The DC Trident and Iron, based in Budapest, have booked their tickets to Eindhoven, Netherlands for the Playoff via their 1-2 finish in the first-ever “Play In” Match that concluded on Thursday in Italy.
For the Trident, the victory was historic. In the context that this match was intentionally designed of the four worst teams in the league, the win was DC’s first-ever ISL victory, and in fact their first ever top two finish. In season 1, DC became famous for their “third is first” chant in the regular season finale, where a win over the New York Breakers meant that they weren’t the worst team in the league.
Now, they can begin a “first is first” chant, as they head on to Eindhoven.
Iron mounted a furious late-meet comeback, where they’re strongest, but came up 9 points short of DC. That was still good enough to advance to the Playoff round. While the difference between first and second here was about $400 per swimmer, the potential payouts from earning three extra meets easily dwarfs that.
Under the new ISL playoff system this year, the 8 teams will be split into four pairs that will compete against each other in each of their Playoff matches. Each pair will compete against each other pair, which ensures that every team gets at least one crack at every other team in the Playoff. That’s not something we saw in the regular season where, for example, the top two teams Energy Standard and Cali Condors never faced off.
The exact pairings were determined by a draw – the 1st and 2nd place teams drew for who would face 7th or 8th, while the 3rd and 4th place teams drew for who would face 5th or 6th.
Ultimately, both pairings wound up flipping from seed. Energy Standard draws DC Trident and Cali Condors draw Iron, though in both of those cases, it’s probably moot. The middle of the bracket draw, however, is significant: London is paired with LA Current and Toronto with the Aqua Centurions. That’s a big win for the Titans, because while LA and Aqua have similar seeds, a full-strength LA team is projected to be substantially better than a full-strength Aqua team.
The regular season seedings won’t necessarily be how teams will finish – remember that most teams, especially Energy Standard, London Roar, and LA Current – have a lot of big guns who are expected to rejoin their rosters in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
ISL Playoff Pairings
- #1 Energy Standard & #7 DC Trident
- #2 Cali Condors & #8 Iron
- #3 London Roar & #5 LA Current
- #4 Toronto Titans & #6 Aqua Centurions
The ISL has also revealed who will compete in which Playoff Matches. The matches will return to their usual Thursday-Friday & Saturday-Sunday rotation, with each of the 8 Playoff teams competing once each week.
The match to watch will be Playoff #2. The top two teams in that matchup will have a huge advantage in the race for the final, both in confidence and in actual points.
ISL Playoff Schedule
- Match 1 – November 11-12: #1 Energy Standard, #2 Cali Condors, #7 DC Trident, #8 Iron
- Match 2 – November 13-14 #3 London Roar, #4 Toronto Titans, #5 LA Current, #6 Aqua Centurion
- Match 3 – November 18-19 – #1 Energy Standard, #4 Toronto Titans, #6 Aqua Centurions, #7 DC Trident
- Match 4 – November 20-21 – #2 Cali Condors, #3 London Roar, #5 LA Current, #8 Iron
- Match 5 – November 25-26 – #1 Energy Standard, #3 London Roar, #5 LA Current, #7 DC Trident
- Match 6 – November 27-28 – #2 Cali Condors, #4 Toronto Titans, #6 Aqua Centurions, #8 Iron