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Race to the Championship Playoffs – Sept. 20-22

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 09/20/19, 8:30AM EDT

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Nashville and Tampa Bay are in, who else is going to join them this weekend?


Nashville SC has clinched a playoff place, and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC can join them with a win at First Tennessee Park on Saturday night | Photo courtesy Chris Cowger / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

While their midweek results might have been at opposite ends of the spectrum, both Nashville SC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies are into the USL Championship Playoffs. With a 17-game slate of action ahead this weekend, here’s a look at who else has a chance to wrap up their postseason place by the end of Sunday night.

Western Conference

1.Phoenix Rising FC
1. Phoenix Rising FC
Record: 22-2-5, 71pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (Clinched)
Max Points Available: 86pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @FRS (9/21)
Phoenix is seven points away from claiming the Championship’s regular-season title, so it could be an interested party in Indy Eleven’s game on Friday night against Birmingham Legion FC before it looks to take its first victory in league play against Fresno on Saturday night in what’s shaping up to be a Western Conference Final preview.
2. Fresno FC
2. Fresno FC
Record: 15-5-8, 53pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 2nd (71 percent)
Max Points Available: 71pts
Magic Number: 3pts
Upcoming: vs. PHX (9/21)
An emphatic victory against Rio Grande Valley FC moved the Foxes within one win of a first trip to the postseason, and while the first chance to seal that comes on Saturday against first-place Phoenix, Fresno could take inspiration from the 4-0 win they took against Rising FC on home turf last season. If the Foxes take a point from the contest, they can still get into the playoffs if either San Antonio or Austin fail to take victory, and even if they lose there’s still a chance should one or both of SAFC or Bold FC lose and the Portland Timbers 2 fail to take victory against Tacoma Defiance.
3. Reno 1868 FC
3. Reno 1868 FC
Record: 15-9-5, 50pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 3rd (47 percent)
Max Points Available: 65pts
Magic Number: 6pts
Upcoming: @NM (9/20)
Reno will need help to clinch a playoff place this weekend, but it will be focused first on trying to pick up victory on the road against New Mexico United in what should be a high-action contest at Isotopes Park. If Reno finds a way to win its 16th game of the season, should San Antonio FC fail to take victory on Friday night against the LA Galaxy II, or Austin Bold FC lose to Las Vegas Lights FC on Sunday, it would be enough to carry 1868 FC into a third consecutive playoff appearance.
4. Sacramento Republic FC
4. Sacramento Republic FC
Record: 13-11-4, 43pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 4th (35 percent)
Max Points Available: 61pts
Magic Number: 13pts
Upcoming: @OKC (9/22)
Real Monarchs SLC’s victory on Tuesday night didn’t really affect Republic FC’s chances of finishing fourth, with the club holding a potential edge against fifth-place Real and sixth-place Orange County SC in the win column should a tiebreaker be needed. Sacramento will know what its two rivals have done on the road on Saturday night before it kicks off against OKC on Sunday, but with Energy FC’s backs against the wall it could be a tough three points to earn.
5. Real Monarchs SLC
5. Real Monarchs SLC
Record: 12-9-7, 43pts
Playoff Odds 97 percent
Projected Final Position: 5th (21 percent)
Max Points Available: 61pts
Magic Number: 13pts
Upcoming: @RGV (9/21)
The conditions weren’t great, but Real got the job done in handy fashion against Tacoma on Tuesday night to put itself in the middle of the battle for fourth place. A repeat performance against a Rio Grande Valley FC side that is coming off a 5-0 defeat in Fresno on Wednesday would be very good for the Monarchs’ chances of a home playoff game.
6. Orange County SC
6. Orange County SC
Record: 11-8-9, 42pts
Playoff Odds 96 percent
Projected Final Position: 5th (20 percent)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number: 14pts
Upcoming: @TUL (9/21)
Orange County slipped a place thanks to the Monarchs’ victory on Tuesday night, but if it can add to a club-record five-game winning streak on Saturday night as it visits Tulsa Roughnecks FC, OCSC will take another positive step toward a playoff place and keep some pressure on Sacramento Republic FC to match it on Sunday night.
7. Austin Bold FC
7. Austin Bold FC
Record: 11-11-7, 40pts
Playoff Odds 74 percent
Projected Final Position: 9th (16 percent)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number: 16pts
Upcoming: vs. LV (9/22)
It’s make-or-break time for Bold FC as it hosts Las Vegas Lights FC for its home finale on Sunday, with a win a necessity to get things moving in the right direction ahead of a four-game road stint to end the regular season.
8. New Mexico United
8. New Mexico United
Record: 10-8-10, 40pts
Playoff Odds 92 percent
Projected Final Position: 6th (18 percent)
Max Points Available: 58pts
Magic Number: 16pts
Upcoming: vs. RNO (9/20)
The highest New Mexico can end the weekend is in sixth place should it take victory at home on Friday night against Reno 1868 FC, but getting positioned outside the play-in round positions would be a nice plus for the hosts as it tries to make inroads on the sides battling for fourth place.
9. LA Galaxy II
9. LA Galaxy II
Record: 10-9-9, 39pts
Playoff Odds 64 percent
Projected Final Position: 10th (16 percent)
Max Points Available: 57pts
Magic Number: 17pts
Upcoming: vs. SA (9/20)
The Galaxy II’s clash with San Antonio on Friday night is one everyone else around the playoff line in the Western Conference should be paying attention to. If Los Dos can continue SAFC’s poor road form that has seen it suffer nine defeats in 13 away games this season, it will put the side into a strong position for a return to the playoffs.
10. San Antonio FC
10. San Antonio FC
Record: 10-11-7, 37pts
Playoff Odds 75 percent
Projected Final Position: 8th (14 percent)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number: 19pts
Upcoming: @LA (9/20)
With six games to go, San Antonio doesn’t numerically have its playoff destiny in its own hands despite being above the playoff line right now. That will change if SAFC defeats the LA Galaxy II on Friday night for its third road win of the season and get the club’s run of four road games in its final six contest of the regular season off to an ideal start.

