It could be a title match. Last season, that's exactly what it was when the Maryland Bays played the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks for the championship of the American Professional Soccer League.
But this season it is more, and it is less.
It is just the first of four meetings between the teams that strangely find themselves members of the same Western Division in the newly designed league structure.
Yet it is also the first meeting since that championship thriller that went to a shootout before the Bays finally prevailed, 1-0.
And it is the game that will begin to answer the question of which team is better in 1991. The Bays are 9-0; the Blackhawks are 9-1.
"I was very encouraged by what I saw," said San Francisco coach Laurie Calloway, who has scouted the Bays three times going into tomorrow's game in Newark Memorial Stadium. "If what I've seen is typical of the way Maryland plays, then we have a good chance to beat them."
Round 1, evidently, goes to Calloway, who says what he thinks.
Bays coach Gary Hindley, on the other hand, is a little more deceptive with his punches.
"Things have settled down for us," Hindley said. "I'm feeling a lot better about us. We only have patches where things go wrong. We struggled with our defense early, but that's normal."
When Hindley arrived with the Bays, critics feared he would make changes to stress defense over offense and smother the team that set an APSL record for goals last season.
But while the defense has improved, the Bays are actually ahead of last season's goal-scoring pace, having produced 22 goals compared to 21 at this point a year ago.
"I said from the beginning, the offense is good and that all I wanted to do was fine-tune the defense," Hindley said. "Now we're No. 1 in offense and No. 2 in the league in defense. All those concerns are past."
Now there is the concern of the Colorado Foxes tonight, 7:05 p.m., and San Francisco tomorrow, 5:05 p.m. EST.
"You never want to be looking over your shoulder," said Hindley. "I know San Francisco has the ability to beat us. But I don't want my team looking at this game as any more important than the game with Colorado or any other game."
Calloway, like Hindley, is in his first season with the Blackhawks.
"I think the Bays are lucky to be undefeated," he said, with unexpected brashness. "When they played Salt Lake, they didn't look like they wanted to play. And Salt Lake's [Steve] Sengelmann had closed down [Brian] Murray in the first half. Salt Lake was in control until Sengelmann broke his ankle. Once that happened, the midfield broke down and that led to a number of free kicks for Maryland."
The Bays wound up winning, 4-1.
Calloway said he has two "very good defenders" -- U.S. National team defender Troy Dayak and Derek Van Rheenan -- whom he believes can handle the APSL's leading scorer, Jean Harbor, and Phillip Gyau, the Bays' leading scorer a year ago.
The Blackhawks also have Mark Dougherty, the APSL's top goalkeeper with an 0.36 goals-against average.
"Whatever happens, it is just the first of four meetings," said Calloway. "Some people don't like the idea that we're in the same division, but at least we get a look at the best team first-hand. If, because of the league setup, we don't play Maryland in the championship, it means we'll have beaten them somewhere else on the way. If we're good enough to eliminate them, then we've done our job, one way or the other."