The Fresno Fuego is on the cusp of returning to the Premier Development League playoffs for the first time in three seasons and can punch its ticket as early as Thursday when the BYU Cougars visit Chukchansi Park for a Central Pacific Division showdown.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
Fresno (7-2-1) is riding an eight-match unbeaten streak (not including a win over SF City FC that was later forfeited) and lead the division with 21 points. Burlingame Dragons (5-4-1) have 16 and the Cougars 15.
If Fresno wins against the Cougars and gets the three points, it would lock in one of the division’s two guaranteed postseason spots. With a draw, Fresno remains in good position while BYU also stays alive.
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The team that finishes with the most points in the Western Conference advances to the West Championship semifinals. The second- and third-place teams from that division face a play-in game to determine another semifinalist. The top two teams from each of the other two divisions square off in an in-division playoff.
Undefeated FC Tucson (8-0-2), of the Southwest Division, leads the Western Conference with 26 points.
Conference championships will be the weekend of July 22-24. Western, Southern, Central and Eastern conference champs advance to the PDL semifinals, which would be the week of July 24-31 . The PDL Championship match will be on the weekend of Aug. 5-7.
Unfortunately, our season started off taking a wrong turn, but we’ve turned it around and we’re certainly excited with where we’re sitting.
Fuego general manager Jeremy Schultz, on the club’s resurgence after an 0-2 start to the PDL season
After a tumultuous start, Fresno, which remained No. 2 in the latest PDL Western Conference Power Rankings behind FC Tucson, has kept the fire burning for six straight weeks under interim coach Brian Zwaschka. Zwaschka is unbeaten since replacing Sean Lanigan, who resigned May 17 citing personal reasons.
Forward Christian Chaney has scored a league-best 12 goals in nine matches and team captain/midfielder Milton Blanco has a division-high five assists, which is also tied for third in the PDL.
Fresno’s defense also has steadily improved, with the Fuego recording its fourth clean sheet of the season (all in the previous five matches) in a scoreless draw Saturday at San Diego Zest FC.
The well-rounded Fresno squad is eying its first division title since 2013, which can come as soon as this weekend if it wins its final two regular-season home matches. A victory against the Southern California Seahorses at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, paired with a Burlingame Dragons’ loss or draw against BYU, would see the Fuego crowned as outright division champ.
Soccer balls for kids – The Fuego and California Odyssey Soccer Club will be collecting new, still packaged soccer balls from fans during Thursday’s match to donate to Valley Children’s Hospital. Donations will be taken at the courtesy booth. Last year, 60 were donated.
PREMIER DEVELOPMENT LEAGUE: FRESNO FUEGO VS. BYU COUGARS
- Thursday: 7:30 p.m. at Chukchansi Park
- Records: Fuego 7-2-1, Cougars 4-4-3
- Last meeting: Fresno is 2-0 against BYU this season, winning a pair of away matches 2-0 and 3-1 three weeks ago in Provo, Utah.
- Webcast/TV: Youtube.com/CMACFresno (Xfinity 94/AT&T U-Verse 99)