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Race to the Championship Playoffs – Oct. 1-2

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 10/01/19, 5:35PM EDT

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Western Conference clubs come into view of postseason berths ahead of midweek action


El Paso Locomotive FC plays host to Fresno FC on Wednesday night looking to gain ground on a place in the playoffs. | Photo courtesy Kiel Maddox / Fresno FC

With six teams having clinched a playoff place in the Eastern Conference, and North Carolina FC set to join them this Saturday, the USL Championship’s midweek action sees the focus fall squarely on the Western Conference race as El Paso Locomotive FC hosts Fresno FC for Wednesday Night Soccer and Sacramento Republic FC hosts the LA Galaxy II with each club having the chance to close in on a playoff place.

Ahead of all this week’s action, here’s where everything stands.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1.Phoenix Rising FC
1. Phoenix Rising FC
Record: 22-3-6, 72pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (Clinched)
Max Points Available: 81pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @POR (10/5)
Phoenix rallied for a dramatic draw against New Mexico United on Saturday night to keep it in with a chance at setting league records for both total wins and total points. Two wins out of the last three games will get Rising FC both of them, but it could face a tough game on the road this weekend against a Portland Timbers 2 side that’s in must-win territory and that gave Phoenix a scare when they last met.
2. Fresno FC
2. Fresno FC
Record: 16-6-8, 56pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 2nd (87 percent)
Max Points Available: 68pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @ELP (10/2), vs. TAC (10/5)
Fresno suffered a letdown against a San Antonio side that had to take victory for its playoff chances on Saturday and it will get another test on the road against El Paso on Wednesday night. The good news for the Foxes, however, was that Reno let its lead on home turf slip against Real Monarchs SLC, which only raised their chances of taking the No. 2 seed when the regular season is over. And if it earns victory in either of its games this week, Fresno will be guaranteed at least one home game.
3. Reno 1868 FC
3. Reno 1868 FC
Record: 16-10-5, 53pts
Playoff Odds >Clinched
Projected Final Position: 3rd (82 percent)
Max Points Available: 62pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. ELP (10/5)
Reno missed out on a big opportunity to pull back level with Fresno FC when it let its lead slip against the Monarchs on Saturday night, leaving it now looking likely to slot in as the No. 3 seed. But with a win against El Paso on Saturday night and dropped points elsewhere for Real, Orange County and Sacramento, 1868 FC could lock in a home game in the Western Conference Quarterfinals by the end of Saturday night.
4. Real Monarchs SLC
4. Real Monarchs SLC
Record: 13-10-7, 46pts
Playoff Odds 98 percent
Projected Final Position: 4th (30 percent)
Max Points Available: 58pts
Magic Number: 5pts
Upcoming: vs. AUS (10/5)
The Monarchs will have the chance to clinch a playoff place this Saturday should they take victory against Austin Bold FC at Zions Bank Stadium and both San Antonio FC and the Portland Timbers 2 fail to win their games against Las Vegas Lights FC and Phoenix Rising FC, respectively. What Real’s victory against Reno did in the bigger picture, though, was make it the narrow favorite to clinch fourth place, a chance that would only increase with victory against fifth-place Bold FC.
5. Austin Bold FC
5. Austin Bold FC
Record: 13-11-7, 43pts
Playoff Odds 97 percent
Projected Final Position: 5th (17 percent)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number: 5pts
Upcoming: @SLC (10/5)
Austin’s third road victory of the season moved it within five points of a playoff place in its inaugural season, giving it the same scenario as the Monarchs when it comes to clinching a playoff place. Win on the road against the Monarchs to move to 49 points and see both San Antonio FC and the Portland Timbers 2 drop points later on Saturday night and Bold FC would be sitting pretty in the postseason.
6. Orange County SC
6. Orange County SC
Record: 12-9-9, 42pts
Playoff Odds 96 percent
Projected Final Position: 4th (19 percent)
Max Points Available: 57pts
Magic Number: 6pts
Upcoming: vs. OKC (10/5)
Welp, we did warn about going on the road to Rio Grande Valley FC, and that loss might cost Orange County a home game in the playoffs further down the line. On this week’s agenda, however, is a chance to clinch a playoff place with a win against OKC Energy FC, which has lost three of its last four after its heavy defeat to the LA Galaxy II last weekend. If Orange County takes victory, and both San Antonio FC and the Portland Timbers 2 lose their respective outings on Saturday, OCSC will be back in the playoffs for the fourth time in the past five years.
7. Sacramento Republic FC
7. Sacramento Republic FC
Record: 13-12-5, 44pts
Playoff Odds 96 percent
Projected Final Position: 4th (23 percent)
Max Points Available: 56pts
Magic Number: 7pts
Upcoming: vs. LA (10/2), @TUL (10/5)
That late defeat to El Paso on Saturday night left a mark, especially on Republic FC’s chances of finishing fourth, but it can clinch a playoff place this week with games at home against the LA Galaxy II and on the road against Tulsa Roughnecks FC. It’s going to be far from smooth sailing against both sides, though, especially after the Galaxy II made playoff moves of their own in a 5-1 win on Saturday against Energy FC. If Sacramento doesn’t find a way to win at home, the chances it will be in the play-in round are going to rise quickly.
8. LA Galaxy II
8. LA Galaxy II
Record: 11-9-10, 43pts
Playoff Odds 76 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (19 percent)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number: 8pts
Upcoming: @SAC (10/2), @COS (10/5)
The Galaxy II looked every bit the playoff contender in their romp against OKC Energy FC on Saturday and they’ll hope to carry that momentum into a two-game road trip this week. If Los Dos can win both games, it can clinch a playoff place if both San Antonio FC and the Portland Timbers 2 drop points on Saturday night, but a four-point return from the week would go a very long way toward a first playoff trip since 2016.
9. El Paso Locomotive FC
9. El Paso Locomotive FC
Record: 11-9-9, 42pts
Playoff Odds 78 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (15 percent)
Max Points Available: 57pts
Magic Number: 9pts
Upcoming: vs. FRS (10/2), @RNO (10/5)
Locomotive FC got one of the best breaks of the season on its stoppage-time winner in Sacramento and now it’s well-positioned with five games to go to be part of the playoff field. Victory on home turf against Fresno FC on Wednesday night would set up a chance that Locomotive FC could clinch on Saturday when it visits Reno, but both games against top-three opposition should be challenging for Head Coach Mark Lowry’s side.
10. San Antonio FC
10. San Antonio FC
Record: 11-12-8, 38pts
Playoff Odds 63 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (25 percent)
Max Points Available: 50pts
Magic Number: 10pts
Upcoming: @LV (10/5)
The good news for San Antonio was Saturday’s win against Fresno FC placed it back above the playoff line. The bad news is with three games to go, the club’s fate is not in its own hands, even with New Mexico United dropping points on Saturday night. That means Saturday’s trip to a Las Vegas side that is 1. Also fighting for its playoff life and 2. Pretty good at home should make it a tough game, but one that SAFC is almost certainly going to need to win.

