The age-old quandary: Playoffs or regular season?
My gut tells me Pali Blues (technically unbeaten but lost league title on PKs) and the Boston Breakers (lost in playoffs while defensive anchor couldn’t get there) are the best teams in the country. But we reward playoff winners in this country, and the teams that beat them aren’t bad, either.
But then we had another trophy-winning team that lost the WPSL Elite title on PKs.
And so let the controversy begin, because that’s the team I’m picking. (Note that the records here reflect draws in both the WPSL Elite and W-League finals. And the W-League third-place game. Silly PKs.)
(And these are only mine. Don’t blame Jenna Pel or Jeff Kassouf for these.)
1. Chicago Red Stars (10-4-2, WPSL Elite; Last week: 3). Split its squad between the Women’s Cup and the WPSL Elite, yet only seemed to get stronger. Won the Women’s Cup, then beat Boston to reach the Elite final. Host Western New York won on PKs.
2. Western New York Flash (10-2-4, WPSL Elite; LW: 5). Came on strong at the end of the season to add a WPSL Elite trophy to their W-League (2010) and WPS (2011) titles.
3. Ottawa Fury (11-2-1, W-League Central; LW: 10). A couple of puzzling losses in the regular season, but the Fury put up a brick wall in front of the goal against D.C. United Women and ousted Pali on PKs in the W-League final.
4. Pali Blues (15-0-2, W-League Western; LW: 1). The PK loss can’t diminish their feat of running through the stacked W-League West with no losses and one draw.
5. Boston Breakers (11-4-0, WPSL Elite; LW: 2). Surprising loss in the semis, but Chicago was on a roll.
6. New York Fury (9-4-2, WPSL Elite; LW: 4). Costly collapse in the semifinals against Western New York.
7. D.C. United Women (13-1-2, W-League Atlantic; LW: 6). Threw everything and the kitchen sink at Ottawa and just couldn’t break through. Mixed up the lineup in the third-place game and drew Quebec City before winning on PKs.
8. Seattle Sounders Women (10-4-1, W-League Western; LW: 7). Really curious to see what they do next year.
9. New England Mutiny (6-5-3, WPSL Elite; LW: 8). Wish the season had been longer.
10. Charlotte Lady Eagles (10-2-2, W-League Southeast; LW: 9). Good season for team with proud history.
11. Atlanta Silverbacks (8-1-3, W-League Southeast; LW: 11). The poster team for changing the W-League playoff format.
12. Gulf Coast Texans (9-0-0, WPSL Southeast): Won WPSL championship with sheer domination in the playoffs — 3-0 over Salt Lake United, 4-0 over Aztec MA.
13. Quebec City Amiral (8-3-3, W-League Central): Not quite as overmatched in the W-League semifinals as we all feared.
14. New York Athletic Club (8-1-2, WPSL Northeast Atlantic – Mid): U.S. Women’s Cup finalists.
15. Long Island Rough Riders (9-4-0, W-League Northeast; LW: 12). Best of a curious division.
16. Salt Lake United (8-1-2, WPSL Big Sky – North): U.S. Women’s Cup and WPSL semifinalists, going out to California to beat the Elite-bound California Storm and San Diego SeaLions to earn their way to the semis.
Alphabetically also considered:
Aztec MA (10-2-1, WPSL Northeast Atlantic – North): Beat Oklahoma FC 1-0 in the WPSL semis.
FC Dallas (12-1-0, WPSL Big Sky – South): Skipped the playoffs in a dispute with the league.
Turbo D’Feeters (Texas amateur): Not a bad showing in Women’s Cup semifinals.
Oklahoma Football Club (10-2-2, WPSL Big Sky – South): They did beat FC Dallas once this season.
Next up: A complete reshaping of elite women’s soccer in the USA! Maybe.