Image courtesy of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL).
The 2023 NPSL North schedule is out and there are plenty of interesting items to talk about as we look through the coming summer. The full schedule can be viewed here, but if you want the highlights, you’ve come to the right place. One thing to note, the conference has seven teams this season, so six teams will play each weekend of the season, with one receiving a bye.
Week one of the 2023 season, set for Saturday, May 13, pulls no punches and looks ready to set up a wild ride of a season. The Dakota Fusion will host Med City in a meeting of 2022’s conference champs and third place finishers. The Fusion impressed last season with their ability to compete, and sometimes beat, the best of the best. 2023 could mean more of the same in Moorhead. Med City will need to be at their best when they arrive at Jim Gotta Stadium to avoid a tough start to their title defense.
Joy Athletic had a tough 2022 season, something that felt most at hand when they suffered multiple defeats to La Crosse Aris. The Goats now have a chance at immediate redemption as they host Aris at Oriole Stadium on May 13. If Joy want 2023 to be a year of successes akin to 2021, then a confident handling of last year’s boogyman seems like an apt start.
The final game of the opening weekend sees the Minnesota TwinStars host Duluth FC at Park Center Senior High School, which looks set to be the TwinStars new long term home. This sets a serious test for the TwinStars, who lost 0-5 and 0-6 to Duluth last season. For Duluth, it’s perhaps a prime way to start the year if you have to start on the road. We don’t know too much yet about the BlueGreens roster, but we do know that Sean Morgan seems to know how to get past the TwinStars.
The Body of the Season
The middle of the season provides some big matchups between our reigning top three clubs from 2022. Duluth host Med City on Wednesday, May 31, then travel to the Dakota Fusion on Saturday, June 3. That’s a tight turn around against two teams most expect to compete this season, and it’s a bit of a baptism by fire for Duluth’s season. That said, that’s what wins you trophies.
Just about two weeks later, Med City has a tough run of their own. The Mayhem travel to Sioux Falls on Wednesday, June 14, before hosting the Dakota Fusion on Saturday, June 17. All of this to say, by mid-June, we could very well see who of our current top three are ready to win this conference title based on how they navigate these tough bursts of matches.
This same period provides a big opportunity for Joy Athletic, a team some expect to outperform last year’s second-to-bottom finish. Joy host the Dakota Fusion and Minnesota TwinStars on June 10 and 14 respectively. In that short burst, Joy will face two of its biggest competitors for mid-table points. Two wins there could send the Goats flying. Three days later, they travel to La Crosse Aris, another big opportunity for Joy Athletic.
Closing the Playoff Picture
The final 10 days of the conference season are set to be action-packed. Med City will host Duluth FC and the Sioux Falls Thunder on June 28 and July 5. The Mayhem crucially will not play the final weekend of the league, July 8. This means that the reigning champs may have to wait and see how others do to confirm their table finish.
Duluth of course have that game against Med City to worry about. The BlueGreens do not play midweek on July 5, unlike Med City. They instead end the season with a home game against the Dakota Fusion on July 8. If the race comes down to the final weeks, Duluth may find a sort of upper-hand in having the final say between the two clubs. That’s if the title is still up for grabs, of course.
Interestingly, the TwinStars have a very nice run in to end the season, hosting Aris and Joy Athletic on July 5 and July 8. Two wins there could help the historic club climb up the table or compete for a high spot if they get the work done earlier in the summer.