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Race to the Championship Playoffs – Oct. 18-20

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 10/17/19, 2:46PM EDT

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Four places remain up for grabs going into the final weekend of the regular season


El Paso Locomotive FC and Omar Salgado can lock up a top-six finish - and leave a pathway into the playoffs for New Mexico United - with victory against the LA Galaxy II on Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Ivan Pierre Aguirre / El Paso Locomotive FC

El Paso Locomotive FC and Austin Bold FC became the first two first-year clubs to earn places in the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs during midweek action, and they could be joined by two more sides in their inaugural campaigns as we enter the final weekend of the regular season.

One of those has its destiny in its hands, however, while the other needs help from elsewhere in what is set to be a fascinating slate of 17 contests over the next three days.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1.Phoenix Rising FC
1. Phoenix Rising FC
Record: 23-4-6, 75pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (Clinched)
Max Points Available: 78pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. OKC (10/18)
After seeing its home undefeated streak snapped at 17 games in its last outing, Phoenix will look to rebound with a win against Energy FC to rebuild a little momentum before the postseason begins. If it takes all three points, it earns the side the Championship’s single-season records for total wins and total points, and also maintains what Bud Light has dubbed “the greatest streak in sports history” – Rising FC’s perfect 13-0-0 run on $1 Beer Night.
2. Reno 1868 FC
2. Reno 1868 FC
Record: 17-10-6, 57pts
Playoff Odds >Clinched
Projected Final Position: 2nd (84 percent)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @TUL (10/19)
Reno only has to stave off Fresno for its top-two finish after Real Monarchs SLC’s draw with Austin on Wednesday night, and guarantees the No. 2 seed if it can take victory on the road against Tulsa Roughnecks FC. With the Roughnecks having shown an improvement in form over the final quarter of the season, though, 1868 FC will need to be sharp as it looks to avoid a repeat of the 2-2 draw earlier this season when the sides met at Greater Nevada Field.
3. Fresno FC
3. Fresno FC
Record: 16-8-9, 57pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 3rd (84 percent)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @OC (10/19)
Like Reno, Fresno can no longer be overtaken by the Monarchs as it goes into its final game of the regular season and it will have the advantage of knowing where it stands in terms of a chance at second place with 1868 FC’s contest against the Roughnecks kicking off in the afternoon. Regardless of whether second place is still in play for the Foxes at kickoff against Orange County, though, they will be hoping to end a four-game winless streak and carry some positive momentum into the playoffs.
4. Real Monarchs SLC
4. Real Monarchs SLC
Record: 15-10-8, 53pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 4th (86 percent)
Max Points Available: 56pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. SAC (10/19)
The Monarchs couldn’t overcome Austin Bold FC on Wednesday night to seal a top-four finish and keep their top-two chances alive, but they go into their final game of the season knowing a win would seal a home playoff game and a draw against Republic FC at Zions Bank Stadium could be enough as well. Should Real draw, fifth-place Orange County would need to make up a six-goal gap in goal differential in a victory against Fresno FC, but if the Monarchs lose, then OCSC would be poised to leapfrog them with just a win later in the day with two points separating the sides going into the weekend.
5. Orange County SC
5. Orange County SC
Record: 14-10-9, 51pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 5th (72 percent)
Max Points Available: 54pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. FRS (10/19)
