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USL Championship Playoff Projections – Oct. 22-24

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 10/22/21, 12:00PM EDT

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The playoff field could be set by the end of the weekend as Tulsa, New Mexico and Los Dos look to seal positions


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. 

Matches to Watch


Louisville City FC
Central
Saturday, October 23
7:30 PM ET
Lynn Family Stadium
Memphis 901 FC
Pacific

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. 

Rio Grande Valley FC
Mountain
Saturday, October 23
8:30 PM ET
H-E-B Park
New Mexico United
Pacific

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. 

Tacoma Defiance
Pacific
Sunday, October 24
4:30 PM ET
Cheney Stadium
LA Galaxy II
Pacific

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
Pacific
Sunday, October 24
6:00 PM ET
Torero Stadium
Oakland Roots SC
Pacific

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. 

Standings


Pacific Division

 

Pacific Division

Phoenix Rising FC
1. Phoenix Rising FC
Record: 20-5-5, 65pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
Projected Finish: 1st (Clinched)
Max. Points Available: 71pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. SAC (10/23)
Phoenix can clinch the best record in the Western Conference on Saturday night with a win against Sacramento Republic FC or should El Paso Locomotive FC drop points against OKC Energy FC on Sunday – should El Paso drop to a maximum of 65 points, Phoenix would hold the total wins tiebreaker for postseason hosting rights in absence of a head-to-head meeting between the sides – but is in second place in the overall order behind the Tampa Bay Rowdies thanks to the Atlantic Division title-winner holding the head-to-head tiebreaker from their regular season meeting after their 3-0 win against Miami FC on Wednesday night. If Rising FC wins out, it would need to see Tampa Bay drop points against either Loudoun United FC or Las Vegas Lights FC in its final two games, with both sides currently at the bottom of their respective divisions.
2. San Diego Loyal SC
2. San Diego Loyal SC
Record: 14-11-5, 47pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
Projected Finish: 2nd (67%)
Max. Points Available: 53pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next:vs. OAK (10/24)
San Diego still controls its path to second place and a home playoff game in spite of its loss to Orange County SC on Wednesday night, but it could be under pressure against Oakland Roots SC on Sunday to match the result Orange County has earned against Las Vegas Lights FC on Saturday to retain that control, especially now that OCSC holds the head-to-head tiebreaker between the sides with a 2-1-1 series record. That tiebreaker means that even if Orange County draws with Las Vegas, San Diego can’t move clear with a win on Sunday as it would still only hold a three-point lead. If Orange County loses to Las Vegas, however, San Diego would clinch second place with a victory against Roots SC and earn another game at Torero Stadium to open the playoffs.
3. Orange County SC
3. Orange County SC
Record: 13-10-7, 46pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
Projected Finish: 3rd (67%)
Max. Points Available: 52pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. LV (10/23)
Orange County moved within a point of San Diego Loyal SC with its victory on Wednesday night and could turn up the pressure further with a fourth consecutive win on Saturday when it welcomes Las Vegas Lights FC to Championship Soccer Stadium. Take victory there and OCSC can sit back and see how San Diego responds on Sunday at home to Oakland Roots SC, but a draw or defeat would leave Orange County likely locked into third place unless SD Loyal also slips up as well.
4. LA Galaxy II
4. LA Galaxy II
Record: 11-13-6, 39pts
Playoff Odds: 93%
Projected Finish: 4th (93%)
Max. Points Available: 45pts
Magic Number: 3pts
Up Next: at TAC (10/24)
The LA Galaxy II lost to the Charleston Battery on Wednesday night and still saw their playoff odds rise thanks to the draw later in the night between Tacoma Defiance and Oakland Roots SC. Los Dos can clinch a playoff spot with a win against Tacoma on its own, or a draw against the Defiance should Oakland fail to take victory on Sunday afternoon against San Diego Loyal SC. In the case of a draw, the Galaxy II would be clear of the Defiance on 40 points with Tacoma’s maximum dropping to 39 points, of Roots SC should it fail to take victory which would see its maximum drop to 39, and of Sacramento, which could still have a maximum of 40 points if it takes victory against Phoenix Rising FC on Saturday night but would be eliminated due to the Galaxy II holding the head-to-head tiebreaker between the sides on goal differential.
5. Oakland Roots SC
5. Oakland Roots SC
Record: 9-13-8, 35pts
Playoff Odds: 3%
Projected Finish: 5th (40%)
Max. Points Available: 41pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at SD (10/24)
Oakland is in a must-win situation against San Diego Loyal SC on Sunday after its draw with Tacoma Defiance on Wednesday night as any other result would leave it unable to pass the LA Galaxy II on 39 points regardless of the result between Los Dos and Tacoma earlier on Sunday, with a draw leaving it three points behind the Galaxy II but with LA holding the head-to-head tiebreaker between the squads. If Roots SC should come through with a win to move to 38 points, it would still be in with a shot should the Galaxy II fail to take victory against the Defiance as it goes to its final game of the regular season either one or two points back of Los Dos depending on whether LA’s game ends in a defeat or a draw.
6. Tacoma Defiance
6. Tacoma Defiance
Record: 9-13-8, 35pts
Playoff Odds: 3%
Projected Finish: 5th (37%)
Max. Points Available: 41pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next:vs. LA (10/24)
The Defiance missed a major opportunity to close the gap to the Galaxy II on Wednesday night after its draw against Oakland Roots SC and now must take victory against Los Dos on Sunday afternoon to keep its postseason chances alive. A draw would drop the Defiance to a maximum total of 39, which would leave Los Dos out of reach on 40 points.
7. Sacramento Republic FC
7. Sacramento Republic FC
Record: 8-12-10, 34pts
Playoff Odds: <1%
Projected Finish: 7th (57%)
Max. Points Available: 40pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at PHX (10/23)
Believe it or not, there’s still a way for Republic FC to reach the postseason if it takes victory in both of its final two games of the season, sees the LA Galaxy II lose both of its final two games, while both Oakland Roots SC and the Tacoma Defiance take a maximum of four points – including the Defiance beating the Galaxy II on Sunday – from their final two outings. All that has to happen to set that in motion is for Sacramento beat Phoenix Rising FC on the road on Saturday night, as a draw would see Republic FC eliminated.
Eliminated from Playoff Contention: Las Vegas Lights FC

