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New rivals for Madison 56ers as NPSL's Midwest Region reshuffled

01/04/2015, 6:30pm CST
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The Madison 56ers will have a new look to their National Premier Soccer League season this year, with six new opponents on their schedule after the Midwest Region was restructured during the offseason.

The region includes 13 teams, who will compete in a single table rather than being split into conferences. The top four finishers will qualify for the Midwest playoffs, with the regional champion earning a spot in the NPSL national semifinals.

The Midwest featured 15 teams in three conferences in 2014, but Aris FC, the Quad City Eagles and FC Bordo St. Louis – all of whom played with Madison in the Central Conference – withdrew from the league. The Milwaukee Bavarians, who exercised an option to take a one-year hiatus in 2014, also informed the league that they would not be returning.

While the teams no longer are in conferences, they were placed in geographic groups for scheduling purposes. The 56ers are paired with the Minnesota Twin Stars and Minnesota United FC Reserves, the other former Central teams.

Madison will play the Minnesota sides three times apiece – the 56ers will play host to United FC Reserves twice and play at the Twin Stars twice – to account for half of their 12-game league schedule. The other nine Midwest teams will play their geographic partners two times apiece (home and away).

The 56ers' remaining six matches will be against teams they haven't played before: Detroit City FC, defending Midwest champion Lansing United, Michigan Stars, Cincy Saints, Indiana Fire and newcomer FC Indiana. Madison won't play the four teams that made up the Great Lakes East Conference last season: AFC Cleveland, Erie Admirals, FC Buffalo and Fort Pitt Regiment.

The three Michigan teams and the Saints, Fire and FC Indiana will play each of the four eastern-most sides, then will play one match against a team from the other group to round out their league schedules. Those teams will end up playing 10 of the other 12 Midwest teams, while the eastern teams play nine opponents and the 56ers, United FC Reserves and Twin Stars will face eight regional foes.

While the schedule hasn't been finalized, the 56ers likely will play host to the Cincy Saints, Lansing United and the Michigan Stars on the new turf field at Breese Stevens Field in addition to the three matches against the Minnesota teams. Madison's road league games will be against Detroit City FC, the Indiana Fire and FC Indiana.

The 56ers, who will play host to the Under-23 side from Dutch club v.v. DOVO in a friendly on April 29, are tentatively scheduled to open their 11th season in the NPSL on May 10.

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