Orange County will be among those tuned into the USL Game of the Week on Saturday afternoon between Real Monarchs SLC and Sacramento Republic FC to find out what it chances at hosting a postseason contest are before its game later in the day against Fresno FC. If Real loses to Republic FC, Orange County would need just to take victory against the Foxes, but if the Monarchs and Sacramento end all square, OCSC (+9 goal differential) would need to win by seven goals to surpass Real (+15 goal differential) in the standings thanks to the Monarchs holding a sizeable 68-52 edge in the third tiebreaker of goals scored going into the weekend.
6. El Paso Locomotive FC
6. El Paso Locomotive FC
Record: 13-9-11, 50pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 7th (39 percent)
Max Points Available: 53pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @LA (10/19)
El Paso booked its place in the postseason with Tuesday night’s victory against the Portland Timbers 2 and now it can ensure it finishes in the top six with a victory against the LA Galaxy II on Saturday night. With Real Monarchs SLC sitting on 53 points and 15 wins going into the weekend, a top-four finish is out of reach for Head Coach Mark Lowry’s side. If it takes victory against Los Dos, however, it would be a very welcome sight for New Mexico United fans, which needs El Paso to get at least a draw to give it a chance of joining its regional rival in the playoffs.
7. Sacramento Republic FC
7. Sacramento Republic FC
Record: 14-13-6, 48pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 7th (39 percent)
Max Points Available: 51pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @SLC (10/19)
The race for postseason position can make for strange alliances, and if Republic FC is able to spring a surprise on the road against Real Monarchs SLC on Saturday afternoon, it will then be in the position of rooting for the LA Galaxy II to earn at least a draw against El Paso Locomotive FC later on Saturday night to earn Sacramento a top-six finish and a bye to the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Anything other than a win, though, and Republic FC will host a Play-In Round game next Wednesday night.
8. Austin Bold FC
8. Austin Bold FC
Record: 13-11-9, 48pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 8th (40 percent)
Max Points Available: 51pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @TAC (10/19)
Austin booked its place in the postseason on Wednesday night thanks to its 2-2 draw with Real Monarchs SLC and has a chance to move into the top six if things fall right for it on Saturday. With an El Paso Locomotive FC defeat and Sacramento Republic FC draw or loss, Bold FC would move into the top six with victory against Tacoma Defiance. If Locomotive FC earns a draw against the LA Galaxy II, Austin can still claim a top-six position, but Bold FC would need to record a five-goal victory against Tacoma to match El Paso’s wins (13) and goal differential (+8) totals and take sixth spot on the third tiebreaker of total goals, where it holds a 52-42 edge going into the final weekend.
9. LA Galaxy II
9. LA Galaxy II
Record: 11-10-12, 45pts
Playoff Odds 74 percent
Projected Final Position: 9th (52 percent)
Max Points Available: 48pts
Magic Number: 2pts
Upcoming: vs. ELP (10/19)
The Galaxy II go into their final game of the regular season knowing a win clinches a playoff place, but with El Paso Locomotive FC also having something to play for it could be a harder task than either of its two rivals for the final two playoff berths in the Western Conference – San Antonio FC and New Mexico United – are facing. Should everything kick off on time, LA will know what it needs with about half-an-hour to go against El Paso, which could result in either a very drab, or very action-packed final 30 minutes of the regular season for the side.
10. San Antonio FC
10. San Antonio FC
Record: 12-13-8, 44pts
Playoff Odds 91 percent
Projected Final Position: 10th (48 percent)
Max Points Available: 47pts
Magic Number: 3pts
Upcoming: vs. COS (10/19)
San Antonio is in control of its playoff fate when it hosts Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and everything seems to point toward the hosts accomplishing the task with a victory. The Switchbacks have gone 1-13-2 on the road this season, while SAFC is an 80-percent chance to win on Saturday according to fivethirtyeight.com. If SAFC can only manage a draw, however, it would need either the LA Galaxy II to lose to El Paso Locomotive FC or New Mexico United to fail to take victory against Las Vegas Lights FC. A defeat, and Los Dos would clinch a playoff place without having to get a result and the door would be open for New Mexico to jump past San Antonio with a win.

