The Washington Diplomats are taking their North American Soccer League playoff hopes into the final three games.
The Diplomats, 14-15 and 14th in team standings with 124 points, have an opportunity to improve their position Wednesday night at Giants Stadium against the Cosmos, an Eastern Division rival and the league-leading team.
Fifteen of the leaguehs 21 teams qualify for postseason play that ends with the Soccer Bowl Sept. 26 in Toronto. The Cosmos, Chicago and Cancouver already have clinched playoff berths; 12 playoff spots are open with 10 days left in the regular season.
The injury-ridden Diplomats have one advantage in this last stretch: 13th-place Portland (126) points and 15th-place Tampa Bay (121 points) both have two games to go.
Washington has three to play and thus could attain mroe points than Portland or Tampa Bay. The Dips' final regular-season home game is Aug. 16 against Toronto. They close at Montreal Aug. 18.
Washington held second place in the Eastern Division until July 19, when a 4-2 loss to Montreal sent the Manic ahead. Montreal (14-15, 133 points) is in 11th place.
Although the Cosmos have clinched a playoff spot, a victory against the Dips would mean additional points that would make them the Mo. 1 seed with a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
The four other division leaders would follow in the rankings, in front of the five second-place teams and five-wild card teams decided by points.
Six points are awarded for a victory and up to thre points per game are given for each goal scored in regulation.
The new playoff system, which does not designate conference champions as in the past, is designed to make it difficult for weak teams to eliminate strong teams. First-round action involves a best-of-three series, with two games at the field of the team with the better record.