New Mexico United and North Carolina FC will be hoping their first trip to the USL Cup Playoffs extends well beyond Wednesday night's Play-In Round.
The 2019 USL Championship Playoffs kick off on Wednesday night with the Eastern and Western Conference Play-In Round, which will see eight teams fight for the right to advance to the Conference Quarterfinals.
And while this format – which will see the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds host the No. 9 and No. 10 seeds in both conferences – is new for this season, the concept of having to play your way into the main bracket is not a foreign one to the Championship.
The 2015 USL Championship Playoffs featured a similar format, with the top six teams from each conference qualifying for the postseason and the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds hosting the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds for a spot in the Conference Semifinals in what was then called the “First Round”.
That year we saw the potential of teams playing in the opening round of games, as the No. 5 seed LA Galaxy II not only defeated No. 4 seed Sacramento Republic FC on the road in its opening contest, but then went on to knock off No. 1 seed Orange County SC and No. 2 seed OKC Energy FC to reach the USL Championship Final.
While this season’s Play-In Round contestants would need one additional victory to match that feat, LA’s 2015 run should give hope to all eight teams that there could be more than just a spot in the Conference Quarterfinals on the horizon.
With that in mind, I decided to rank each of the Play-In Round teams on their potential to make some noise beyond Wednesday night.
Tag(s): LA Galaxy II Sacramento Republic FC Charleston Battery Ottawa Fury FC Wal Fall Zeiko Lewis Callum Irving Alexander Tambakis Hadji Barry Christiano François Matt Van Oekel Cameron Iwasa Birmingham Legion FC Austin Bold FC North Carolina FC Thomas Enevoldsen New Mexico United Arlia Editorial André Lima Prosper Kasim J.J. Williams