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Race to the Championship Playoffs – Everything You Need to Know

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 10/02/20, 6:42PM EDT

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All eyes on Group D, Group E and Group G as the final postseason berths are confirmed

Welcome to the Race to the Championship Playoffs Presented by Synchronicity, where it’s the final weekend of the season and there are both postseason positions and group winners still to be decided.

Here’s an up-to-date look at where everyone stands entering this weekend’s action, including Magic Numbers and each club’s potential to finish in one of the top two positions in their group. And to start us off, three contests that could prove absolutely crucial for both clubs involved over the next two nights.

 

Playoff Race Games to Watch

North Carolina FC vs. Charlotte Independence

Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Venue: Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park
Group G

What to Know - North Carolina FC’s victory on Wednesday night against the New York Red Bulls II set up this showdown with the Charlotte Independence that will either see the visitors clinch their first trip to the playoffs since 2017, or see NCFC set up one final game that will determine their playoff fate. The Independence have won all three prior meetings this season and need just a point to confirm their playoff place as they head to WakeMed Soccer Park. North Carolina, meanwhile, will need to record its first three-game winning streak of the season to remain alive. Should it do so, however, NCFC would visit Memphis 901 FC next Tuesday night in the knowledge a victory would seal its playoff place and eliminate the Independence from contention.

Saint Louis FC vs. Indy Eleven

Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: West Community Stadium
Group E

What to Know - Saint Louis FC got the help it needed from Sporting Kansas City II on Wednesday night and now gets a shot to claim victory and jump past Indy Eleven into the second playoff place in Group E. Indy needed a win against Sporting to clinch its postseason berth but suffered a 2-1 defeat to SKC II – a result that was equal to a draw in the big picture – as it pushed for a late winner at Lucas Oil Stadium. Now the Boys in Blue will have to earn at least a draw on the road at a venue where it lost 1-0 earlier this season when Tyler Blackwood scored the only goal of the game. Saint Louis FC must win to advance, meanwhile, which means rebounding from a tough 1-0 defeat to Louisville City FC last Saturday that saw STLFC hold a 16-12 shots advantage but fail to find a breakthrough that could have strengthened its position going into this contest.

FC Tulsa vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Venue: ONEOK Field
Group D

What to Know - FC Tulsa goes into Saturday night knowing a draw would be good enough to take it into the postseason after Wednesday night saw it claim victory against OKC Energy FC and Rio Grande Valley FC hand a defeat to Austin Bold FC, which now sits three points behind Tulsa in the Group D standings. Tulsa has needed late heroics in each of its last two outings to earn back-to-back wins with Eric Bird scoring in second-half stoppage time last Saturday against San Antonio FC and Tobenna Uzo scoring twice in the final 15 minutes against Energy FC to lift the side to victory. Should Tulsa fail to gain the point it needs, it could still find a way into the playoffs on Sunday if San Antonio FC takes victory or draws with Austin Bold FC, which would keep Tulsa ahead of Austin. If Tulsa falls and Austin wins, though, it would head to face Rio Grande Valley FC next Tuesday night for a final game of the season.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

 

Group A

1. Reno 1868 FC
1. Reno 1868 FC
Record: 10-2-3, 33pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: Clinched
Second Place Odds:N/A
Max. Points Available: 40pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at TAC (10/3)
Reno’s draw against Las Vegas reduced its margin for error, but it still on paper holds the best chance to finish with the best record in the Western Conference with 10 wins and a +21 goal differential, with San Antonio FC its closest rival going into the final game of the season. Unless SAFC – or the side with the potential to reach 36 points such as the Tampa Bay Rowdies (+15GD) – are able to bridge that difference, a win against Tacoma Defiance should see Reno enter as the No. 1 seed.
2. Sacramento Republic FC
2. Sacramento Republic FC
Record: 7-2-6, 27pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: Clinched
Max. Points Available: 35pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. POR (10/3)
Sacramento’s undefeated streak came to an end on Wednesday night, confirming a second-place finish. Now Republic FC will look to end the regular season on a high note ahead of its visit to Phoenix Rising FC to open the playoffs.
3. Tacoma Defiance
3. Tacoma Defiance
Record: 4-9-2, 14pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 17pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. RNO (10/3)
The Defiance clinched third place in the group with victory against Republic FC on Wednesday night, and will have both San Antonio FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies hoping it can take points from Reno 1868 FC on Saturday as they vie for the No. 1 seed.
4. Portland Timbers 2
4. Portland Timbers 2
Record: 3-12-0, 9pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds:N/A
Max. Points Available: 12pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at SAC (10/3)
Portland closes out the season at Sacramento Republic FC next Saturday night knowing it will finish fourth in the group, but we should still see a strong performance from a side that’s come on strong to wrap up the season.
 

