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Race to the Championship Playoffs – Sept. 24-25

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 09/23/19, 1:21PM EDT

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Fresno and Reno join Rising FC in postseason, which clubs are up to clinch the next playoff berth?


Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC's visit to Memphis 901 FC should have plenty of interested spectators from the rest of the Eastern Conference on Tuesday night. | Photo courtesy Chris Cowger / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Fresno FC and Reno 1868 FC officially joined Phoenix Rising FC in the field for the Western Conference Playoffs this weekend, while continuing their battle for second place at the end of the regular season. Up next, midweek action that could see Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC take advantage of a very good weekend of results and a crucial road contest for San Antonio FC.

Western Conference

1.Phoenix Rising FC
1. Phoenix Rising FC
Record: 22-3-5, 71pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (Clinched)
Max Points Available: 83pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @NM (9/28)
Phoenix’s winning streak came to an end on Saturday night in Fresno, but thanks to Indy Eleven’s defeat on the road to Birmingham on Friday the number to clinch the regular season title is down to four. That will mean Rising FC’s fans should be keeping an eye on the Eleven’s visit to ATL UTD 2 on Wednesday. If Indy drops points, this weekend’s trip to New Mexico United will offer the chance to seal the deal.
2. Fresno FC
2. Fresno FC
Record: 16-5-8, 56pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 2nd (78 percent)
Max Points Available: 71pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @SA (9/28)
Fresno booked its first trip to the postseason in its second campaign and did so in remarkable fashion by knocking off Phoenix Rising FC to end the Western leader’s winning streak. The win was also an important one to keep Reno at arm’s length in the race for second place, maintaining a three-point lead and a game in hand going into the final five games of the regular season.
3. Reno 1868 FC
3. Reno 1868 FC
Record: 16-9-5, 53pts
Playoff Odds >Clinched
Projected Final Position: 3rd (73 percent)
Max Points Available: 65pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. SLC (9/28)
Reno booked its place in the playoffs with its win against New Mexico United and San Antonio’s draw against the LA Galaxy II, with 1868 FC’s 16 wins giving it a total that can’t be surpassed by either SAFC or the Portland Timbers 2, who both have 10 wins and five games remaining. A home date with a Real Monarchs SLC side that has struggled on the road this Saturday offers the chance at a fourth consecutive victory, which would keep the pressure on Fresno in second place.
4. Orange County SC
4. Orange County SC
Record: 12-8-9, 42pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 4th (32 percent)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number: 9pts
Upcoming: @RGV (9/28)
Orange County might have caught the biggest break of the weekend in its 2-on-0 breakaway in stoppage time against Tulsa Roughnecks FC that resulted in the goal that earned a sixth consecutive victory, but it was further boosted by both Sacramento and Real Monarchs dropping points. However, OCSC should look at the Monarchs’ defeat to the Toros as a caution ahead of its trip to H-E-B Park this weekend.
5. Sacramento Republic FC
5. Sacramento Republic FC
Record: 13-11-5, 44pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 4th (43 percent)
Max Points Available: 59pts
Magic Number: 10pts
Upcoming: vs. ELP (9/28)
Sacramento is still the favorite overall to finish fourth by the numbers, but after a stale scoreless draw against OKC Energy FC on Sunday evening it’s going to need to make the most of its two upcoming home games. That could be a challenge thanks to El Paso Locomotive FC and the LA Galaxy II both coming in fighting for their playoff lives, but if Republic FC can navigate those contests it should set up a major showdown at home to Orange County on October 12.
6. Real Monarchs SLC
6. Real Monarchs SLC
Record: 12-10-7, 43pts
Playoff Odds 92 percent
Projected Final Position: 6th (16 percent)
Max Points Available: 58pts
Magic Number: 11pts
Upcoming: @RNO (9/28)
After the high of its midweek win, the Monarchs’ road woes returned on Saturday night in a defeat to Rio Grande Valley FC that left the side as third-favorite to claim fourth place and a home playoff game. A trip to Reno this weekend could also be a serious test ahead of Austin Bold FC’s visit to Zions Bank Stadium in two weeks.
7. Austin Bold FC
7. Austin Bold FC
Record: 12-11-7, 40pts
Playoff Odds 87 percent
Projected Final Position: 7th (16 percent)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number: 11pts
Upcoming: @POR (9/29)
Austin got the victory it needed to close out its home schedule against Las Vegas. Now it needs to summon improved road form to see out its place in the postseason. Getting a positive result against 12th-place Portland would be a good first step to that end, and a win in the six-pointer could move the side to the verge of clinching a playoff place.
8. New Mexico United
8. New Mexico United
Record: 10-9-10, 40pts
Playoff Odds 86 percent
Projected Final Position: 7th (17 percent)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number: 14pts
Upcoming: vs. PHX (9/28)
The defeat to Reno wasn’t a good result for New Mexico’s chances of moving out of the play-in round, but the silver lining to the weekend was of the teams in contention below it only El Paso – which currently projects to be in alongside NMU – and the Portland Timbers 2 took victory. The margin for error could get slimmer this weekend, though, if United is unable to take anything from its home contest against Western leader Phoenix Rising FC.
9. LA Galaxy II
9. LA Galaxy II
Record: 10-9-10, 39pts
Playoff Odds 60 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (17 percent)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number: 14pts
Upcoming: vs. OKC (9/28)
The Galaxy II are still above water thanks to their draw against San Antonio FC – although they will likely be disappointed not to have taken all three points after being up a player for more than half-an-hour. The margin for error is still narrow, meaning victory at home against an Energy FC side that sits below it in the standings is going to be important for LA on Saturday.
10. El Paso Locomotive FC
10. El Paso Locomotive FC
Record: 10-9-9, 39pts
Playoff Odds 58 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (17 percent)
Max Points Available: 57pts
Magic Number: 15pts
Upcoming: @SAC (9/28)
Locomotive FC got the job done at home against Colorado Springs, and with San Antonio and OKC both failing to take victory it allowed El Paso to jump above the playoff line. If El Paso is going to stay there, it’s going to have to run a gauntlet of six games against clubs that all currently sit above it in the standings. If it comes through and earns a place in the postseason after that, though, Head Coach Mark Lowry’s side will certainly be battle-tested when the playoffs arrive.

