In their debut season, the San Diego Wave find themselves in second place, just a point out of first place.
However, due to the fact that just seven points seperate the top eight teams, there’s yet to be a team that’s clinched a spot in the playoffs with just two matches remaining.
The top six teams will head to the postseason, with the top two being guaranteed a first round bye. The opportunity for a first round bye means that the Wave will almost certainly be playing for something right up until the end of the final match of the season.
How the Wave can clinch a postseason spot
If the Wave win on Saturday against the Orlando Pride, they are guaranteed a place in the playoffs, regardless of any other results.
Angel City, who is the first team outside of the postseason, sits on 29 points, while the Wave have 34. A win would send San Diego to 37 points, while if Angel City win their final two matches they would finish with 35. A draw would also guarantee San Diego a place in the postseason, due to the fact that Angel City takes on sixth placed Chicago to finish the season.
Both Angel City and Chicago could reach the 35 points that San Diego would have should the Wave draw on Saturday, but that could only happen if both of the two sides win their final two matches. Since they play each other, that can’t happen, meaning that should the Wave pick up any points from their final two matches, they’ll be in the postseason.
The Wave would also advance to the postseason if they lose, along with a pair of results elsewhere. San Diego needs two of three possible results to go their way. They’d need Angel City and/or eighth placed North Carolina to fail to win, and/or Chicago to lose to book their place in the playoffs.
The Wave will clinch a postseason place IF:
The Wave win or draw vs. Orlando
Two of: Angel City draw/loss, North Carolina draw/loss, Chicago loss
How the Wave can clinch a home playoff game
All teams that finish in the top four will be guaranteed a home playoff game, something that could be crucial for the Wave.
A sellout crowd of 32,000 would be a massive for a team, which could be the difference in the match. San Diego needs to win to have any chance of guaranteeing a top four finish, along with other results going their way. If a Wave win is combined with a loss from either Houston or Kansas City, they’ll be guaranteed to finish fourth.
If all three results happen, they’ll be guaranteed a top three finish. Houston takes on third place OL Reign, who are tied with the Wave on points, so San Diego is assured of one of their rivals dropping points this weekend.
The Wave will clinch a home playoff game IF:
The Wave win vs. Orlando
Houston loss OR Kansas City loss
How can the Wave clinch a bye week
San Diego cannot clinch a bye week, as only the top two sides will enjoy the week off.
Even if the Wave win and their nearest rivals lose, there is no way for them to be more than three points ahead of third place, which is what would be required to guarantee a spot in the top two.
It has been a remarkable season for the Wave, as they’ve drastically exceeded any and all expectations of what an expansion team was capable of. FiveThirtyEight.com gives the Wave greater than a 99% chance to make the playoffs, as well as a 13% chance to win the NWSL in their first season.