11. New Mexico United
11. New Mexico United
Record: 10-9-11, 41pts
Playoff Odds 83 percent
Projected Final Position: 7th (15 percent)
Max Points Available: 53pts
Magic Number: 10pts
Upcoming: vs. RGV (10/5)
The bad news for New Mexico was that its draw against Phoenix – made all the more painful by the fact that it let a two-goal lead slip – dropped it below the playoff line. The good news is New Mexico still has control over its fate with four games to go against sides sitting below it in the standings. Victory on Saturday against Rio Grande Valley is going to be crucial, but it would set up a final run that could see United earn the 10 points out of 12 it needs.
12. Portland Timbers 2
12. Portland Timbers 2
Record: 10-12-8, 38pts
Playoff Odds 10 percent
Projected Final Position: 12th (37 percent)
Max Points Available: 50pts
Magic Number: 13pts
Upcoming: vs. PHX (10/5)
T2 really couldn’t afford its defeat to Austin on Sunday afternoon, especially with Phoenix coming into Providence Park next in a record-setting mood. This is now effectively a must-win for Portland to have a chance at the playoffs, and if it loses it would open the door to multiple teams potentially clinching this weekend.
13. Las Vegas Lights FC
13. Las Vegas Lights FC
Record: 10-13-8, 38pts
Playoff Odds 3 percent
Projected Final Position: 14th (34 percent)
Max Points Available: 47pts
Magic Number: 12pts
Upcoming: vs. SA (10/5)
One win down, three to go in Lights FC’s chase to make the playoffs, and this Saturday raises the stakes with 10th-place San Antonio FC coming to Cashman Field not in control of its playoff destiny either. If Las Vegas loses, it could be eliminated by the end of the weekend. If it wins? It’s going to make for a high-stakes Silver State Cup clash with Reno 1868 FC the following weekend in its home finale.
14. OKC Energy FC
14. OKC Energy FC
Record: 9-11-11, 38pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 14th (34 percent)
Max Points Available: 47pts
Magic Number: 13pts
Upcoming: @OC (10/5)
The result for OKC in LA was about as brutal as it gets, and with a trip to Orange County up next it’s hard to see Energy FC in this year’s playoffs. A loss this weekend could be the end of its playoff chances this season, but that fate is almost certainly coming regardless.
15. Rio Grande Valley FC
15. Rio Grande Valley FC
Record:9-15-7, 34pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 15th (65 percent)
Max Points Available: 43pts
Magic Number: 17pts
Upcoming: @NM (10/5)
The Toros are still alive to fight another day after making it two wins out of two as a home spoiler against Orange County on Saturday. There will be a lot of teams hoping RGVFC can take its form on the road to New Mexico this Saturday, too.