11. OKC Energy FC
11. OKC Energy FC
Record: 9-10-10, 37pts
Playoff Odds 17 percent
Projected Final Position: 13th (26 percent)
Max Points Available: 52pts
Magic Number: 19pts
Upcoming: vs. SAC (9/22)
With its contest against Sacramento Republic FC one of the last two to kick off this weekend, Energy FC is going to know the lay of the land. Whether that simply adds pressure onto a game that’s looking like a must-win or gives OKC some hope that a route to the playoffs is open to them, we’ll have to wait and see.
12. El Paso Locomotive FC
12. El Paso Locomotive FC
Record: 9-9-9, 36pts
Playoff Odds 49 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (17 percent)
Max Points Available: 57pts
Magic Number: 20pts
Upcoming: vs. COS (9/21)
With at least one game in hand on teams above it in the standings, El Paso is still in position to make a run to the postseason. That run is going to have to start this Saturday with a win against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, though, the first of four remaining home games in the club’s last seven overall.
13. Portland Timbers 2
13. Portland Timbers 2
Record: 9-11-8, 35pts
Playoff Odds 30 percent
Projected Final Position: 12th (20 percent)
Max Points Available: 53pts
Magic Number: 21pts
Upcoming: vs. TAC (9/20)
T2 will be looking forward to a big chance at three points against Cascadia rival Tacoma Defiance on Friday night to kick off a four-game homestand after Defiance’s midweek defeat to Real Monarchs SLC. Then it’s onto home six-pointers with Austin and San Antonio, neither of which has been good on the road this season, which offer hope of a late run above the playoff line.
14. Las Vegas Lights FC
14. Las Vegas Lights FC
Record: 9-12-8, 35pts
Playoff Odds 7 percent
Projected Final Position: 14th (47 percent)
Max Points Available: 50pts
Magic Number: 21pts
Upcoming: @AUS (9/22)
The motto for Head Coach Eric Wynalda and his team right now should be “where there is life, there is hope.” Lights FC can give itself a major boost if it finds a way to pile on more home misery for Austin Bold FC this Sunday.
15. Rio Grande Valley FC
15. Rio Grande Valley FC
Record:7-15-7, 28pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 15th (46 percent)
Max Points Available: 43pts
Magic Number: 28pts
Upcoming: vs. SLC (9/21)
The Toros probably weren’t going to the playoffs even before Wednesday’s game with Fresno, but they’re going to have some clubs hoping for a big rebound performance at home against Real Monarchs SLC on Saturday night.
16. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
16. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Record:6-13-9, 27pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 16th (42 percent)
Max Points Available: 45pts
Magic Number: 29pts
Upcoming: vs. OC (9/21)
The Roughnecks are undefeated in four games going into Saturday’s game, and while Orange County is on a five-game winning streak fans from Republic FC and Real Monarchs SLC are going to be hoping Tulsa can cause its visitors to drop points on Saturday.
17. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
17. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Record:6-18-5, 23pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 17th (58 percent)
Max Points Available: 38pts
Magic Number: 33pts
Upcoming: @ELP (9/21)
The Switchbacks’ defeat in New Mexico – punctuated by two shots off the woodwork – pushed it to the brink of mathematical elimination ahead of a trip to an El Paso side that desperately needs victory.
18. Tacoma Defiance
18. Tacoma Defiance
Record:5-18-5, 20pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 18th (72 percent)
Max Points Available: 38pts
Magic Number: 36pts
Upcoming: @POR (9/20)
Tacoma’s loss to the Monarchs means that another defeat to Portland on Friday night would bring mathematical elimination.