11. New Mexico United
11. New Mexico United
Record: 10-10-13, 43pts
Playoff Odds 35 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (45 percent)
Max Points Available: 46pts
Magic Number: 4pts
Upcoming: vs. LV (10/19)
New Mexico is going to need help to get into the playoffs after Wednesday’s draw with Tacoma Defiance, but in El Paso Locomotive FC it could have an unlikely ally on Saturday night. Should NMU take victory against Las Vegas Lights FC to move to 11 wins and 46 points, a victory or a draw by Locomotive FC against the ninth-place LA Galaxy II would see New Mexico jump past Los Dos in the standings – in the case of an LAvELP draw, New Mexico would be tied on 11 wins with LA but would have a superior goal differential – where it currently holds a five-goal edge. United fans could also hope for Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC to get a result on the road against San Antonio FC, where either a draw or a Switchbacks victory would open the door for New Mexico to jump SAFC. In all scenarios, though, New Mexico must beat Las Vegas, as a draw leaves it on the outside looking in with only 10 victories.
12. Las Vegas Lights FC
12. Las Vegas Lights FC
Record: 11-14-8, 41pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 13th (45 percent)
Max Points Available: 44pts
Magic Number: 6pts
Upcoming: @NM (10/19)
Las Vegas is still mathematically alive, but the 13-goal differential it would need to make up on 10th-place San Antonio in their respective contests on Saturday night make it the longest of all long shots that Lights FC will be part of the playoffs. Head Coach Eric Wynalda’s side could spoil the party for New Mexico at Isotopes Park, though, with the hosts needing a win to have a chance at a playoff place themselves.

Eliminated: Portland Timbers 2, Rio Grande Valley FC, OKC Energy FC, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Tacoma Defiance, Tulsa Roughnecks FC

