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Race to the Championship Playoffs – Week 28

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 09/10/19, 12:00PM EDT

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Busy week culminates with crucial Eastern clash between Birmingham, Saint Louis


Friday night's clash between Birmingham Legion FC and Saint Louis FC is going to be critical to the playoff hopes of both clubs. | Photo courtesy Mark Guthrel / Saint Louis FC

While Phoenix Rising FC was confirmed this past weekend as the host of one of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in October, there is a lot on the docket this week with both the New York Red Bulls II and Tampa Bay Rowdies having an outside chance to book their places in the postseason. Let’s look at what’s ahead in Week 28.

WESTERN

1. Phoenix Rising FC
1. Phoenix Rising FC
Record: 20-2-5, 65pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (>99%)
Max Points Available: 86pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @LV (9/11), vs. LA (9/14)
Phoenix has locked up at least one home playoff game ahead of a double-game week, but with one more point it would be guaranteed a top-two finish, moving out of reach of current third-place side Reno 1868 FC.
2. Fresno FC
2. Fresno FC
Record: 14-4-8, 50pts
Playoff Odds >99%
Projected Final Position: 2nd (84%)
Max Points Available: 74pts
Magic Number:7pts
Upcoming: @LV (9/14)
The Foxes’ dramatic victory against Reno gave them a massive leg up in the race for second place, as seen in their new odds to take the No. 2 seed. It’s now a question of when Fresno will clinch a playoff place rather than if, but should Head Coach Adam Smith’s side earn victory on Saturday it could move within a point of its first postseason berth.
3. Reno 1868 FC
3. Reno 1868 FC
Record: 13-9-5, 44pts
Playoff Odds >99%
Projected Final Position: 3rd (56%)
Max Points Available: 65pts
Magic Number:13pts
Upcoming: vs. TAC (9/10), @AUS (9/15)
Reno still looks like a lock for the playoffs, but the gap between itself and fourth-place Austin Bold FC and hard-charging Orange County SC in fifth is narrowing. Victory against Tacoma on Tuesday night before heading to Austin on Sunday is going to be important for 1868 FC’s psyche after Saturday’s home defeat to Fresno.
4. Austin Bold FC
4. Austin Bold FC
Record: 11-9-7, 40pts
Playoff Odds 90%
Projected Final Position: 5th (16%)
Max Points Available: 61pts
Magic Number:17pts
Upcoming: vs. SAC (9/11), vs. RNO (9/15)
Another road game, more points dropped means that Austin’s projected finish would now take it on the road to start the playoffs. That can be helped during back-to-back home games this week, with Wednesday’s contest against Sacramento – which sits three points back with a game in hand – one of the most consequential of the week’s action.
5. Orange County SC
5. Orange County SC
Record: 10-8-9, 39pts
Playoff Odds 89%
Projected Final Position: 4th (15%)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number:18pts
Upcoming: vs. ELP (9/14)
Orange County’s four-game winning streak has taken it from below the playoff line to in with a chance of a home playoff game in the space of less than a month. With Michael Seaton and Darwin Jones leading the way, OCSC will be hoping to carry its positive momentum into what should be an entertaining game against El Paso.
6. LA Galaxy II
6. LA Galaxy II
Record: 10-8-9, 39pts
Playoff Odds 68%
Projected Final Position: 10th (13%)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number:18pts
Upcoming: @PHX (9/14)
With 10 points from the last four games, Los Dos are putting themselves in line for a return to the postseason. The toughest challenge in the league is on the horizon this weekend, but with Phoenix playing on the road in midweek and hopefully none of Drogba’s Magic Water this time around, the positive momentum is at the Galaxy II’s backs.
7. Sacramento Republic FC
7. Sacramento Republic FC
Record: 11-11-4, 37pts
Playoff Odds 91%
Projected Final Position: 4th (22%)
Max Points Available: 61pts
Magic Number:20pts
Upcoming: @AUS (9/11), vs. RGV (9/14)
Sacramento has a big opportunity to make its case for a top-four position after Saturday’s victory against Tacoma. If Republic FC takes victory on the road against Austin it would overtake Bold FC on total wins and return home with a chance to bolster its position when it faces the Toros.
8. Real Monarchs SLC
8. Real Monarchs SLC
Record: 10-9-7, 37pts
Playoff Odds 78%
Projected Final Position: 5th (11%)
Max Points Available: 61pts
Magic Number:20pts
Upcoming: vs. POR (9/14)
One point from two games – including a loss on the road to the Galaxy II – was not what Real was looking for. Now the Monarchs’ chances of finishing anywhere from fifth to ninth sit equally at 11 percent according to fivethirtyeight.com ahead of a crucial home game on Saturday afternoon against the Portland Timbers 2.
9. New Mexico United
9. New Mexico United
Record: 9-8-10, 37pts
Playoff Odds 86%
Projected Final Position: 6th (14%)
Max Points Available: 58pts
Magic Number:20pts
Upcoming: vs. COS (9/14)
New Mexico put itself back above the playoff line with victory against OKC Energy FC. Now it’s got to build on that as it hosts lowly Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC to kick off four consecutive home games at The Lab, which offer a chance to make a run into the top half of the playoff positions.
10. OKC Energy FC
10. OKC Energy FC
Record: 9-9-10, 37pts
Playoff Odds 31%
Projected Final Position: 13th (23%)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number:20pts
Upcoming: @SA (9/14)
Sunday’s home loss to New Mexico was a tough one for Energy FC’s playoff hopes, with the three teams below it all sitting with at least a game in hand and, with that, the chance to overtake them. That means Saturday’s visit to San Antonio is close to a must-win. The good news for OKC? They’ve never lost at Toyota Field. The bad news? They’ve only one once in regulation in five games, and this time a draw may not cut it.

