That is the best way to describe the Major League Rugby standings after the conclusion of week 18. As the 2019 MLR season winds down, rugby fans find themselves witnessing one of the greatest playoff races in sports history. With 1 week remaining, 5 teams are within striking distance of topping the table and 1 of those teams will miss the playoffs entirely. You couldn’t write a better, more thrilling ending to the 2019 MLR season.
The only thing that is certain is the San Diego Legion have clinched the playoffs. No matter what happens this week. They are safe. The Legion are 1st overall with 57 points. Below the Legion is a 4-way tie for 2nd. Rugby United New York, Toronto Arrows, Seattle Seawolves, and NOLA Gold are all deadlocked at 53. With the Toronto Arrows and Rugby United New York playing each other, at least one of them is guaranteed to have less than 57 points which allow the Legion to clinch. The Legion may have clinched but all of the other 4 teams could finish 1st overall. Unfortunately, any one of those 4 can miss out on the Championship Series entirely. The schedule further adds to the chaos. The Sunday of week 19 will see the Toronto Arrows take on Rugby United New York, the San Diego Legion battle the NOLA Gold, and the Seattle Seawolves host Austin Elite Rugby. It’s exactly what MLR wants and what all professional sports leagues dream of. Heading into the last day of the season, every game matters and has major playoff implications. There is still plenty left to be decided and three major questions that need to be answered this Sunday: who will top the table? Who will miss out on the Championship Series? Who ends up with homefield advantage? Ultimately, you might need Doctor Strange to calculate the 14,000,000 possibilities for the final weekend of the MLR season will play out.
The first match of the day will be the Toronto Arrows vs Rugby United New York and it is sure to be a fantastic match. There will be plenty of tension as no one will know the result of the other games. Currently, RUNY sits in 2nd with the Arrows in 3rd due to RUNY’s extra win. With a bonus point victory, the winner of this match would temporarily be in first overall (staying 1st overall depends on the outcome of the SD-NOLA game). However, a bonus point victory will nearly guarantee the winning team home field advantage in the playoffs. The loser could be eliminated entirely. Therefore, this game is absolutely monumental. It might not officially be a Championship Series game, but it might as well be. It’s insane that in a game played between the 2nd an 3rd place teams the winner can move to 1st overall and the loser could miss the playoffs entirely. Ultimately, this game is simple; win and you're in. If you lose? You become the biggest San Diego Legion fans in the world.
The NOLA Gold will have the biggest impact on the MLR playoff picture this week. In the event of a tie in the standings, MLR will turn to its tiebreakers to determine the final standings. The first tiebreaker is most wins. As it sits right now, NOLA only has 9 wins which put them behind Seattle (10), Toronto (10), and RUNY (11). As a result, NOLA finds themselves in 5th overall heading into week 19. Therefore, if NOLA loses to San Diego and does not pick up a bonus point, they are eliminated regardless of what happens in the other games. However, picking up a bonus point or 2 will give them a chance depending on the outcome of the Toronto-RUNY game and the Seattle-Austin game. In a loss, NOLA will need more bonus points than either the loser of Toronto-RUNY or earn more points than Seattle to make the playoffs.
The Seattle Seawolves will close out their season against the Austin Elite. The Elite find themselves at the opposite end of the spectrum as they are staring at the potential of an 0-16-0 season. However, they might be able to go out with some pride and completely ruin Seattle’s year too. Austin scoring a major upset would wreak further havoc on the MLR playoff picture. A loss would not completely eliminate Seattle. If Seattle loses, they would still need less points than the loser of Toronto-RUNY and NOLA to miss out on the playoffs. Again, if NOLA loses and doesn’t earn a bonus point, everyone else is in any way. However, if Seattle wins, they will be in contention for home-field advantage in the playoffs. A bonus point victory would put them in contention for first overall. Again, that depends on the outcome of the other two games.
So, what is the simplest way, to sum up the outlook for the five teams involved:
Rugby United New York
San Diego Legion
One key thing to notice about the chart is that every team’s “Make the Playoffs if…” column start with “Team defeats Team”. It really is that simple for everyone. San Diego has already clinched but the other 4 teams are all in win-and-your-in scenarios. The problems, the tiebreakers, and the math only starts if you lose. However, you will also notice that every club’s “make the playoffs if…” column also says “NOLA loses to SD and earns no bonus points”. Ultimately, if NOLA cannot pick up a win (or at least some bonus points) Toronto, RUNY, and Seattle all join San Diego in the playoffs. This finish is going to be absolutely fantastic with each game having massive playoff implications. It is one of the best playoff races in sports history and you can catch the thrilling finish either at Lamport Stadium, Starfire Stadium, or Torero Stadium. If you can’t make it to a game, you can catch it all on Facebook Watch.
If you enjoyed this article, you can follow me on Twitter @Bressette4 for all your Toronto Arrows and MLR news.