11. San Antonio FC
11. San Antonio FC
Record: 10-11-8, 38pts
Playoff Odds 75 percent
Projected Final Position: 9th (15 percent)
Max Points Available: 53pts
Magic Number: 16pts
Upcoming: @TUL (9/25) vs. FRS (9/28)
San Antonio didn’t seem overly challenged by playing down a man as it earned a draw against the LA Galaxy II on Friday night, but it still left SAFC needing help to reach the playoffs. The projections like the remaining slate that San Antonio faces, though, which accounts for the club’s current playoff odds, with four of the five games against sides below it in the standings, starting with Wednesday’s clash against Tulsa Roughnecks FC.
12. Portland Timbers 2
12. Portland Timbers 2
Record: 10-11-8, 38pts
Playoff Odds 33 percent
Projected Final Position: 12th (24 percent)
Max Points Available: 53pts
Magic Number: 16pts
Upcoming: vs. AUS (9/29)
T2 romped past Tacoma on Friday night in a game they had to have and moved within a point of the playoff positions as a result. Keeping that momentum going against seventh-place Austin Bold FC this Sunday is going to be essential.
13. OKC Energy FC
13. OKC Energy FC
Record: 9-10-11, 38pts
Playoff Odds 10 percent
Projected Final Position: 13th (36 percent)
Max Points Available: 50pts
Magic Number: 16pts
Upcoming: @LA (9/28)
The number-crunch is coming on strongly for OKC after Sunday’s scoreless draw against Sacramento Republic FC, with the teams projecting to sit above the playoff line right now having a five-point edge in their maximum available points on Energy FC. That makes Saturday’s game against the LA Galaxy II a must-win with only four games to go.
14. Las Vegas Lights FC
14. Las Vegas Lights FC
Record: 9-13-8, 35pts
Playoff Odds 2 percent
Projected Final Position: 14th (53 percent)
Max Points Available: 47pts
Magic Number: 18pts
Upcoming: @COS (9/28)
Sunday’s 4-1 defeat to Austin Bold FC wasn’t mathematically the end for Lights FC, but it certainly felt like there isn’t going to be a way back here for a side that can now top out at 47 points and only reach that mark if it sweeps all four of its remaining games starting in Colorado Springs this Saturday.
15. Rio Grande Valley FC
15. Rio Grande Valley FC
Record:8-15-7, 31pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 15th (65 percent)
Max Points Available: 43pts
Magic Number: 23pts
Upcoming: vs. OC (9/28)
The Toros are almost mathematically eliminated after this weekend’s games, but they made their own impact with an impressive victory against Real Monarchs SLC that threw another twist into the race for fourth place. Real – and Sacramento Republic FC – will be hoping there’s more of the same awaiting Orange County this Saturday night.
16. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
16. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Record:6-14-9, 27pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 16th (67 percent)
Max Points Available: 42pts
Magic Number: 27pts
Upcoming: vs. SA (9/25), @TAC (9/28)
Of all the ways to suffer defeat in stoppage time, the Roughnecks’ was pretty disappointing. You’ve got to admire their willingness to go for it, though, a factor that could make San Antonio’s visit on Wednesday night an interesting one.