11. El Paso Locomotive FC
11. El Paso Locomotive FC
Record: 9-8-9, 36pts
Playoff Odds 60%
Projected Final Position: 11th (13%)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number:21pts
Upcoming: @OC (9/14)
If Locomotive FC makes the playoffs, we may look back at the blitz of two goals in 70 seconds that earned a 2-2 draw with Tulsa on September 4 as a key turning point. With an impressive road win against Las Vegas under its belt, El Paso heads to Orange County with positive momentum for what should be one of the better games of the weekend.
12. Portland Timbers 2
12. Portland Timbers 2
Record: 9-10-8, 35pts
Playoff Odds 43%
Projected Final Position: 12th (17%)
Max Points Available: 56pts
Magic Number:22pts
Upcoming: @SLC (9/14)
One step forward, one step back for T2 as its playoff chances dipped back below 50 percent after falling to Orange County on Sunday. That result adds pressure to Saturday’s visit to face the Monarchs, but T2 will go in knowing that a victory would push them ahead of Real and could quickly get things back on track.
13. San Antonio FC
13. San Antonio FC
Record: 9-11-7, 34pts
Playoff Odds 59%
Projected Final Position: 9th (12%)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number:23pts
Upcoming: vs. OKC (9/14)
San Antonio did everything but score against Phoenix on Saturday night and was left to pay when Solomon Asante’s brilliant free kick found the net. Now it plays host to OKC Energy FC on Saturday in a massive six-pointer, which is essentially the ideal time for Head Coach Darren Powell’s side to take its first home win ever against its regional rival.
14. Las Vegas Lights FC
14. Las Vegas Lights FC
Record: 8-11-8, 32pts
Playoff Odds 5%
Projected Final Position: 14th (46%)
Max Points Available: 53pts
Magic Number:25pts
Upcoming: vs. PHX (9/11), vs. FRS (9/14)
Las Vegas was so close to a big victory against Real Monarchs SLC, but one late equalizer and a disappointing home loss to El Paso Locomotive FC have put the club’s playoff chances on life support. With the top two teams in the conference visiting Cashman Field this week, it might be win or bust time for Lights FC.
15. Rio Grande Valley FC
15. Rio Grande Valley FC
Record: 7-13-7, 28pts
Playoff Odds <1%
Projected Final Position: 15th (43%)
Max Points Available: 49pts
Magic Number:29pts
Upcoming: @SAC (9/15)
Back-to-back defeats have tipped the Toros into a nine-point gap to the playoff places with seven games to go, an inversion that is usually difficult to overcome. Sacramento has been inconsistent this year, but it will still be a tough place for the Toros to snap their losing streak.
16. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
16. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Record: 6-13-9, 27pts
Playoff Odds <1%
Projected Final Position: 16th (44%)
Max Points Available: 45pts
Magic Number:30pts
Upcoming: vs. OC (9/21)
The Roughnecks go into a bye week with a four-game undefeated streak. Again, they’re not going to make the playoffs, but they could make life difficult for teams that have those aspirations.
17. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
17. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Record: 6-17-5, 23pts
Playoff Odds <1%
Projected Final Position: 17th (49%)
Max Points Available: 41pts
Magic Number:34pts
Upcoming: @NM (9/14)
The Switchbacks couldn’t take victory against Austin on Saturday, but the teams around the playoff line would greatly appreciate if it could take a draw or a win on the road against New Mexico United this weekend.
18. Tacoma Defiance
18. Tacoma Defiance
Record: 5-16-5, 20pts
Playoff Odds <1%
Projected Final Position: 18th (76%)
Max Points Available: 44pts
Magic Number:37pts
Upcoming: @RNO (9/10)
The good feeling from the result against San Antonio FC was short-lived, but Tacoma can still have a role to play in determining the final postseason seedings starting with its visit to Reno on Tuesday.