Mountain Division

 

Mountain Division

2. El Paso Locomotive FC
1. El Paso Locomotive FC
Record: 17-3-10, 61pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
Projected Finish: 1st (Clinched)
Max Points Available: 67pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. OKC (10/24)
Locomotive FC produced an impressive response to its weekend defeat on Wednesday night against Austin Bold FC with Luis Solignac and Josue Aaron Gomez each recording outstanding finishes. There’s still an outside chance at the best record in the Western Conference as a result, should Phoenix Rising FC falter down the stretch and El Paso win out.
2. San Antonio FC
2. San Antonio FC
Record: 13-8-9, 48pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
Projected Finish:2nd (53%)
Max. Points Available: 54pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. ATX (10/23)
San Antonio’s loss to New Mexico United left it level on points with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC with two games to go apiece. The pressure would be on to take victory against Austin on Saturday night if the Switchbacks win against Real Monarchs SLC on Friday with the two sides set to meet at Toyota Field with the potential second place would be on the line. If Colorado Springs loses to the Monarchs, however, San Antonio would clinch second place with a victory against Bold FC, which would move the side three points ahead prior to October 30’s meeting with SAFC having clinched the head-to-head tiebreaker with two wins and a draw in their first three meetings.
3. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
3. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Record: 13-8-9, 48pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
Projected Finish: 3rd (51%)
Max. Points Available: 54pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at SLC (10/22)
Colorado Springs got a nice boost from New Mexico United’s victory against San Antonio FC on Wednesday night to remain level on points with San Antonio going into the final two games. The focus for the Switchbacks must be to take all three points against Real Monarchs SLC on Friday, which they failed to do when the teams last met on October 8, and then hope that Austin Bold FC can find some kind of result against San Antonio on Saturday. With SAFC holding the head-to-head tiebreaker, Colorado Springs would need to finish ahead of San Antonio to get the second-place finish and home playoff opener it is now in pursuit of.
4. New Mexico United
4. New Mexico United
Record: 11-9-10, 43pts
Playoff Odds: 80%
Projected Finish: 4th (76%)
Max. Points Available: 49pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at RGV (10/23)
It’s win-and-you’re-in time for New Mexico United after Wednesday night’s 4-2 victory against San Antonio FC as it heads to face Rio Grande Valley FC on Saturday night. A victory would send United to 46 points and drop the Toros’ maximum available points to 44 and would also put New Mexico clear of Austin Bold FC regardless of Austin’s result with San Antonio on Saturday with New Mexico holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Bold FC on goal differential. If United earns a draw, that wouldn’t be bad either but would necessitate a win in their final game against Real Monarchs SLC to be certain of advancement. A loss, though, would open a path for the Toros to pass them in the final week of the season.
5. Austin Bold FC
5. Austin Bold FC
Record: 10-10-10, 40pts
Playoff Odds: 2%
Projected Finish:6th (63%)
Max. Points Available: 46pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at SA (10/23)
After its defeat to El Paso Locomotive FC on Wednesday night, Bold FC must see New Mexico United fail to take victory against Rio Grande Valley FC on Saturday to stay alive in the playoffs race as a United win would move them clear of Austin on the head-to-head tiebreaker with at least a three-point lead and one game to go. If the Toros take a victory against New Mexico, the door remains open for Austin to remain alive with a positive result of its own as a win would move it level with United or within a point in the case of a draw. If Rio Grande Valley FC and New Mexico draw, Austin would need to win to stay alive to move within a point of New Mexico. If Bold FC should lose to San Antonio, however, it would be eliminated regardless of the result between the Toros and United, unable to pass New Mexico at a minimum of a three-point deficit with New Mexico holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.
6. Rio Grande Valley FC
6. Rio Grande Valley FC
Record: 10-11-8, 38pts
Playoff Odds: 18%
Projected Finish: 5th (47%)
Max. Points Available: 47pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. NM (10/23)
While New Mexico United’s victory on Wednesday night added to the pressure on both sides below them and below the playoff line, the Toros still have a path to get the playoff thanks to Saturday’s meeting between themselves and New Mexico at H-E-B Park. With a win, Rio Grande Valley would move within two points of United with a game in hand, leaving it with a chance to win out against Real Monarchs SLC and El Paso Locomotive FC – which by the final game of the season might not have anything left to play for in the standings – next week and pass New Mexico by a point. A draw would keep the ball in New Mexico’s court, though, and a loss for the Toros would end the race with United clinching its spot.
Eliminated from Playoff Contention: Real Monarchs SLC