Eliminated: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Tacoma Defiance

Eastern Conference

1. New York Red Bulls II
1. New York Red Bulls II
Record:17-8-5, 56pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 3rd (22 percent)
Max Points Available: 68pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. CHS (9/21)
The Red Bulls II couldn’t pick up any points from their two-game road trip after defeat to Louisville on Saturday and while the side still projects to be a host for the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the first order of business is getting back on track when the Charleston Battery come to visit on Friday night at MSU Soccer Park for the club’s regular-season home finale.
2. Indy Eleven
2. Indy Eleven
Record:17-6-5, 56pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (51 percent)
Max Points Available: 74pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @ATL (9/25), @PIT (9/28)
Indy looked very unlike itself in defeat to Birmingham Legion FC on Friday night, but can take control of the race for first place with a win on Wednesday night against ATL UTD 2. It could need to, as well, otherwise its trip to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Saturday night would have plenty of intrigue.
3. Tampa Bay Rowdies
3. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Record:16-6-8, 56pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 4th (23 percent)
Max Points Available: 68pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @LOU (9/28)
The Rowdies produced a big response to their midweek loss as Malik Johnson tore through Bethlehem Steel FC’s defense to put the side back into the top three. Before Tampa Bay gets to be part of one of this weekend’s biggest games in a trip to Louisville City FC, it will be rooting for Memphis 901 FC and ATL UTD 2 to earn results that could keep it in contention for a first-place finish.
4. Nashville SC
4. Nashville SC
Record:16-7-7, 55pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 3rd (24 percent)
Max Points Available: 67pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @LDN (9/28)
Nashville was unable to break down Riverhounds SC’s defense throughout the second half, with a good amount of credit going to Pittsburgh goalkeeper Kyle Morton. That result, plus Tampa Bay’s victory, means Nashville is going to be under pressure to finish strong to earn a home playoff game in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
5. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
5. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Record:14-4-10, 52pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 5th (26 percent)
Max Points Available: 70pts
Magic Number: 2pts
Upcoming: @MEM (9/25), vs. INDY (9/28)
While its Magic Number is officially two, Pittsburgh is going to be part of the playoffs again due to the matchup between the Charleston Battery and Birmingham Legion FC on October 5 that guarantees one – or both – will drop points. What’s bigger after a valiant draw against Nashville on Saturday, though, is there’s a path for the Hounds to finish first in the standings. To get there, it will need victory against Memphis on Tuesday night and then for Indy Eleven to drop points against Atlanta on Wednesday, but if those things happen then the door swings open for the Hounds with Indy set to visit Highmark Stadium on Saturday.
6. Louisville City FC
6. Louisville City FC
Record:14-7-8, 50pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 6th (54 percent)
Max Points Available: 65pts
Magic Number: 4pts
Upcoming: vs. TBR (9/28)
At this point it’s only a matter of when Louisville clinches a playoff berth, but the fact the side is now over 50 percent odds to finish in the top six should be a big plus. LouCity has the potential for more, too, but that would likely require a victory at home to the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday and others in the top five faltering.
7. North Carolina FC
7. North Carolina FC
Record:13-9-8, 47pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 7th (44 percent)
Max Points Available: 59pts
Magic Number: 7pts
Upcoming: vs. OTT (9/28)
A fourth defeat in the last five outings saw NCFC officially sink into play-in game territory, and there’s an outside chance if the side doesn’t snap out of it quickly it might have to hit the road for that contest. Eighth-place Ottawa Fury FC is the visitor this weekend to Cary coming off back-to-back wins and sitting just two points back with a game in hand.
8. Ottawa Fury FC
8. Ottawa Fury FC
Record:12-8-9, 45pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 8th (39 percent)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number: 9pts
Upcoming: @NC (9/28)
Fury FC’s emphatic victory on Sunday night moved it back into “lock” status for the postseason and now the question is what seed it could earn for what’s likely to be a play-in round contest. This Saturday’s visit to North Carolina FC will likely play a major role in whether Ottawa will be at home, and which opponent it could end up facing.
9. Saint Louis FC
9. Saint Louis FC
Record:11-10-8, 41pts
Playoff Odds 91 percent
Projected Final Position: 9th (39 percent)
Max Points Available: 56pts
Magic Number: 13pts
Upcoming: vs. ATL (9/28)
The end of Saint Louis’ winning streak will have been disappointing to the side – especially given Birmingham and Charleston’s wins narrowing the gap to ninth place – but the side should still be confident the playoffs are going to be waiting at the end of the season. A home win against an Atlanta side that has to play in midweek gives a good chance at a rebound performance.
10. Birmingham Legion FC
10. Birmingham Legion FC
Record:11-11-6, 39pts
Playoff Odds 56 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (40 percent)
Max Points Available: 54pts
Magic Number: 15pts
Upcoming: @SPR (9/30)
Legion FC will have been overjoyed by its home win against Indy on Friday night, and then less so by Charleston’s last-gasp victory against North Carolina on Sunday. That leaves things still in the balance between the two sides ahead of their showdown on October 5, which will be the biggest remaining game on the schedule for both clubs.