EASTERN

1. New York Red Bulls II
1. New York Red Bulls II
Record:16-6-5, 53pts
Playoff Odds >99%
Projected Final Position: 2nd (25%)
Max Points Available: 74pts
Magic Number:7pts
Upcoming: vs. CLT (9/13)
The Red Bulls II project to finish behind Indy Eleven after their narrow loss last week, but they could become the first team to clinch a playoff place by the end of this week. Should New York defeat the Charlotte Independence on Friday, a combination of a draw and a defeat for the Charleston Battery against the Swope Park Rangers and Pittsburgh Riverhounds, or a Birmingham Legion FC victory against Saint Louis FC on Saturday night would send the Red Bulls II to their fifth consecutive postseason.
2. Tampa Bay Rowdies
2. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Record:15-5-7, 52pts
Playoff Odds >99%
Projected Final Position: 1st (30%)
Max Points Available: 73pts
Magic Number:8pts
Upcoming: vs. ATL (9/14)
The Rowdies are back in strong shape to take a top-four finish thanks to Saint Louis’ victory against Nashville on Saturday night, and they can also claim a playoff place this week if the Battery lose both of their games against Swope Park and Pittsburgh in addition to Tampa Bay taking victory against ATL UTD 2.
3. Nashville SC
3. Nashville SC
Record:15-7-6, 51pts
Playoff Odds >99%
Projected Final Position: 4th (26%)
Max Points Available: 69pts
Magic Number:9pts
Upcoming: vs. BHM (9/17)
Nashville couldn’t take points from its trip to Saint Louis, which leaves its chances of hosting an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal vulnerable. After a week off, its clash with current fifth-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC looks to be one of the biggest games on the slate in Week 29.
4. Indy Eleven
4. Indy Eleven
Record:15-5-5, 50pts
Playoff Odds >99%
Projected Final Position: 1st (33%)
Max Points Available: 77pts
Magic Number:10pts
Upcoming: vs. OTT (9/11), vs. BST (9/14)
Indy is going to be disappointed it didn’t move even on points with New York after falling to a 10-man Charleston Battery on Sunday, but it gets two more home games this week which recently has meant three points for the still-presumptive favorite to finish first at the end of the season.
5. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
5. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Record:13-4-9, 48pts
Playoff Odds >99%
Projected Final Position: 5th (34%)
Max Points Available: 72pts
Magic Number:12pts
Upcoming: vs. CHS (9/14)
Pittsburgh was unable to take all three points against LouCity on Saturday night, but still has the potential for a top-four finish with two games in hand on Nashville SC. Before the Hounds head to the Music City, though, there’s the proposition of a Charleston Battery side that needs a victory coming to Highmark Stadium on Saturday.
6. North Carolina FC
6. North Carolina FC
Record:13-7-8, 47pts
Playoff Odds >99%
Projected Final Position: 6th (40%)
Max Points Available: 65pts
Magic Number:13pts
Upcoming: @SPR (9/14)
A road trip in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals – or even hosting a play-in game – is looking more and more likely for NCFC after it let a two-goal lead slide in Saturday’s 3-3 draw at home to Bethlehem Steel FC. Defeating Swope Park on the road on Saturday is going to be essential if something better than those two options is going to materialize.
7. Louisville City FC
7. Louisville City FC
Record:12-7-8, 44pts
Playoff Odds >99%
Projected Final Position: 7th (40%)
Max Points Available: 65pts
Magic Number:16pts
Upcoming: @HFD (9/14)
LouCity kept its undefeated streak going with a scoreless draw against Pittsburgh, and saw its chances of avoiding the play-in round helped by Bethlehem’s comeback against North Carolina, but a visit to Hartford on Saturday would seem to offer a different proposition than when Louisville defeated the expansion side back in March.
8. Ottawa Fury FC
8. Ottawa Fury FC
Record:10-7-9, 39pts
Playoff Odds 93%
Projected Final Position: 8th (33%)
Max Points Available: 63pts
Magic Number:21pts
Upcoming: @IND (9/11)
Don’t panic, Ottawa, but there’s a group of three teams behind you, and they’re gaining. Fury FC is going to need to stem the bleeding of its three-game losing streak, but that’s no easy task as it wraps up its road trip against Indy Eleven on Wednesday.
9. Birmingham Legion FC
9. Birmingham Legion FC
Record:10-10-6, 36pts
Playoff Odds 61%
Projected Final Position: 11th (33%)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number:24pts
Upcoming: vs. STL (9/14)
The small dip in Legion FC’s playoff odds was brought about by STLFC’s three-game winning streak, but if a winner emerges when the two teams meet on Friday night at BBVA Field that side will hold a clear edge in the postseason race for the time being.
10. Saint Louis FC
10. Saint Louis FC
Record:9-9-8, 35pts
Playoff Odds 65%
Projected Final Position: 11th (29%)
Max Points Available: 59pts
Magic Number:25pts
Upcoming: @BHM (9/14)
A sweep of the three games in seven days at West Community Stadium moved STLFC above the playoff line and gave it the perfect set-up for a visit to ninth-place Birmingham Legion FC. As previously mentioned, winner gets a big leg up in the postseason race.

