Memphis 901 FC heads to face Louisville City FC on Saturday night in a game that will shape the final position for the two playoff-bound squads ahead of the postseason. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
The field for the 2021 USL Championship Playoffs could be set by the end of this weekend’s game with the trio of FC Tulsa, New Mexico United and the LA Galaxy II in control of their chances going into road contests on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
There’s still a lot to play for above the playoff line, however, with one division title, top two positions still undecided in three of the four divisions, and the best record in the regular season yet to be determined. As we approach a historic final day of the regular season on October 30 that will see 30 of the league’s 31 teams in action, there’s still plenty that could change in the current picture.
Here are four games to keep an eye on this weekend, and where everyone stands with two weekends to go.
Louisville City FC and Memphis 901 FC are both securely in the playoffs, but their meeting on Saturday night at Lynn Family Stadium offers a recent rematch of a contest 901 FC claimed for its first victory against Louisville in the all-time series between the teams and a game where both sides are fighting to retain position in the standings. Louisville enters the weekend two points behind Birmingham Legion FC for first place in the Central, and if it drops points here and Legion FC takes victory on Sunday evening against Sporting Kansas City II, that gap would grow to at least four points, putting Birmingham in the clear as division title-winners before the two teams square off at Legion FC’s BBVA Field on the final weekend of the season. For Memphis, the road lies ahead to start their first postseason voyage, but it would probably prefer to hold onto third place ahead of FC Tulsa if it can or face a trip to the Tampa Bay Rowdies – who on Wednesday night tied a Championship single-season record for most home wins in a regular season. Getting a victory to stay ahead of FC Tulsa going to the final weekend would be big for the visitors and further boost their claim as a dark horse when the playoffs arrive.
The final playoff berth in the Mountain Division could be determined on Saturday night with Rio Grande Valley FC’s contest at home to current fourth-placed side New Mexico United at the center of the picture. If New Mexico can build on its 4-2 victory on Wednesday night against San Antonio FC at H-E-B Park and claim all three points it would clinch its third consecutive postseason berth as a win would move the side eight points ahead of the Toros and their two remaining games and also leave New Mexico clear of Austin Bold FC regardless of what happens in its game against San Antonio due to United holding the head-to-head tiebreaker on goal differential over Bold FC should the sides remain three points apart with an Austin victory at Toyota Field. If the Toros win, however, they would at least keep themselves in contention for the final spot, reducing the deficit to two points with two games to play to New Mexico’s one and producing a narrow path to the postseason for themselves.
The door to the postseason was opened slightly for both Tacoma Defiance and Oakland Roots SC on Wednesday night by the Charleston Battery thanks to their victory against the LA Galaxy II, but when the meeting between Tacoma and Oakland ended in a scoreless draw it only increased the odds that Los Dos will be the fourth team in from the Pacific Division when it’s all said and done. This meeting between the Defiance and Los Dos is now a must-win for the hosts as a draw would carry the Galaxy II to 40 points and drop Tacoma’s maximum available to 39, eliminating them from postseason contention. The Galaxy II can guarantee their postseason spot with a win here, though, and will likely be hoping to erase the memory of its east-coast trip quickly and lock up their third consecutive playoff trip in short order.
San Diego Loyal SC’s defeat to Orange County SC on Wednesday night reopened the battle for second place and a home game to open the postseason in the Pacific Division between the two sides. By the time SD Loyal takes to the field for its regular season home finale on Sunday afternoon it will know how Orange County fared on Saturday night against Las Vegas Lights FC and whether it needs all three points to hold onto second place going to the final weekend of the season. For Oakland, though, the need for three points is much more severe as without a win it could be eliminated from postseason contention by the end of the night. A victory for Roots SC combined with a win for Tacoma Defiance against the LA Galaxy II or a draw between the two sides would leave Oakland in with a chance on the final day of the season as it hosts Sporting Kansas City II. A draw or defeat would eliminate the side regardless of the result of the Tacoma-LA game earlier in the afternoon with Los Dos holding the head-to-head tiebreaker on goal differential over Roots SC.
Tag(s): San Antonio FC CO Spring Switchbacks LA Galaxy II OKC Energy FC Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC Portland Timbers 2 Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC FC Tulsa Charlotte Independence Louisville City FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds Tampa Bay Rowdies Birmingham Legion FC Austin Bold FC Memphis 901 FC El Paso Locomotive FC New Mexico United Hartford Athletic Tacoma Defiance San Diego Loyal SC Miami FC Oakland Roots SC