11. Charleston Battery
11. Charleston Battery
Record:9-9-11, 38pts
Playoff Odds 52 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (41 percent)
Max Points Available: 53pts
Magic Number: 16pts
Upcoming: @NY (9/27)
It remains to be seen what big-picture impact Nico Rittmeyer’s stoppage-time winner will have on the Battery’s playoff bid, but in terms of the boost of confidence this side needed, it was immeasurable. The Battery have to go to New York on Friday night to try and get something from the Red Bulls II to make sure they’re within range of Birmingham for October 5’s showdown.
13. Memphis 901 FC
12. Memphis 901 FC
Record:8-13-7, 31pts
Playoff Odds 1 percent
Projected Final Position: 12th (48 percent)
Max Points Available: 49pts
Magic Number: 23pts
Upcoming: vs. PIT (9/24), vs. BST (9/28)
Memphis moved its winning streak to four consecutive games by defeating Saint Louis but saw its playoff odds drop as both Birmingham and Charleston also picked up three points. The foundation being put in place now should have people feeling good about what could be around the corner in 2020.
13. Bethlehem Steel FC
13. Bethlehem Steel FC
Record:8-15-6, 30pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 13th (40 percent)
Max Points Available: 45pts
Magic Number: 24pts
Upcoming: @MEM (9/28)
The curtain didn’t officially fall on Steel FC’s bid for a third consecutive playoff berth in downtown St. Petersburg, but it’s hard to see a route to the postseason from here.
14. Atlanta United 2
14. Atlanta United 2
Record:7-16-6, 27pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 16th (31 percent)
Max Points Available: 42pts
Magic Number: 27pts
Upcoming: vs. IND (9/25), @STL (9/28)
Atlanta is only mathematically alive after this weekend’s action and would be officially eliminated from playoff contention if it fails to take victory in both of this week’s outings.
16. Loudoun United FC
16. Loudoun United FC
Record:6-15-6, 24pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 14th (23 percent)
Max Points Available: 45pts
Magic Number: 30pts
Upcoming: vs. SPR (9/25), vs. NSH (9/28)
Loudoun gets back to action this week and could have plenty of eyes on its clash with Nashville SC on Saturday night as it tries to play spoiler.
18. Swope Park Rangers
18. Swope Park Rangers
Record:5-16-7, 22pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 18th (39 percent)
Max Points Available: 40pts
Magic Number: 32pts
Upcoming: @LDN (9/25)
The Rangers have to be wondering where this form has been all season after taking a second consecutive victory to remain alive while eliminating the Charlotte Independence on Saturday night.

Eliminated: Charlotte Independence, Hartford Athletic

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