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How Recent USL PRO Announcements Impact the Hammerheads

by Marissa Blackman

This might be the offseason, but that doesn't mean USL PRO has been uneventful. 

All USL leagues , including PRO, recently had their big annual meeting, and important decisions were made there. I’m going to explore what all this means for Wilmington Hammerheads FC.

There are lots of new teams in the league, so USL PRO has been divided into two conferences- east and west. The Hammerheads will be competing in the Eastern conference along with FC Montreal, Toronto FC, Rochester Rhinos, Harrisburg City Islanders, Richmond Kickers, Charleston Battery, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Saint Louis FC, Louisville City FC, and Charlotte Independence, and it’s a widely agreed upon rumor that the New York Red Bulls of MLS will be starting a USL PRO team before the season starts. Click here for more details on the conference divisions.

What does all of this mean for the Hammerheads?

1.       Familiar Faces
Last season Toronto was Wilmington’s MLS affiliate, so it’s quite possible that the Hammerheads could be competing against some of last season’s loans.

2.       Familiar Teams
Wilmington Hammerheads FC has been facing longtime USL PRO sides such as Charleston and Richmond for years. Those veteran clubs make of 5/11(12?) teams in the conference. Judging by last seasons stats, the Hammerheads should pretty easily win against these teams. Wilmington beat both Pittsburgh and Charleston twice and tied Harrisburg twice. Richmond is the only one of these clubs that the Hammerheads ever lost to, and the other two matches against Richmond were ties.  Against Rochester, the Hammerheads won twice and tied once.

3.       Wild Cards
The other 5(6?) teams in the Eastern Conference are completely new. Who knows what they are capable of?

4.       Playoffs
The Hammerheads will only need to make at least 5th place in the East by playoff time to compete. Next, Wilmington will compete with ONLY eastern teams to decide which one plays in the championship match against the western winner. In my opinion this makes it much easier to get into the playoffs, and makes that final championship deciding match significantly less predictable because the two teams playing in the final will be facing each other for the first time.

Those were the reasonable facts, now here are my irrational fan predictions: The new clubs in the conference will be no threat at all. They will be nothing like Sacremento Republic FC, who won in it’s first season, and they will struggle all year. The Hammerheads will dominate the Eastern Conference table and win it all.

Richmond will probably be the biggest threat to all of this, but, looking back on my Richmond post from last season, maybe not so much. If my opinions are correct, the Hammerheads improved every time they played Richmond. Many of last season’s players(including Paul Nicholson, Sunny Jane, Will Heaney, Troy Cole, Cody Arnoux, Ross Tomaselli, Ashani Fairclough, Steven Miller, Brian Ackley, Matt Glaeser, Tom Parratt, Andrae Campbell, Marc Godelman, and Drew Ruggles) are remaining with the Hammerheads, so it seems plausible that Wilmington will be able to beat Richmond next year.

One thing is for sure… I wish it was Spring of 2015 already!

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