Group B

Phoenix Rising FC
1. Phoenix Rising FC
Record: 10-3-2, 32pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: Clinched
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 35pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. OC (9/26)
Phoenix is the Group B winner, and now will get ready to face Sacramento Republic FC after its regular-season finale against the LA Galaxy II.
2. LA Galaxy II
2. LA Galaxy II
Record: 8-5-2, 26pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: Clinched
Max. Points Available: 29pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at PHX (10/3)
The Galaxy II got the job done against Orange County SC on Wednesday night to lock in a second consecutive playoff berth. Now they’ll get ready to face Reno 1868 FC in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
3. San Diego Loyal SC
3. San Diego Loyal SC
Record: 6-5-5, 23pts
Playoff Odds:Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 23pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: Season Over
SD Loyal’s first season came to an end on Wednesday night, but there are clearly big things ahead for this club in 2021 and beyond.
4. Orange County SC
4. Orange County SC
Record: 6-6-3, 21pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 24pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at LV (10/3)
Orange County was unable to build on its early lead against the Galaxy II and so will end its season on Saturday night in Las Vegas. It’s certainly not the way things appeared they would turn out for this group.
5. Las Vegas Lights FC
5. Las Vegas Lights FC
Record: 2-8-5, 11pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 14pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. OC (10/3)
Lights FC took a draw against Reno, and while that wasn’t enough to claim the Silver State Cup it certainly made the race for the No. 1 seed a lot more interesting going to the final weekend.
 

Group C

1. El Paso Locomotive FC
1. El Paso Locomotive FC
Record: 8-2-5, 29pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: 88%
Second Place Odds: 12%
Max. Points Available: 32pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at SLC (10/4)
El Paso couldn’t close the deal against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Wednesday night, so now it has to try to find a win against Real Monarchs SLC instead. If it doesn’t, it remains to be seen if New Mexico will make up a final game that would give United the chance to pass El Paso for first place.
2. New Mexico United
2. New Mexico United
Record: 8-4-3, 27pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: 12%
Second Place Odds: 88%
Max. Points Available: 30pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: TBD
Wednesday night’s results mean that New Mexico remains in with a chance to claim first place in Group C thanks to its victory against Real Monarchs SLC. Should El Paso Locomotive FC fail to take victory against the Monarchs on Saturday night, the potential for United to play one more regular season game exists that would allow them to pass El Paso next Tuesday night.
3. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
3. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Record: 2-6-7, 13pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 16pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at TUL (10/3)
The Switchbacks kept El Paso Locomotive FC from clinching the group on Wednesday night, now it gets to play an even bigger potential spoiler as it visits FC Tulsa on Saturday, with Tulsa needing a point to clinch a playoff place.
4. Real Monarchs SLC
4. Real Monarchs SLC
Record: 3-10-2, 11pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 14pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. ELP (10/4)
The Monarchs will go from facing New Mexico United on Wednesday night to having United be in its corner as it faces El Paso Locomotive FC on Saturday. If Real can win or earn a draw, it opens the potential for New Mexico to snag first place in the group.
 

