Phoenix Rising FC became the first team into the 2021 USL Championship Playoffs field on Saturday night, and the door is open for Louisville City FC to join them on Wednesday night with the right pair of results in the Central Division.
There’s plenty more to keep an eye on in Week 24’s midweek action, though, including a crucial contest between two Mountain Division contenders and both Rising FC and El Paso Locomotive FC looking to handle business in their pursuit of the best record in the regular season.
Here are three games to watch over the next two days, and where everyone stands in the big picture after our first two mathematical eliminations from contention.
OKC Energy FC took a 2-0 victory in the opening game of this doubleheader on Sunday evening, which means its going to be incumbent on Indy to provide a response or see its postseason hopes suffer an even bigger blow. Energy FC will be hoping to complete a sweep, though, as it tries to keep the pressure on Memphis 901 FC to win its games in hand in the battle for fourth place, and with Villyan Bijev pulling the strings they very well could do so. Should the hosts take victory, it would also keep Louisville City FC waiting to clinch its playoff place until this weekend.
New Mexico United and Rio Grande Valley FC both took victories on Saturday night to close the gap to Austin Bold FC in fourth place, and now square off in another crucial game for the hopes of both clubs. If there’s a little more urgency on one side, it’s likely to be with the Toros, who have played one game more than New Mexico and as a result have a narrower margin of error. If United takes all three points at home, though, it would jump past Austin into fourth place and be in control of its path to the postseason with seven games to go in the season for both clubs.
It’s do-or-die time for Hartford Athletic in Thursday night’s nationally televised contest on ESPN Deportes as the fourth-placed Charlotte Independence visit Dillon Stadium. There’s currently a 10-point margin between the two sides with the sixth-placed Athletic sitting with eight games to go in the season, meaning they need a win to cut into Charlotte’s advantage. Should Hartford do so, it could make things a little more interesting down the stretch for both themselves and the Charleston Battery. If the Independence take victory, though, it could be curtains for both the teams below the playoff line with seven games to go.
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