The North American Soccer League announced yesterday a new divisional alignment and playoff structure under which the 24-teams will play a 30 game schedule to eliminate eight teams from title contention.
The league will be broken into two conferences, National and American, with three divisions in each a format identical to the National Football League.
But unlike the NFL, which will have 10 playoff qualifiers in 1978, the NASL will have 16. The top two teams in each of the six divisions will gai the playoffs, along with wild-card teams from each conference. Playoff matchups have not been decided.
The Washington Diplomats will play in the National Conference East, along with The Cosmos, Toronto and Rochester. All three of those teams had better records than the Dips last year but under the new system the Dips could finish fourth and conceivably still make the payoffs.
The Dips will play the three other teams in their division home and home and will also play the four clubs in the American Conference East home and home. They will also play two teams in the National Central and National West home and home.
They will meet the other clubs in the league once each, except for two teams in the American Central and two teams in the American West they will not play at all.
The other divisions are aligned as follows:
National Central: Minnesota, Colorado, Tulsa, Dallas. National West: Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles.
American East: Boston, Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa Bay. American Central: Chicago, Memphis, Houston, Detroit. American West: San Jose, California, San Diego, Oakland.