We've reached the home stretch, the final three weeks before the end of the Buffalo & District Soccer League's regular season.
Only two teams, BSC International and Roos FC, have been officially eliminated from playoff contention, and they're in a fight of their own to stay in the premier division, as the bottom two sides in the standings get relegated.
Instead of separating themselves from the pack, league favorites BSC Raiders and Amherst Sharpshooters are looking increasingly vulnerable, as SoHo FC have vaulted past Raiders in the table and Clarence blanked Sharpshooters to eliminate them from Tehel Cup play.
Here's a look at the standings before we get to the individual match-ups:
*BN Soccer Match of the Week*
Celtic United (4-4) at Yemen Elite (3-2-3)
6 p.m. at Lackawanna High School
Preview: The opponents in our match of the week are tied for fifth place, with neither likely to jostle the top four but both favorites to seize the final two playoff spots.
It doesn't hurt that both squads are in fine form, too, as Celtic United demolished Queenston FC in Tehel Cup midweek, while Yemen Elite are still alive in cup play and haven't lost in all competitions since May 8.
[Read: Match report from Yemen Elite's Tehel Cup win over Panthers]
United's Chris Berardi is a constant menace in the midfield, supported by unheralded Sammy Wasson and Chris Barbolini, who keep the ball moving and cover plenty of ground as well. The beneficiary has been Patrick Schulz, who leads Brian Theuerkauf's side with five goals this summer.
Even though Elite have sorted themselves out defensively -- and were lucky enough to dodge Kendell McFayden and Chris Walter, the Raiders standouts who missed the 1-1 draw against Yemen -- Faress Saleh's team has a tough final three matches: United, Clarence and SoHo FC.
Brothers Mahmoud and Sami Kassem have been very good much of the season, and despite the departure of Ali Adil, there's some attacking firepower in Mateo Escobar, Max Chirwa, Chris Griffiths and Clint Holcomb.
Prediction: 2-2 draw. These teams are very even, and it should be an entertaining affair at Lackawanna.
BUSS (2-5-1) at Amherst Sharpshooters (6-1-1)
2 p.m. Sunday at Nichols School
Preview: Sharpshooters will lick their wounds after bowing out of Tehel Cup on Thursday; Sunday brings a chance for rapid redemption against a BUSS team that's far from an easy out. BUSS has proven it can compete with the power clubs -- they tied Raiders in Week 7 -- but playing Amherst so soon after a maddening loss is not a good omen for Bobby Calvaneso's side.
Sharpshooters are undefeated on turf this year, and that should continue against BUSS. Regan Steele carved out a bigger role as the FC Buffalo season progressed, and now free from those responsibilities, he should be a handful for a defense that concedes 3.5 goals per game.
With A.C. LaFlore transferring to Clarence, a bit more pressure is on Drew and Keith Braun, as well as Graham Harris and Pat McCann, to keep the back four strong. BUSS striker Kyle Clifford, who by many accounts as been the team's best player, should test the mettle of the favorite's defense.
Prediction: 4-1, Sharpshooters. It's a harsh result for BUSS, which can compete, but playing Sharpshooters on turf is no fun.
BSC International (0-6-2) at Roos FC (0-5-3)
4 p.m. Sunday at Nichols School (moved from Mulroy)
Preview: The sad reality of this match-up is that whoever loses this contest will likely be doomed to relegation. Both teams improved in the transfer window and reaped the rewards in their last tilts -- Roos knotted Sharpshooters at 2, while Inter drew Clarence by the same score.
Unfortunately for Ross Karpidis' side, this match has a Roos cruise written all over it. Sharpshooters realized how difficult it was to keep pace with Roos' Alex Reid and Sam Greco, and Inter won't put up as much of a fight.
[Read: Premier division primer for Week 8, including predictions for that week]
Deadline additions Richie Gordon, Zack Thomas and Alex Shafer brought desperately needed depth to Michael Schieber's team, and while the presence of Lorne Maxime and Devonte Black mean Inter's attack can't be ignored, we're not sure how much of the ball Inter will see.
Prediction: 3-1, Roos.
SoHo FC (6-1-1) at Rogue FC (3-4-1)
4 p.m. Sunday at Orchard Park Soccer Complex
Preview: Rogue gets the Murderer's Row for the rest of the season: second-place SoHo, first-place Sharpshooters and third-place Raiders. At least they're all at home for Taylor Baach's team, and perhaps a comfortable result in Tehel Cup play will boost the underdogs' confidence.
Questions will be asked of them, though, on Sunday: Are they tough enough to go toe-to-toe with an older, stronger side in SoHo? Can their undermanned defense handle the Pablo Ordonez-Andy Tiedt-Ryan Mangano trio? I shouldn't overlook Austin Tom or Steve Butcher, but including them in that last sentence sure felt like too many hyphens.
[Read: BDSL premier division Midseason Best XI | Second XI]
This could be a trap game for SoHo, though, who have won five straight since losing to Sharpshooters May 15. It could be a dogfight in Orchard Park (not literally. It will be a men's league soccer game).
Prediction: 2-2. C.J. Scirto scores both to even his cards-to-goals ratio.
FC Yemen (2-4-2) at Clarence Yotes (5-2-1)
6 p.m. Sunday at Clarence Town Hall
Preview: Prove me wrong, FC Yemen, but I don't think you have a chance against the flying Yotes at home. The Tehel Cup win over Amherst proved just how good Clarence can be, and that was without deadline addition A.C. LaFlore, a former Canisius College center back who will stiffen an already-good Yotes back line.
Nageeb Ali's return to the fold should be a boon for FC Yemen, which desperately needs another attacking option than do-everything center midfielder AQ Mohamed. How quickly Ali can start producing will determine whether FC Yemen stay free of relegation worry. They're pretty safe, for now.
Prediction: 3-1, Clarence. Get David Martinez another goal!
Queenston FC (3-4-1) at BSC Raiders (5-1-2)
8:30 p.m. Sunday at Niagara University
Preview: All is not well in Parliament, as Queenston was emphatically knocked out of Tehel Cup by Celtic United, and in league play, John Netter's team has dropped three straight. A full-strength Raiders team is a scary proposition for Queenston under the lights, and the visitors could hit rock bottom after this result.
Prediction: 5-1, Raiders. Kendell McFayden scored twice against an NPSL playoff team in 36 minutes. How many can he pot vs. Queenston?
Email Ben Tsujimoto, who's used to being wrong, at firstname.lastname@example.org