[WPS] Women's Professional Soccer wraps up its regular season on Saturday. While FC Gold Pride has clinched first place and home-field advantage in the Sept. 26
championship game, the battle for second place -- between Boston and Philadelphia -- and the final playoff berth -- between Washington and defending champion Sky Blue FC -- goes down to the final day.
Unfortunately, conflicts with international call-ups again affect WPS in the final stages of the season. Here's a look at who's up and who's down in WPS ...
Who's up ...
PLAYOFF RACE. Just like last season, the WPS race for the final playoff berth will go down to the final day. Last season, Sky Blue FC earned the final spot and then ran the table in the playoffs to win the inaugural championship. The New Jersey team will need to beat Boston, which has already clinched a berth in the playoffs, and hope Washington doesn't beat last-place Atlanta on Saturday.
VERONICA BOQUETE. The late-season acquisition was sensational for Chicago, which has wrapped up its season. The 23-year-old Spaniard led the Red Stars to wins in their final two games of the 2010 season, the first successive victories in club history. She scored the first goal in a 2-0 win over Philadelphia, then assisted goals by Casey Nogueira and Megan Rapinoe with clever passes in Sunday's 2-1 win over Washington. Boquete joined the Red Stars after leading the Buffalo Flash to the W-League championship in early August.
MARTA. The Brazilian star, who scored her 18th goal of the season on Sunday against Boston, is running away with the scoring title. Abby Wambach and Amy Rodriguez are tied for second with 12 goals. Marta needs two goals in her final game on Saturday against Philadelphia to double her output in 2009 when she won the scoring title with 10 goals (over 20 games).
ATLANTA CROWD. Atlanta, long since eliminated from playoff contention, drew 4,752 fans for its final home of the season against Sky Blue FC on Sunday. It was the Beat's best home crowd since the opening of Kennesaw State University Stadium. The KSU facility will host the U.S. national team for its upcoming training camp and the first game of its two-game series with China.
Who's down ...
FC GOLD PRIDE CROWD. Sunday's FC Gold Pride-Boston match was perhaps a preview of the WPS championship game, but a crowd of only 2,447 fans turned out in Hayward to watch the regular-season champion Pride's 2-0 win over the second-place Breakers. Despite having Marta and league's best team, the Pride has barely averaged 3,000 a game.
INTERNATIONAL CALLUPS. Once again, the end of the WPS season is being affected by international callups. Last year it was preparations for Euro '09 in Finland. This year it's the World Cup qualifying playoffs in Europe. Washington is the team most affected. The Freedom will be without France’s Sonia Bompastor and Norway’s Lene Mykjaland for Saturday's key game against Atlanta. The Euro playoffs begin Saturday and conclude next Thursday. The WPS playoffs begin three days later, so players should be back in time for the first-round game between the third- and fourth-place teams. Frenchwoman Camille Abily's absence was considered one of the reasons Los Angeles, the regular-season champion, lost in the 2009 final to Sky Blue FC. This year, Abily is again playing in Europe with the Bleues, but she'll be back with first-place FC Gold Pride for the WPS final. (Following the WPS season, Abily and Bompastor will return to France to play for Lyon.)
SKY BLUE FC. The defending champions could be controlling their own destiny in the race for the final playoff berth, but they only managed a 0-0 with last-place Atlanta on Sunday. Sky Blue has scored only eight goals in its last 12 games.
LISA DE VANNA. The Washington Freedom forward, sidelined with a broken leg suffered at the 2010 Asian Cup, could be suspended by the Australia national team after a mother complained her daughter viewed photos of women using animal statues as props to simulate sexual acts on De Vanna's Facebook page. De Vanna, described as a "rough diamond" by one Australian soccer official, was suspended last year for two Australian league matches after she abused the fourth official and stuck her finger up at the crowd during a Perth Glory game.