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New soccer playoff format has coaches talking.

Byline: Curtis Anderson The Register-Guard

The Midwestern League boys and girls soccer champions won't be guaranteed the No. 1 seed into the OSAA state tournament this year under a new playoff system adopted by the league's athletic directors.

The fourth-place team, meanwhile, gets no guarantee at all.

In past seasons, each soccer team in the Midwestern League played each other once, and the top four finishers earned the corresponding seeds into the state playoffs with no additional games.

But under the new format, once the regular season is over and the league champion has been crowned, each of the top six teams will play two more matches that count as league seeding contests.

Here's how it works: The league champion will play two home matches against the second- and third-place finishers; the league runner-up gets one home match and one away contest; and the third-place club gets two road contests.

Those matches will be spread over a period of seven to nine days so each club gets two quality games under its belt heading into the state playoffs. The results will determine league seeding. No shootouts will be used, so any ties will be broken based on regular-season results.

The same scenario will be used for the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place teams, but only the survivor gets a trip to state. The bottom three teams, meanwhile, will play each other again, but because no playoff spots are at stake, the games count against their regular-season limit of 14 matches.

`We met with the coaches, and some favored (the new playoff system), some were ambivalent and some hated it,' Churchill athletic director Tim Carmichael said.

`I think it will create some excitement at the end of the season when the top teams meet again. That will be fun and good for soccer.'

Carmichael said the new format was created to solve several problems.

He indicated that most Midwestern teams were having trouble finding enough quality nonleague contests to fill out their 14-game schedules. Those matches usually involved high transportation costs and an excessive amount of missed class time for student-athletes early in the school year.

`Most of the games were against teams that didn't have lights on their fields, so quite a few kids were missing a lot of class to play nonleague games the first week of school,' Carmichael said. `We wanted to figure out a way to solve that.'

The season-ending seeding games also should provide quality competition right before the state playoffs. Before, teams would often sit idle for a week or two before the playoffs began, a situation that was worsened if they ended their season against a lower-tier club.

`I think there is good and bad (to the new system),' Sheldon girls coach Phil Larsen said. `In terms of getting ready for the playoffs, because we were playing weaker teams at the end of the season, I like the fact that you will be battling teams of your caliber. But I don't like the fact that it takes away from the preseason. We pride ourselves on playing the best teams in the state, and we worked hard to get those schools.'

Although most coaches don't like the fact that you can't lock up the No. 1 seed even with a perfect run through the league season, they are willing to give it a try. They also seem to like the idea that more teams will get a shot at a state berth.

`Whoever comes in No. 1 has the worst of it,' said South Eugene girls soccer coach Brad Stratton. `You can win league, and maybe go undefeated, and then have some injuries or weird things happen and then lose a game on a fluke or a bad call, and not get to represent the league as No. 1. I'm not thrilled about that.'

`It seems kind of wacky, and I'm sure it will cause some problems,' added North Eugene girls coach Brandy Wormdahl.

`But there are two sides to it. For a young team like us, I feel we can get stronger as the season goes along, so you could lose a game early and this would still give you an opportunity at the end of the season to get a playoff spot.'
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 20, 2005
Words:708
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