Eliminated: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Tacoma Defiance, Tulsa Roughnecks FC

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Nashville SC
1. Nashville SC
Record:17-7-7, 58pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 2nd (31 percent)
Max Points Available: 67pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. LOU (10/8)
The only thing that could have gone better for Nashville this past weekend was if Pittsburgh and Indy could have drawn, but now it’s got the highest odds to finish second of anyone in the Eastern Conference as it sits back and roots for more chaos before returning to action next week against Louisville City FC.
2. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
2. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Record:16-4-10, 58pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (49 percent)
Max Points Available: 70pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @LDN (10/1), vs. ATL (10/5)
Say hello to your new favorite to finish on top of the Eastern Conference standings. The Hounds are effectively a coin-flip to host throughout the East’s playoff bracket after their victory against Indy Eleven, now Pittsburgh needs to avoid complacency on the road against Loudoun United FC on Tuesday night and at home to ATL UTD 2 on Saturday, with Atlanta having put together a nice little undefeated streak of late.
3. New York Red Bulls II
3. New York Red Bulls II
Record:17-8-6, 57pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 5th (29 percent)
Max Points Available: 66pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @NC (10/5)
The Red Bulls II had to be ruing the late equalizer they allowed to Charleston on Friday in their home finale, as well as some of the chances they missed to ice the game before that moment arrived. Now New York heads to North Carolina, which handed it a home defeat back in May with the chance it might have to head on the road this postseason. The good news for the Red Bulls II is they won on the road against NCFC previously, and with victory this time around a good chance at second-place finish could just as quickly rematerialize.
4. Tampa Bay Rowdies
4. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Record:16-6-9, 57pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 4th (24 percent)
Max Points Available: 66pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @LDN (10/4)
Tampa Bay’s rally to earn a point on the road despite being down to 10 men was the best indicator we have seen of the club’s new-found ability this season to get it done away from home. If it can take care of business on Friday night against Loudoun United FC, it will put pressure on the teams around it to match them on Saturday night.
5. Indy Eleven
5. Indy Eleven
Record:17-8-5, 56pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 5th (29 percent)
Max Points Available: 68pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @OTT (10/2), vs. MEM (10/5)
Indy’s road-trip from hell continued Saturday night as absolutely nothing went right against Pittsburgh, increasing the odds that the Eleven are going to have to go on the road this postseason. But here’s the thing; if Indy finds a way to take victory against Ottawa on the road on Wednesday night, it’s going to be back in the top two positions ahead of its visit from Memphis on Saturday.
6. Louisville City FC
6. Louisville City FC
Record:14-7-9, 51pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 6th (65 percent)
Max Points Available: 63pts
Magic Number:N/A
Upcoming: @STL (10/5)
LouCity clinched its playoff place, but also saw its chances of finishing sixth rise after it was unable to close out Tampa Bay at Slugger Field. Now a trip to Saint Louis FC beckons, and while Louisville might not be able to improve its own position much in the final four games of the season, it could keep some pressure on its Kings’ Cup rival as it looks to secure its postseason place.
7. North Carolina FC
7. North Carolina FC
Record:14-9-8, 50pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 7th (61 percent)
Max Points Available: 59pts
Magic Number: 1pts
Upcoming: vs. NY (10/5)
North Carolina is going to be in the postseason upon the conclusion of the game between Birmingham Legion FC and the Charleston Battery, and while the numbers say the odds are against it there’s still a chance to get out of the play-in round with three games to go. With the Red Bulls II coming to town on Saturday, NCFC could put some extra pressure on Louisville’s run-in if it can take all three points.
8. Ottawa Fury FC
8. Ottawa Fury FC
Record:12-9-9, 45pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 8th (62 percent)
Max Points Available: 57pts
Magic Number: 6pts
Upcoming: vs. IND (10/2)
Fury FC can clinch a playoff place this week if it takes victory against Indy Eleven on its home turf on Wednesday night and the Charleston Battery fall against Birmingham Legion FC on Saturdayas Fury FC would hold the total-wins tiebreaker over the nine-win Battery, whose maximum available total would drop to 48 points with a loss. That wouldn’t be the case if roles were reversed, however, with Birmingham having 11 wins going into the week.
9. Saint Louis FC
9. Saint Louis FC
Record:11-10-9, 42pts
Playoff Odds 87 percent
Projected Final Position: 9th (41 percent)
Max Points Available: 54pts
Magic Number: 10pts
Upcoming: vs. LOU (10/5)
Saint Louis, like North Carolina, is going to benefit from Saturday’s game between Birmingham and Charleston and it would probably prefer a draw to see both clubs drop points, making STLFC’s position in ninth place become that much more secure. And if it can earn victory against Kings’ Cup rival Louisville City FC this Saturday, it will not only take the silverware but move that much closer to the playoffs itself.
10. Birmingham Legion FC
10. Birmingham Legion FC
Record:11-12-6, 39pts
Playoff Odds 42 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (52 percent)
Max Points Available: 51pts
Magic Number: 13pts
Upcoming: vs. CHS (10/5)
Legion FC’s defeat on Monday night meant it won’t carry any sort of edge into its showdown with Charleston at home this Saturday night, which is now the biggest game of the year for both. The pressure is going to be on Birmingham to win, too, as while it holds the total-wins tiebreaker over Charleston, its remaining schedule looks far tougher on paper to navigate.