11. Charleston Battery
11. Charleston Battery
Record:8-7-10, 34pts
Playoff Odds 77%
Projected Final Position: 10th (26%)
Max Points Available: 61pts
Magic Number:26pts
Upcoming: @SPR (9/11), @PIT (9/14)
The Battery set themselves up for a big week on the road with a valiant home victory against Indy Eleven. If it can accomplish the same in its visit to the Swope Park Rangers, it will add to the pressure on Birmingham and Saint Louis before they square off on Friday night.
12. Bethlehem Steel FC
12. Bethlehem Steel FC
Record:7-13-6, 27pts
Playoff Odds 2%
Projected Final Position: 12th (33%)
Max Points Available: 51pts
Magic Number:33pts
Upcoming: @IND (9/14)
Steel FC is going to need something remarkable to earn a third consecutive playoff berth, but its comeback against North Carolina FC illustrated how it could still have a say in the playoff race. With Indy playing midweek, a fresh Bethlehem lineup could make life interesting.
13. Charlotte Independence
13. Charlotte Independence
Record:5-12-11, 26pts
Playoff Odds <1%
Projected Final Position: 13th (26%)
Max Points Available: 44pts
Magic Number:34pts
Upcoming: @NY (9/13)
The eight-game undefeated streak that began Head Coach Mike Jeffries’ return to the sideline? That’s now been replaced by an eight-game winless streak that has made the Independence’s playoff chances a longshot.
14. Memphis 901 FC
14. Memphis 901 FC
Record:6-13-7, 25pts
Playoff Odds <1%
Projected Final Position: 15th (23%)
Max Points Available: 49pts
Magic Number:35pts
Upcoming: @LDN (9/13)
Memphis gave Head Coach Tim Mulqueen three points for his birthday against Swope Park this past Saturday, and 901 FC will try to keep the momentum going when it visits Loudoun United FC on Friday night.
15. Loudoun United FC
15. Loudoun United FC
Record:6-13-6, 24pts
Playoff Odds 1%
Projected Final Position: 13th (22%)
Max Points Available: 51pts
Magic Number:36pts
Upcoming: vs. MEM (9/13)
Loudoun gets to welcome Memphis 901 FC to Segra Field on Friday with a chance to move back ahead of its fellow expansion club, but any playoff hopes that remained were wiped out during that first half against Hartford on Saturday.
16. Atlanta United 2
16. Atlanta United 2
Record:6-16-5, 23pts
Playoff Odds <1%
Projected Final Position: 17th (55%)
Max Points Available: 44pts
Magic Number:37pts
Upcoming: @TBR (9/14)
Atlanta took victory against Ottawa Fury FC on Saturday night, and will have other Eastern Conference contenders hoping it can pull off something similar against the Tampa Bay Rowdies when it visits Al Lang Stadium on Saturday.
17. Hartford Athletic
17. Hartford Athletic
Record:6-18-4, 22pts
Playoff Odds <1%
Projected Final Position: 16th (36%)
Max Points Available: 40pts
Magic Number:38pts
Upcoming: vs. LOU (9/14)
Hartford landed its largest victory of its inaugural season against Loudoun United. Now it will try to add to two wins in its last three games and bring the undefeated streak of Louisville City FC to an end.
18. Swope Park Rangers
18. Swope Park Rangers
Record:3-16-6, 15pts
Playoff Odds <1%
Projected Final Position: 18th (76%)
Max Points Available: 42pts
Magic Number:45pts
Upcoming: vs. CHS (9/11), vs. NC (9/14)
SPR hasn’t taken victory since July 17, meaning elimination isn’t far off. The teams around the playoff line are hoping the Rangers can make a push and take points off Charleston and North Carolina as they visit this week, though.

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