The Indian Super League has reached an interesting juncture with one spot left for the playoff and two teams vying for it. Odisha FC, who were headed to the playoffs with even a draw securing them a place in the last six, lost against Jamshedpur FC in their penultimate league stage game and thereby have come under the threat of losing out on a playoff berth.
The ISL, unlike most football leagues in the world, does not work on only a league system, but rather follows an American-style playoff format. As a result, the top six teams at the end of the league stage qualify for the playoffs. The team that tops the table at the end of the league stage is crowned Premier and qualifies directly for the semi-finals and also gets a berth in the Asian Champions League playoffs. The team that comes second also qualifies for the semi-finals and AFC Cup.
The remaining four teams play in the playoffs as the number three team faces number six in the points table and number four and five play against each other in a single-leg format. The winners of these playoffs will then face the top two teams in the double-leg (home and away) semi-finals.
Now, Mumbai City FC, who have earned 46 points from their 20 games, have been crowned Premier as the second-placed Hyderabad with 39 points from 19 games can not catch up with them no matter what. Hyderabad will finish second as they also have an 8-point lead against the remaining teams and it cannot be covered up in one game.
Therefore, the real race comes down to the last four positions in the playoff. However, the teams in the third, fourth and fifth place each have gone to 31 points and the seventh-place team is on 27 points, Thus, the fight is between sixth-placed Odisha with 30 points and seventh-placed Goa with 27 points.
Goa play Bengaluru FC in their last group game. It is an away game for the Goans and thus, a victory would be a rarity but is not out of question. In their last meeting this season, Bengaluru registered an away win and thus Goa can do it too.
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If Goa win, they are through. However, the West Coast Blues will not let the Goasan have it easy either as the Sunil Chhetri-led team would be looking to finish third in the table to play Odisha in the playoff and boost their chances of making it through to the semis. Goa have not won any of their last three games and hence, winning this one would be nothing short of a miracle.
The teams that have qualified alongside Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru are ATK Mohun Bagan and Kerala Blasters and like Bengaluru, they also have 31 points each.