Group D

1. San Antonio FC
1. San Antonio FC
Record: 10-2-3, 33pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: Clinched
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 36pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: Up Next: at ATX (10/4)
The window of opportunity opened a fraction wider for San Antonio FC with Reno 1868 FC failing to take victory on Wednesday night, and SAFC will know by how many goals it has to win against Austin claim the top seed over either Reno or the Tampa Bay Rowdies on goal differential should 1868 FC and Tampa Bay take victory against Tacoma Defiance and the Charleston Battery respectively on Saturday night. If Reno and Tampa Bay drop points, though, then SAFC would claim the No. 1 seed with a win against Austin, which will already know whether it’s in or out after FC Tulsa’s result on Saturday night.
2. FC Tulsa
2. FC Tulsa
Record: 5-2-7, 22pts
Playoff Odds: 97 percent
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: 97%
Max. Points Available: 28pts
Magic Number: 1pt
Up Next: vs. COS (10/3)
What a difference a week makes. Two victories for Tulsa, and one point from two games from Austin Bold FC, has put Head Coach Michael Nsien’s side within a point of reaching the postseason. A win or a draw locks Tulsa into second place in the group. Should Tulsa fall, and Austin pull level on points with a win against San Antonio FC on Sunday evening, it would also still have the chance to clinch next Tuesday night in a rescheduled contest against Rio Grande Valley FC.
3. Austin Bold FC
3. Austin Bold FC
Record: 4-4-7, 19pts
Playoff Odds: 3 percent
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: 3%
Max. Points Available: 27pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. SA (10/3)
Austin was stunned on Wednesday night and now not only would need to beat San Antonio FC on Sunday night but also have FC Tulsa lose to both Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and Rio Grande Valley FC to have a chance at a playoff place via goal differential.
4. OKC Energy FC
4. OKC Energy FC
Record: 1-7-67, 10pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 13pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at RGV (10/3)
Wednesday night’s result in a way summed up Energy FC’s season. Some promise, but it couldn’t hold together for a full 90 minutes. OKC will close out its campaign on Saturday in South Texas against Rio Grande Valley FC.
5. Rio Grande Valley FC
5. Rio Grande Valley FC
Record: 1-9-3, 6pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 15pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. OKC (10/3)
The Toros got the moment they’d been hoping for all season with their win against Austin Bold FC, and it helped push FC Tulsa to the brink of clinching a postseason spot.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

 

Group E

1. Louisville City FC
1. Louisville City FC
Record: 10-3-2, 32pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: Clinched
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 35pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. SKC (10/3)
Louisville City FC is currently in line to be the No. 2 seed in the East with a win against Sporting Kansas City II on Saturday, with its +15-goal differential far superior to Hartford Athletic’s +5. If the Charleston Battery take points from the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday, though, the road to the Eastern Conference title could go through Lynn Family Stadium.
2. Indy Eleven
2. Indy Eleven
Record: 7-6-2, 23pts
Playoff Odds: 63 percent
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: 63%
Max. Points Available: 26pts
Magic Number: 1pt
Up Next: at STL (10/3)
Indy couldn’t close out its playoff spot on Wednesday night against Sporting Kansas City II, and now needs to earn at least a draw as it visits Saint Louis FC to close the regular season. Saturday night’s game is going to be a must-see.
3. Saint Louis FC
3. Saint Louis FC
Record: 6-5-4, 22pts
Playoff Odds: 37 percent
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: 37%
Max. Points Available: 25pts
Magic Number: 3pts
Up Next: vs. IND (10/3)
All Saint Louis FC wanted was a shot on the final day of the season. Now it has that opportunity against Indy Eleven. Take victory, take your place in the postseason. Nothing less than three points will do for the hosts.
4. Sporting Kansas City II
4. Sporting Kansas City II
Record: 5-9-1, 16pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 19pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at LOU (10/3)
Sporting Kansas City II gave almost everyone what they wanted with their win against Indy in a final-weekend showdown. They’ll now face Louisville City FC with Hartford Athletic and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC both hoping they can pull off something similar.
 

Group F

1. Hartford Athletic
1. Hartford Athletic
Record: 10-3-2, 32pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: 53%
Second Place Odds: 47%
Max. Points Available: 35pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at NY (10/4)
Hartford’s miraculous late win thanks to Danny Barrera’s ninja kick goal moved the Athletic into first place going to the final game of the season. Hartford now just has to match Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s result on Saturday night against the Philadelphia Union II to seal top spot in the group, but with a win it could also position itself as the top seed overall if both the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Louisville City FC fail to take victory as well.
2. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
2. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Record: 10-4-1, 31pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: 47%
Second Place Odds: 53%
Max. Points Available: 34pts
Magic Number: Clinched
Up Next: vs. PHI (10/3)
The Hounds have to earn a better result against the Philadelphia Union II than Hartford Athletic does against the New York Red Bulls II over the final weekend. A Pittsburgh win and Hartford draw would move the Hounds into first on points. A Pittsburgh draw and a Hartford loss would see the Hounds edge past the Athletic on goal differential.
3. New York Red Bulls II
3. New York Red Bulls II
Record: 5-10-0, 15pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 18pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. HFD (10/4)
The Red Bulls II couldn’t help out either the Charlotte Independence or Birmingham Legion FC on Wednesday, and now Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC are going to be hoping for help as New York hosts Hartford Athletic to close out the season on Sunday.
4. Philadelphia Union II
4. Philadelphia Union II
Record: 2-10-3, 9pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 12pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at PIT (10/3)
You couldn’t come up with a weirder way to lose a game than the Union II experienced on Saturday. Now they’ll visit Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Saturday with Hartford Athletic hoping they can take points off the Hounds.
5. Loudoun United FC
5. Loudoun United FC
Record: 1-9-3, 6pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 6pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: Season Over
The end of Loudoun’s season has arrived, and so does an offseason with plenty to consider for the club as it looks to become more competitive next year.
 