Eastern Conference

1. New York Red Bulls II
1. New York Red Bulls II
Record:17-7-5, 56pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 2nd (28 percent)
Max Points Available: 71pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @LOU (9/21)
The Red Bulls II’s loss to Saint Louis gave Indy the inside track to first place going into the weekend but didn’t affect New York’s chances of taking second too much. Having only suffered back-to-back defeats once so far this season, picking up something from its week on the road as it visits Louisville on Saturday certainly is within the club’s reach.
2. Indy Eleven
2. Indy Eleven
Record:17-5-5, 56pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (60 percent)
Max Points Available: 77pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @BHM (9/20)
With two games in hand on each of the other sides in the Eastern Conference’s top four, Indy is now locked in as favorite to be the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. It could get a serious test from Birmingham Legion FC on Friday night, though, with the hosts looking to boost its playoff chances on home turf.
3. Nashville SC
3. Nashville SC
Record:16-7-6, 54pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 2nd (26 percent)
Max Points Available: 69pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. PIT (9/21)
Everything fell into place for Nashville over the last couple of days, and with a playoff place in hand it now has a reasonable chance at a top-two finish. That could change quickly if the side doesn’t get a positive result against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Saturday, though, with the Hounds 8-1-1 over their last 10 outings overall.
4. Tampa Bay Rowdies
4. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Record:15-6-8, 53pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 4th (30 percent)
Max Points Available: 68pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. BST (9/21)
The Rowdies backed into the playoffs on Wednesday night thanks to ATL UTD 2, but now they may be under pressure to earn a home playoff game. Saturday’s return home might be trickier than first appeared, too, with Bethlehem Steel FC coming in off a five-goal performance in its Wednesday night outing.
5. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
5. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Record:14-4-9, 51pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 5th (29 percent)
Max Points Available: 72pts
Magic Number: 3pts
Upcoming: @NSH (9/21)
With Tampa Bay and New York losing on Wednesday night, the Hounds currently have the second-highest maximum points available in the East. If it can find a way to take victory in Nashville on Saturday night, a home playoff game is going to be on the cards, and maybe even a top-two finish.
6. North Carolina FC
6. North Carolina FC
Record:13-8-8, 47pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 7th (38 percent)
Max Points Available: 62pts
Magic Number: 7pts
Upcoming: @CHS (9/22)
Charleston’s loss on Wednesday night opened the door for North Carolina to clinch a playoff place on Sunday afternoon as it visits the Battery at MUSC Health Stadium. A win would give North Carolina its 14th victory of the season, which combined with the three points would move it out of the reach of Charleston and everyone else currently below the playoff line.
7. Louisville City FC
7. Louisville City FC
Record:13-7-8, 47pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 6th (42 percent)
Max Points Available: 65pts
Magic Number: 7pts
Upcoming: vs. NY (9/21)
While it’s currently battling North Carolina for sixth place in the standings, Louisville maybe wouldn’t mind its help in securing a fifth consecutive postseason berth this weekend. A LouCity victory against the Red Bulls II for their 14th of the season combined with an NCFC victory against the Charleston Battery on Sunday would clinch a place for the defending champions.
8. Ottawa Fury FC
8. Ottawa Fury FC
Record:11-8-9, 42pts
Playoff Odds 99 percent
Projected Final Position: 8th (35 percent)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number: 12pts
Upcoming: vs. HFD (9/22)
Ottawa’s dramatic late victory combined with Charleston’s loss on Wednesday night moved Fury FC back into lock territory for the playoffs overall, but the side is going to need to keep winning if it’s going to avoid slipping down a slot and have to head on the road to start the playoffs given how hot Saint Louis is looking right now.
9. Saint Louis FC
9. Saint Louis FC
Record:11-9-8, 41pts
Playoff Odds 98 percent
Projected Final Position: 9th (39 percent)
Max Points Available: 59pts
Magic Number: 13pts
Upcoming: @MEM (9/21)
A fifth consecutive victory only added to the belief that there’s a place in the playoffs waiting for Saint Louis, especially given Charleston’s loss, and it should carry plenty of confidence into Memphis with the goal of earning a home game in the play-in round the next step.
10. Birmingham Legion FC
10. Birmingham Legion FC
Record:10-11-6, 36pts
Playoff Odds 48 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (40 percent)
Max Points Available: 57pts
Magic Number: 21pts
Upcoming: vs. IND (9/20)
The loss in Nashville was cruel on Legion FC, which battled admirably only to concede in stoppage time. Birmingham wasn’t punished by Charleston for its defeat, meaning it still sits in 10th place going into Friday’s game against Indy. Finding a way to win against the presumptive No. 1 seed is going to be difficult, but Birmingham is going to need to figure out a way.