11. Charleston Battery
11. Charleston Battery
Record:9-9-12, 38pts
Playoff Odds 70 percent
Projected Final Position: 10th (36 percent)
Max Points Available: 51pts
Magic Number: 13pts
Upcoming: @BHM (10/5)
Charleston’s late equalizer against the New York Red Bulls II by AJ Paterson was one of its biggest goals of the season and was magnified further by Legion FC’s defeat against Swope Park on Monday night. The Battery have had to stare down games like this previously and have been able to come through. With their run of playoff appearances on the line, can they pull through one more time?
12. Memphis 901 FC
12. Memphis 901 FC
Record:9-14-7, 34pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 12th (68 percent)
Max Points Available: 46pts
Magic Number: 18pts
Upcoming: @IND (10/5)
Memphis has extremely long odds to reach the playoffs, even after its resounding victory on Saturday night against Bethlehem, but we may see how far 901 FC has come when it visits Indy Eleven with an eye on next season.
13. Atlanta United 2
13. Atlanta United 2
Record:8-16-7, 31pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 14th (31 percent)
Max Points Available: 40pts
Magic Number: 24pts
Upcoming: @STL (9/28)
Undefeated in five games, Atlanta is having a good end to its season. That season will almost certainly come to an end in terms of playoff contention this weekend, unless Atlanta first takes victory against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and then sees Birmingham Legion FC and the Charleston Battery play to a draw.
14. Bethlehem Steel FC
14. Bethlehem Steel FC
Record:8-16-6, 30pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 13th (38 percent)
Max Points Available: 42pts
Magic Number: 22pts
Upcoming: vs. CLT (10/5)
Bethlehem can hold on for one more week of mathematical survival if it takes victory against the Independence on Sunday evening, but after Saturday’s thumping against Memphis it feels like the season is already over for Steel FC.
16. Loudoun United FC
16. Loudoun United FC
Record:7-16-6, 27pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 16th (30 percent)
Max Points Available: 42pts
Magic Number: 25pts
Upcoming: vs. PIT (10/1), vs. TBR (10/4)
The end is nigh for United, which can’t quite be mathematically eliminated on Tuesday night against Pittsburgh after Birmingham took nothing from its visit to Swope Park, but could be by the end of Friday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Eliminated: Charlotte Independence, Hartford Athletic, Swope Park Rangers

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