Group G

1. Birmingham Legion FC
1. Birmingham Legion FC
Record: 7-4-4, 25pts
Playoff Odds: >99 percent
First Place Odds: 71%
Second Place Odds: 29%
Max. Points Available: 28pts
Magic Number: 1pt
Up Next: at MEM (10/3)
Birmingham Legion FC is certain to reach the playoffs on Saturday night as its +12 goal differential gives it a substantial edge on the Charlotte Independence (+1) in the race for first place overall. No matter the result between North Carolina and Charlotte, Legion FC will be confirmed as a playoff side with a North Carolina win ensuring Legion FC remains ahead of the Independence, and either a Charlotte win or draw eliminating NCFC from contention. If Birmingham takes victory in Memphis, though, it will ensure first place and a home contest against the Charleston Battery in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
2. Charlotte Independence
2. Charlotte Independence
Record: 7-4-4, 25pts
Playoff Odds: 80 percent
First Place Odds: 20%
Second Place Odds: 60%
Max. Points Available: 28pts
Magic Number: 1pt
Up Next: at NC (10/3)
The Independence need just a point against a North Carolina FC side its has defeated three times previously this season. If it fails to earn a result, though, it’s going to have to wait and see whether it will make a return to the playoffs on Tuesday night when North Carolina would wrap up its season against Memphis 901 FC.
3. North Carolina FC
3. North Carolina FC
Record: 6-7-1, 19pts
Playoff Odds: 20 percent
First Place Odds: 9%
Second Place Odds: 11%
Max. Points Available: 25pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. CLT (10/3)
North Carolina FC earned back-to-back victories for the second time this season with its win against the Red Bulls II on Wednesday and got to rest some key players in the second half thanks to its fine display in the opening 45 minutes. There’s no pressure let-up for NCFC now, though, as it has to defeat the second-place Charlotte Independence to set up a chance to claim a playoff spot next Tuesday night against Memphis 901 FC.
4. Memphis 901 FC
4. Memphis 901 FC
Record: 3-7-4, 13pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 19pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. BHM (10/3)
Memphis got its revenge against the Charlotte Independence on Saturday and made life a little more interesting in Group G as a result. It’ll get a shot at Birmingham next this Saturday in its home finale where the visitors could have plenty on the line in the race for first place.
 

Group H

1. Tampa Bay Rowdies
1. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Record: 10-2-3, 33pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: Clinched
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 36pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. CHS (10/3)
The Rowdies clinched first place in Group H on points-per-game after Charleston’s defeat by Miami FC on Wednesday night, but will still be looking to take victory on Saturday when the Battery visit to close out the season. Tampa Bay will finish with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with a win, but could slip as far as the fourth-best record with a loss in its finale.
2. Charleston Battery
2. Charleston Battery
Record: 8-3-3, 27pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: Clinched
Max. Points Available: 30pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at TBR (10/3)
The Battery will be kicking themselves for letting their two-goal lead against Miami FC slip, thus ruling them out from a first-place finish in the group. They’ll look to end the season on a high in Tampa Bay, though, and then wait and see who’ll be waiting for them in the playoffs from Group G.
3. The Miami FC
3. The Miami FC
Record: 3-8-4, 13pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 16pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at MIA (10/4)
Miami’s season will come to an end this week, but it could take plenty of momentum with it if it can wrap up back-to-back wins by defeating Atlanta on Sunday evening.
4. Atlanta United 2
4. Atlanta United 2
Record: 3-9-3, 12pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 15pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at MIA (10/4)
Atlanta rounds out the season on the road to Miami FC on Sunday afternoon, and will take third place in the standings with a win.

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