My Way-Too-Early 2022 NISA Season Predictions

It’s here! NISA has finally published the 2022 schedule. This gives us insight into the format of the competition, the notable absence of Chicago House AC and New Amsterdam FC, and four new clubs.

Every team will play home and away with teams from the opposite coast and home and away twice with those on the same coast (East- CFC, Maryland, Michigan, Syracuse, Flower City; West- Cal Utd, LA Force, Bay City, Valley Utd, Albion). That’s a total of 26 games a piece.

In anticipation of the new season, I’ve scrolled through Twitter, looked at results from the last few seasons, judged Wikipedia pages, and racked my brain to predict the outcome of the coming 2022 season. There are four big battles I’ll be looking at:

The Battle for First: California United Strikers vs LA Force

Detroit City FC absolutely dominated last season, but with Le Rouge moving onwards to the USL Championship, the top spot in NISA is up for grabs. Looking back at last season’s results, team forms, and playing styles, California United and LA Force stood out to me as the most likely to take the NISA pole position. These two were the only others capable of finding relatively consistent form throughout the season. They both like to press high, not letting the opposition get out of their own half. Cal United and LA Force tended to play with more of a “shoot-on-sight” offense compared to a Detroit side who played really selflessly and maturely in creating fewer, high-quality chances. However, there’s no reason this strategy won’t work again for last year’s second and third placed teams. Both are already publicly training in the preseason, but California edges first for me because of how sleek that Taco Bell sponsor looks and because LA Force has just swapped managers.

The Battle for the East: Chattanooga FC, Maryland Bobcats FC, Michigan Stars FC

I think this is going to be the best battle in NISA for 2022 (maybe I’m a little biased). Chattanooga FC and Maryland Bobcats are two of the best run clubs in terms of overall brand, media presence, etc., and will be hoping that translates into results on the pitch. I was there for that first match between the two sides when Zeca slammed the crossbar from a bicycle kick with one of his last touches as a pro and one of our better rivalries was born. Throwing Michigan Stars into the mix, these now seasoned and competitive NISA teams will have a great battle for what I’m guessing will be 3rd-5th spots in the league. Since each team plays the others four times, results within this mini league will reflect right onto the overall standings. I think Rod Underwood and crew coming over from Stumptown will give Chattanooga FC the edge and a third-place finish.

One More Playoff Spot: Albion San Diego, Flower City Union, Valley United

I know that the season will end with playoffs, and I thought I had read that the top six teams would be participating. I can’t find any details on the playoffs posted now, so I may have read that of a previous season, but consider this another prediction: a six team playoff would be a very NISA move. (Update: this is the official format, no maybe about it) One more team will get to dance and it’s hard to guess which one it will be. So far most teams have released very little in terms of personnel. A few of them have released little in terms of anything. I’m giving Albion San Diego a chance because they know what NISA play is like (albeit they did terrible last season- third most consistent form in the league behind Detroit and Cal Utd, except mostly L’s instead of W’s). Flower City Union seems to have a decent setup, sliding into the void left by the Rochester Rhinos a few years ago and affiliating with NPSL side Rochester Lancers. Valley United has experience in the USPL, participated in the Independent Cup last year, and has a U23 side in NISA Nation. I think Valley United have the best chance of the new clubs to break into the playoffs.

Playing for Pride: Albion San Diego, AC Syracuse, Bay Cities FC

Somebody has to come in last, but no one wants to do it. I anticipate these teams playing for pride this season where every point will count. Can the Albion improve on last season’s form? Will Syracuse and Bay Cities find eleven players? Really hard to tell. I can just imagine newly formed Bay Cities getting battered every other week by Cal Utd and LA Force. I don’t have to imagine that happening to Albion because we saw it last season (didn’t grab a single point off their fellow Californians). And finally, the Pulse will be seen as a necessary three points by the other teams in the East jostling for third. Once again, we know so little about these teams that it’s hard to predict much about them.

My Final Standings Prediction

  1. California United Strikers
  2. LA Force
  3. Chattanooga FC
  4. Maryland Bobcats FC
  5. Michigan Stars FC
  6. Valley United
  7. Flower City Union
  8. Albion San Diego
  9. AC Syracuse
  10. Bay Cities FC

So much can change before the season starts though. If Chattanooga FC sign Robert Lewandowski or some American equivalent then the game changes. As the title says, it’s way too early to guess. Go ahead and bookmark this page so you can come back and be impressed in six months. You heard it here first. Thanks for reading.