What does Bala’s semi final win mean for the WPL?
Yesterday the JD Welsh Cup final 2017/18 was confirmed, as The New Saints beat gap Connah’s Quay Nomads 3-0 and Bala Town came from 1-0 down against Caernarfon Town to come out 3-1 victors.
Both semi final results made history as Bala Town reached the final for the first time, with The New Saints’ win sending them to the verge of a third consecutive domestic treble.
However, the semi final results also have implications on the Dafabet Welsh Premier League and its play-offs, which Y Clwb Pel Droed explains with this guide to European qualification.
Who has already qualified?
The New Saints and Bala Town.
The New Saints are already in Europe next season thanks to their record breaking title win last month, which confirmed their place in the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds.
Bala Town secured Europe with their semi final win yesterday, as they have secured at least a third place finish. If The New Saints win the Welsh Cup, third place automatically qualifies for Europe.
This is because the winner of the Welsh Cup qualifies for the Europa League – but if the winner has already qualified for Europe, the Europa League spot goes to the next available place in the league, which is third – because finishing second already guarantees Europa League qualification.
Thanks to TNS’ dominance of the Welsh Cup in recent seasons, both Llandudno (2016) and Airbus UK Broughton (2015) have qualified for Europe by finishing third.
Bala Town find themselves in an ultimate win-win-win situation, as they have already qualfied via one of their three possible season outcomes. All of the following will get them Europe.
- Winning the Welsh Cup
- Finishing second
- Finishing third
Who else can qualify automatically?
gap Connah’s Quay and Bangor City.
With third place now an automatic qualifier, gap Connah’s Quay Nomads and Bangor City are in the race for third. Nomads are favourites with an eight point lead over Bangor City, but City could catch them if they win all of their remaining games and Nomads lose all of theirs.
The race for third is unlikely to go on until the end of the season, as if Bangor City draw or lose a game – Nomads have qualified by guaranteeing a minimum third place finish. Similarly if Nomads draw two games – or win one, they will secure Europe.
Even a point will all but get Nomads Europe, due to Bangor City’s inferior goal difference.
Bala, Bangor and Nomads could all end up finishing third, and must look to finish the seasons with a strong run – but this will be a challenge as all three sides face the Champions in their last three games.
- Bala Town: Carmarthen (H) Connah’s Quay (A) TNS (H)
- Connah’s Quay: TNS (A) Bala Town (H) Cardiff Met (A)
- Bangor City Cardiff Met (A) TNS (H) Carmarthen (H)
Who will be in the play offs?
As it stands, Bangor, Cardiff Met, Carmarthen and Newtown will fight for Europe in the play-offs. The format of the play-offs, in relation to third place qualifying for Europe, pits 4th against 7th and 5th against 6th, so the play-offs may look like;
Bangor vs Newtown
Carmarthen vs Cardiff Met
The winners of these two games will of course meet in the play-off final, one of the most prestigious games in Welsh football worth 200,000 euros.
But remember – Connah’s Quay, Llandudno and even Cefn Druids could still be involved in the play offs. If Bangor finish third Connah’s Quay will be in the play-offs, but as detailed above this would be in dramatic circumstances.
The race for 7th is very much on, with Newtown currently 7th with a 4 point lead over 8th placed Llandudno. Cefn Druids could still clinch 7th, but this would mean winning all of their remaining games and Newtown and Llandudno dropping points.
The end of season fight for 7th involves the following games;
- Newtown: Druids (H) Airbus (A) Aberystwyth (A)
- Llandudno: Aberystwyth (H) Druids (A) Rhyl (H)
- Cefn Druids Newtown (A) Llandudno (H) Airbus UK (H)
The race for the two remaining European places in Welsh football is complex, but far from over as Dafabet WPL clubs, players and fans alike are preparing for a fiery finish to the 2016/17 season.
Photo Credit: Bala Town FC