11. Charleston Battery
11. Charleston Battery
Record:8-9-11, 35pts
Playoff Odds 50 percent
Projected Final Position: 10th (39 percent)
Max Points Available: 53pts
Magic Number: 21pts
Upcoming: vs. NC (9/22)
The Battery just don’t seem to have their mojo right now, and that’s a threat to their run of reaching the postseason every season in the Championship’s history. If there’s a time to be taking on North Carolina on home turf, though, it’s when the visitors are on a four-game winless streak. The Battery have to take advantage.
12. Bethlehem Steel FC
12. Bethlehem Steel FC
Record:8-14-6, 27pts
Playoff Odds 4 percent
Projected Final Position: 12th (40 percent)
Max Points Available: 48pts
Magic Number: 27pts
Upcoming: @TBR (9/21)
Steel FC put up the win it needed against Loudoun, and now it gets to take on a Tampa Bay side that went without a shot on goal in losing to Ottawa Fury FC. It’s still a longshot, but Bethlehem isn’t quite dead yet.
13. Memphis 901 FC
13. Memphis 901 FC
Record:7-13-7, 28pts
Playoff Odds 2 percent
Projected Final Position: 13th (33 percent)
Max Points Available: 49pts
Magic Number: 26pts
Upcoming: vs. STL (9/21)
Losses for Birmingham and Charleston kept Memphis’ slim playoff hopes alive, but it’s going to have to find a way to not just slow down but beat Saint Louis FC on Saturday if its late-season revival is going to come to anything substantial.
14. Atlanta United 2
14. Atlanta United 2
Record:7-16-6, 27pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 16th (35 percent)
Max Points Available: 42pts
Magic Number: 27pts
Upcoming: vs. IND (9/25)
Two fanbases – especially Tampa Bay’s – were thanking Atlanta on Wednesday night, and now it gets a week to recover before hosting Indy Eleven and getting to play spoiler again.
15. Charlotte Independence
15. Charlotte Independence
Record:5-13-11, 26pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 14th (28 percent)
Max Points Available: 41pts
Magic Number: 28pts
Upcoming: vs. SPR (9/21)
The Independence will have enjoyed seeing both Legion FC and the Battery fall in midweek, but without a win against Swope Park on Saturday night the season could be on life support before the weekend is out.
16. Loudoun United FC
16. Loudoun United FC
Record:6-15-6, 24pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 15th (24 percent)
Max Points Available: 45pts
Magic Number: 30pts
Upcoming: vs. SPR (9/25)
Three consecutive defeats are the opposite of a playoff push, and mean Loudoun won’t be part of the postseason in its inaugural season.
17. Hartford Athletic
17. Hartford Athletic
Record:6-19-4, 22pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 17th (33 percent)
Max Points Available: 37pts
Magic Number: 32pts
Upcoming: @OTT (9/22)
Hartford could be mathematically eliminated by the end of this week, but it can still have a role to play in the playoff race as it visits Ottawa on Sunday.
18. Swope Park Rangers
18. Swope Park Rangers
Record:4-16-7, 19pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 18th (63 percent)
Max Points Available: 40pts
Magic Number: 35pts
Upcoming: @CLT (9/21)
The Rangers hit the road looking for another win, but a loss could see them mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.

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