The Midwest has changed its format for the upcoming DI men’s season, which starts Saturday, with the competition split into three pools instead of two divisions.
One pool contains the three Chicago teams – the Blaze, Griffins and Lions. Another pool consists of the Milwaukee Barbarians (a joint venture between the Westside Harlequins and Milwaukee RFC), Metropolis and Palmer. The third pool contains the old East teams – Indianapolis, Columbus, Detroit and Cincinnati.
The winner of each pool gets a top-three seed to the Midwest playoffs. The second-place team in each pool gets a 4th-6th place seed in the playoffs. And the top two third-place teams in each pool move in as the seventh and eighth seeds. The quarterfinals will be played in the fall and the semifinals and finals in the spring.
The last two years, the East champion has lost two games at the Midwest playoffs and finished third in the league, and there’s been speculation that if given the chance to play the third-best team from the West, the East champ may have finished as low as fourth. However, the old playoff structure allowed the top team in either division to finish no worse than third overall.
This new structure allows for the old West teams to, potentially, sweep all four of the Midwest’s seeds to the USA Rugby playoffs. And with the Griffins and Lions joining Metropolis and Palmer to create what would have been an incredibly strong West division, change was needed to allow them all a chance at the National postseason.
But the upshot of the change is uneven schedules. The pool of four has relatively comparable schedules, with each team playing a home-and-away with each other and two out-of-pool matches. But it’s not even from there.
For instance, the Chicago teams only have to leave the greater Chicago area twice each. Meanwhile, Metropolis has to travel to Iowa and Wisconsin once each and Chicago twice. Palmer has to go to Chicago, Minnesota, Indiana and Wisconsin.
And the top two teams from the territory a year ago, National semifinalists Metropolis and Palmer, are pitted against each other in the same pool, so one won’t make the Midwest playoffs as a seed higher than fourth. Milwaukee, which is sort of an unknown, but expected to be improved, certainly sees their road to the playoffs get much tougher.
However, perhaps the most positive aspect of the new schedule is that every returning DI team has a tougher slate than they did the year before, creating a truly top notch competition.
Pool 2 Champion vs. 2nd seeded 3rd place team
Pool 1 Champion vs. top seeded third place team
Pool 3 Champion vs. Pool 1 runner up
Pool 2 Runner up vs. Pool 3 runner up