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
1. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Record:18-4-11, 65pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (56 percent)
Max Points Available: 68pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @BHM (10/20)
The Hounds will go into the final game of the regular season on Sunday knowing what they need to accomplish to finish as the top seed in the East with Nashville playing the night before against ATL UTD 2. Pittsburgh certainly could be rooting for North Carolina FC as well on Saturday, as an NCFC win or draw against Saint Louis FC would lock up Legion FC’s playoff place before kickoff, reducing the pressure on the hosts to earn a result of their own.
2. Nashville SC
2. Nashville SC
Record:19-7-7, 64pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 2nd (56 percent)
Max Points Available: 67pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. ATL (10/19)
Nashville will need to take victory on Saturday night against ATL UTD 2 to put pressure on Pittsburgh to match it on Sunday as it visits Birmingham in the battle for first place between the sides. In addition to that, though, there’s the chance for goalkeeper Matt Pickens to clinch the Championship’s Golden Glove award and forward Daniel Rios is two goals from reaching 20 tallies for a second consecutive season, a feat that’s never previously been accomplished in the Championship’s history.
3. Indy Eleven
3. Indy Eleven
Record:19-9-6, 63pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 3rd (Clinched)
Max Points Available: 63pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: Regular Season Over
Indy claimed third place on Wednesday night with its victory against the Swope Park Rangers and the New York Red Bulls II’s defeat to Birmingham Legion FC. Now it can sit back and wait to see who will visit Mike A. Carroll Stadium in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals next Saturday night.
4. Tampa Bay Rowdies
4. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Record:16-7-10, 58pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 4th (70 percent)
Max Points Available: 61pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @HFD (10/19)
The Rowdies got a major boost on Wednesday night from Birmingham’s victory against the Red Bulls II, which means Tampa Bay can earn fourth place and a home game in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals with victory on the road against Hartford Athletic. A draw, however, would open the door to Tampa Bay slipping as far as sixth place with both New York and Louisville coming into the weekend only a point behind and capable of overtaking the Rowdies with a victory.
5. New York Red Bulls II
5. New York Red Bulls II
Record:17-10-6, 57pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 5th (49 percent)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @LDN (10/19)
The disappointing close to the regular season continued for the Red Bulls II on Wednesday as they lost to Birmingham Legion FC despite being up a man for the entire second half. While a fourth-place finish is still a possibility if the Tampa Bay Rowdies slip up against Hartford Athletic, New York is simply going to want to end the season with a win as it visits Loudoun United FC to get a confidence boost before the postseason begins.
6. Louisville City FC
6. Louisville City FC
Record:16-8-9, 54pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 6th (58 percent)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number:N/A
Upcoming: @MEM (10/19)
With Memphis officially eliminated from playoff contention on Wednesday night, Louisville could find its way into the top four with a victory at AutoZone Park on Saturday. Earn all three points in the Bluff City and have both the Tampa Bay Rowdies and New York Red Bulls II fail to take victory on the road against Hartford Athletic and Loudoun United FC respectively and LouCity will be at home for at least one postseason contest.
7. North Carolina FC
7. North Carolina FC
Record:15-10-8, 53pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 7th (82 percent)
Max Points Available: 56pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. STL (10/19)
North Carolina has only seeding to play for when it hosts Saint Louis FC on Saturday night, but should it take victory and remain ahead of Ottawa Fury FC for the No. 7 seed in the Play-In Round it would also clinch a place in the playoffs for both Birmingham Legion FC and the Charleston Battery. A draw would also see Legion FC into the playoffs before it kicks off on Sunday but could open the door to NCFC having to then face Birmingham next Wednesday night as the No. 8 seed if Ottawa wins on the road in Charlotte.
8. Ottawa Fury FC
8. Ottawa Fury FC
Record:14-9-10, 52pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 8th (82 percent)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @CLT (10/19)
Fury FC can only move up as high as the No. 7 seed this weekend if it defeats the Charlotte Independence on the road, while any other result will see it remain in the No. 8 slot with North Carolina holding the tiebreaker with 15 wins to Ottawa’s 14 as well as a one-point edge in the standings.
9. Birmingham Legion FC
9. Birmingham Legion FC
Record:12-14-7, 43pts
Playoff Odds 85 percent
Projected Final Position: 10th (50 percent)
Max Points Available: 46pts
Magic Number: 3pts
Upcoming: vs. NY (10/16), vs. PIT (10/20)
Legion FC grabbed the lifeline it was thrown last weekend and pulled itself up to ninth place with a hard-fought victory against the New York Red Bulls II on Wednesday night. Birmingham will know what it needs on Sunday when it takes on another tough opponent in Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – which could also have something important at stake as it hunts the No. 1 seed – but should Saint Louis fail to defeat North Carolina FC or the Charleston Battery lose to Bethlehem Steel FC on Saturday, Legion FC will be home and dry and into the playoffs before its final kickoff of the regular season.
10. Charleston Battery
10. Charleston Battery
Record:10-10-13, 43pts
Playoff Odds 89 percent
Projected Final Position: 9th (58 percent)
Max Points Available: 46pts
Magic Number: 3pts
Upcoming: vs. BST (10/19)
Everything fell right for the Battery on Wednesday night as captain Taylor Mueller led the side to victory against Memphis 901 FC and back above the playoff line. A win in Charleston’s final game of the regular season on Saturday against Bethlehem Steel FC will clinch another postseason berth, but the Battery aren’t completely out of the woods as a draw and a Saint Louis FC victory or a loss and a Saint Louis draw against North Carolina FC would send the Battery out on the total wins tiebreaker.

11. Saint Louis FC
11. Saint Louis FC
Record:11-13-9, 42pts
Playoff Odds 26 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (74 percent)
Max Points Available: 45pts
Magic Number: 4pts
Upcoming: @NC (10/19)
Wednesday night’s victories for Birmingham Legion FC and the Charleston Battery put added pressure squarely on Saint Louis FC’s shoulders going into Saturday’s game, with the side knowing victory is almost certainly needed to carry it past one of the two teams now sitting above the playoff line. A draw would leave STLFC needing a Battery defeat at home to Bethlehem Steel FC to move past Charleston and into the No. 10 seed with Birmingham holding the edge in total wins between the two clubs going into the weekend’s action.

Eliminated: Memphis 901 FC, ATL UTD 2, Charlotte Independence, Loudoun United FC, Bethlehem Steel FC, Hartford Athletic, Swope Park Rangers

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