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WPS playoff dates revealed, one week break between super-semifinal and final

WPS Playoffs

Women’s Professional Soccer revealed on Tuesday the details of its 2011 playoff structure. The format for the four teams remains the same as the previous two seasons, but there will be a one week break between the super-semifinal and the final.

The first round game will take place August 17 or August 18 and the game will be aired on Fox Soccer Channel. The winner advances to the WPS Super-Semifinal on August 20 at 4 p.m. on Fox Sports Net.  Where the difference lies in 2011 is the amount of time between that game and the final, which will take place on Saturday, August 27 at 4 p.m. on Fox Sports Net.

Previously in 2009 and 2010, the first round game took place on a Sunday, the super-semifinal on the following Wednesday or Thursday and the final on the Sunday immediately following.  That crammed all three games into one week.  Both years (Sky Blue FC in 2009 and Philadelphia Independence in 2010) an East Coast team had to play in all three games, the last of which was in California both years. Sky Blue FC prevailed in 2009, but Philadelphia was noticeably jet-lagged in 2010 after both the first round game and the super-semifinal went to overtime.

“We listened to feedback from our teams, coaches and fans and made a small change to our playoff schedule by moving the WPS First Round up a few days and giving the winner of the WPS Super Semifinal a full week to prepare for the WPS Championship,” said WPS CEO Anne-Marie Eileraas. “It’s a great way to increase the build-up towards one of our league’s signature events – the WPS Championship – and really places a premium on finishing among the top two teams in the final regular season standings. At the same time, by having a WPS First Round game, it gives teams an opportunity for a Cinderella run through the playoffs and the opportunity to qualify for the playoffs late in the season.”

The recognition by WPS that there needs to be a longer break between the super-semifinal and the final is good to see. That should help balance the competition and avoid another game like the 2010 final, where FC Gold Pride defeated Philadelphia 4-0. What still remains of concern is that four of the league’s six teams will make the playoffs, which seriously dilutes the worth of regular season matches. Long-term (assuming stability of the league), the playoff format would work well with more teams and sticking to it now keeps the format consistent, unlike the ever-changing MLS Cup playoffs. Still, just how important is one of those 18 regular season games when four of six teams will make the playoffs?
2011 WPS Playoffs
WPS First Round Aug. 17/18              TBD          FOX Soccer
No. 3 vs. No. 4

WPS Super Semifinal Saturday, Aug. 20    4pm ET      FOX SPORTS NET
No. 2 vs. Winner of WPS First Round

WPS Championship presented by Citi Saturday, Aug.27    4pm ET    FOX SPORTS NET
No. 1 vs. Winner of WPS Super Semifinal

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