The Women’s Football Alliance, the largest league in women’s football, has announced their divisional structure for the 2014 season.  The WFA will divide their 47 teams into 12 divisions – six in the National Conference and six in the American Conference.

2014 WFA Divisions – National Conference

Northeast Division:

Boston Militia

Cleveland Fusion

Pittsburgh Force

Mid-Atlantic Division:

Central Maryland Seahawks

Columbus Comets

DC Divas

Mideast Division:

Cincinnati Sizzle

Derby City Dynamite

Toledo Reign

Great Lakes Division:

Chicago Force

Detroit Dark Angels

Illiana Ravens

Indy Crash

West Michigan Mayhem

Southeast Division:

Atlanta Phoenix

Jacksonville Dixie Blues

Savannah Sabers

Tennessee Train

South Atlantic Division:

Daytona Breakers

Miami Fury

Orlando Anarchy

Tampa Bay Inferno

2014 WFA Divisions – American Conference

Gulf Coast Division:

Acadiana Zydeco

Arkansas Wildcats

New Orleans Mojo

Tulsa Threat

Midwest Division:

Iowa Steamrollers

Kansas City Titans

Minnesota Machine

Nebraska Stampede

St. Louis Slam

Southwest Division:

Austin Outlaws

Dallas Diamonds

Houston Power

Northwest Division:

Everett Reign

Portland Fighting Fillies

Portland Shockwave

Seattle Majestics

Tacoma Trauma

Utah Blitz

Pacific West Division:

Central Cal War Angels

Las Vegas Showgirlz

Nevada Storm

Pacific South Division:

Arizona Assassins

Pacific Warriors

San Diego Surge

West Coast Lightning

Commentary

You’ll notice that these divisions only include 47 teams.  Since my last report, the Tallahassee Jewels have, sadly, folded, while it appears the Phoenix Phantomz have jumped back down to the IWFL.

Unlike last season, the WFA’s divisions have geographical names, instead of numbers…a change I’m a fan of!  I also like the structure of the divisions, with an average of four teams per division.

The biggest change to the WFA’s policies regarding divisions this offseason was a change in how division champions will be crowned.  Some leagues simply use overall record to crown division champions – the team in the division with the best record is named the division champ.  That’s how it’s handled in the NFL, and on a surface level, it makes a lot of sense.

But here’s the problem: in women’s football, teams in the same division often play vastly different schedules.  For instance, look at last season with the DC Divas and Pittsburgh Passion.  Pittsburgh went 6-2, while the Divas went 5-3.  At first glance, it makes sense to crown the Passion as division champs due to their superior overall record.

However, the Boston Militia – a team that eliminated both the Divas and the Passion from the playoffs, by the way – went 8-0 in the regular season.  The Passion played them (and lost to them) once, while DC played them (and lost to them) twice.  Pittsburgh and DC each lost their games against Boston, split two games against each other, and defeated every other team they played.  So how does it make sense to penalize DC for playing Boston twice, while rewarding Pittsburgh for only playing them once?  It doesn’t.

For the purpose of determining division championships, we need to compare how teams performed while taking into account their varying schedules.  One way to do this is to use divisional records – not overall records – to crown division champions.  That way, we can compare how teams performed against common divisional opponents.

Yet there’s a drawback to this method, too…an uneven number of games.  For example, look at the South Atlantic division this year.  It has four teams: the Daytona Breakers, Miami Fury, Orlando Anarchy, and Tampa Bay Inferno.  Miami, Orlando, and Tampa all play each other twice.  However, all three teams only play Daytona once.

This uneven number of division games causes a problem.  Let’s say, the final division records are Daytona 2-1, Miami 3-2, Tampa 3-2, and Orlando 1-4.  Does 2-1 trump 3-2 or does 3-2 beat 2-1?  With an uneven number of games, there’s no satisfactory answer.

What the WFA is doing this year has been done in other leagues in the past, and I think it’s pretty clever.  Since (with only a couple exceptions) every team plays every other team in their division at least once, one game between each pair of division teams will be announced before the season as the divisional game.  In other words, in our example, the WFA will announce one of the Orlando-Miami, Orlando-Tampa, and Miami-Tampa games as an official divisional contest.  The other games between these three teams will simply be treated as non-division games…between two teams that happen to share a division.

By naming only one game per opponent as division games, Daytona, Miami, Tampa, and Orlando will each play three division games – one against each of their division rivals.  That eliminates the need to compare a 2-1 division record against a 3-2 division record, and the need to compare one team’s 7-1 record against a weak schedule against another team’s 6-2 record against a stronger schedule.

Bottom line…every team plays the same number of division games, and the best division record takes the division crown.  If two teams in a division have the same division record, only one tiebreaker is needed: who won the appointed division game between the two teams.  The three-team tiebreaker is a little more complicated (and will require a bit of clarification from the league), but all in all, I think this is a positive step for the WFA.

We’re now less than two months until the official start of the women’s football season, so it’s coming up fast.  Here’s hoping for another entertaining year!

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