Norrköping and Malmö FC look set to grab titles in the Superettan and Damallsvensan while the Allsvenskan title is still up for grabs.
by Chipp Reid
The Swedish soccer season entered the home stretch in September, with champions in two of the three top leagues apparently already set.
Malmö FC holds an almost insurmountable lead in the Damallsvenskan and is in line to claim its first Swedish title since the mid-90s. Malmö holds a 10-point lead over second-place Kopparbergs/Göteborg and remains the only team in the league without a loss.
The league leader's latest victory came Sept. 1 as Malmö overcame a three-goal lead to beat Kristianstad 5-3. The key to Malmö’s season so far has been its ability to keep its team together. Swedish teams have hemorrhaged players to leagues in the U.S., Germany and France, but Malmö somehow limited the damage and kept intact the core of a side that finished third in 2009.
Defending champion, Linköping, is currently in third place, benefitting from the return of several players from Women’s Professional Soccer in the U.S. Umeå, long the dominant women’s soccer power in Scandinavia, however, continues to struggle. UIK nearly folded a year ago when it came up about 1 million kronor short in its budget. The team stopped paying players and teetered on the edge until several sponsors and a fund-raising drive saved the club.
The aftermath of the financial woes was dire for the two-time European and eight-time Swedish champions. Umeå lost the bulk of its team as it could no longer afford the salaries of international stars Mami Yamaguch of Japan, Ramona Bachmann of Switzerland, Brazilian star Elaine or Swedish internationals Madeleine Edlund, Emma Berglund, Johanna Rasmussen and Carola Sjöberg.
Still, Umeå, currently seventh in the league, is likely to stay up. Stockholm sides Hammarby and AIK appear destined for relegation.
In the Superettan, IFK Norrköping continues to run toward promotion. The 'Peking' team has 49 points with its most recent victory on Aug. 27 against Ljungskile in a match that featured a pair of Americans. Former West Virginia University goalkeeper allowed both goals as Norrköping beat Ljungskile 2-1. Michael Thomas, a Notre Dame product, scored the lone goal for Ljungskile.
Norrköping holds a six-point lead over Sundsvall, has won 15 of its 24 matches with just four losses and leads the league in scoring with 47 goals. Syrianska holds the Allsvenskan playoff with points but the hold is tenuous at best. Landskrona, Assyriska, Ängelholms, Hammarby and Örgryte are all within points of third place and potential promotion.
At the bottom of the table, Väsby United and Trollhättan look destined to return to regional leagues.
It’s the Allsvenskan where nothing other than relegation is set. Helsingborg tumbled out of first place Aug. 28 with Malmö moving into the top spot. HIF held first since May while Malmö, a 1-0 winner over Elfsborg Aug. 29, has won six straight matches. Örebro continues to hold an outside shot at the title. Malmö tops the league with 48 points while Helsingborg has 46 and Örebro 38.
Åtvidaberg and Gefle are at the bottom of table, even on points with 20. Åtvidaberg is in dead last due to a poorer goal difference than Gefle. Still-struggling AIK, after showing some signs of life, is once more in the relegation playoff spot with 22 points.
The Allsvenskan and Damallsvenskan are on break until mid-month for national team play. The Superettan played its Round 25 from Sept. 5-8.
Ljungskile goalkeeper Nick Noble eyes a hot from Norrköping captain Daniel Bamberg during Peking 2-1 win Sept. 1 at Nya Parken. Bildbyran photo