to repeat as EPLWA Champions in a similar fashion to Spokane Shadow’s repeat back in 2015. They have a back-loaded schedule with plenty of points out there to grab. They’ve got 4 at home and 4 away — and end the season with 3 straight home matches —- all against the other clubs in the top four.
The Shock have seven matches left on their schedule. They are currently averaging 1.7 standings points per match. Continued form projects them to finish the season with 24 points.
The Shock’s remaining schedule is as follows: Olympic Force, @ Bellingham United, @ Vancouver Victory, @ Seattle Stars, Oly Town FC, @ Spokane Shadow (TBA), @ Oly Town FC (TBA)
The Shock are outsiders in the race. They only have two home matches to play, and five away – including two that have yet to be officially rescheduled. They will have a say in who wins though, as they play a single match against each of the other clubs in the top four — all away.
On the Fringe
The Spokane Shadow have been mathematically eliminated for the season. The Olympic Force, Yakima United and Oly Town Artesians are on the fringe of the race. If the Force won out they would be at 29 points. Yakima’s best would be 23. For the Artesians winning all remaining matches would give them 28 standings points. These clubs will no doubt affect the race, though. The Force have 3 matches left against the contenders. The Hoppers have 2. However the Oly Town Artesians have 5 matches left against the top four.
So this obviously means…
There is no ‘easy’ road to the 2017 Evergreen Premier League Championship. Maybe we can agree though that some have it tougher than others. The Seattle Stars have led the league since the get-go, but they have the toughest task in staying there.
Bellingham United’s schedule looks more favorable and they can point to several early-July big home matches and an ‘easier’ (on paper) schedule at the finish.
Vancouver Victory have that home stretch in mid to late July with the other three contenders. It’s crucial. If they need one of them to lose a match, they can do the job themselves. The Victory have 4 matches left against their fellow contenders (Stars also have 4, Hammers have 3, Shock have 3) – it is theirs’ to win, but it sure looks like we won’t know until the last day of the season on July 30th.