Central Division

 

Central Division

1. Birmingham Legion FC
1. Birmingham Legion FC
Record: 17-7-6, 57pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
Projected Finish: 1st (64%)
Max. Points Available:63pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. SKC (10/24)
Legion FC will have a close eye on Louisville City FC’s clash with Memphis 901 FC on Saturday night. If LouCity fails to take victory, it can close out first place in the Central Division with a victory on Sunday evening against Sporting Kansas City II at BBVA Field.
2. Louisville City FC
2. Louisville City FC
Record: 16-7-7, 55pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
Projected Finish: 2nd (64%)
Max. Points Available: 61pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. MEM (10/23)
Louisville must take victory against Memphis 901 FC on Saturday night to ensure its chances of a first-place finish stay alive in the Central Division, but also as a means of a confidence boost. We’re used to see LouCity on the rise at this point of the season – they won six in a row to close out last year – not sitting on a two-game losing streak.
3. Memphis 901 FC
3. Memphis 901 FC
Record: 12-9-8, 44pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
Projected Finish: 3rd (54%)
Max. Points Available: 53pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at LOU (10/23)
Saturday night might prove the best test of 901 FC’s playoff mettle we’ll get before the postseason arrives. If you can get a result against a LouCity side that has to take victory to stay in with a chance to win the division, you can probably hang with anyone as you hit the road for the postseason. Getting a win would be even better, as it would keep Memphis ahead of Tulsa going to the final weekend of the season in control of third place.
4. FC Tulsa
4. FC Tulsa
Record: 13-12-4, 43pts
Playoff Odds: >99%
Projected Finish: 4th (54%)
Max. Points Available: 52pts
Magic Number: 1pt
Up Next: at IND (10/23)
Tulsa needs just a draw to clinch its playoff place on Saturday as it visits Indy Eleven after a comprehensive 4-0 victory against Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday night. A win could also see the side jump into third place ahead of Memphis 901 FC as it faces Louisville City FC on Saturday night, but even in the case of a loss, Head Coach Michael Nsien’s side would also lock up a postseason spot if OKC Energy FC fails to take victory on the road at El Paso Locomotive FC, which hasn’t lost at home in 24 consecutive games, on Sunday.
5. OKC Energy FC
5. OKC Energy FC
Record: 8-9-13, 37pts
Playoff Odds: <1%
Projected Finish: 5th (73%)
Max. Points Available: 43pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at ELP (10/24)
Energy FC has to hope for a victory for Indy Eleven on Saturday night against FC Tulsa, and then to accomplish something that hasn’t happened since July 24, 2020 in beating El Paso Locomotive FC on their home turf at Southwest University Park. If Tulsa earns a draw on Saturday, though, OKC is eliminated before they decide the Black Gold Derby on October 30.
Eliminated from Playoff Contention: Indy Eleven, Atlanta United 2, Sporting Kansas City II

Atlantic Division

 

Atlantic Division

1. Tampa Bay Rowdies
1. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Record: 21-7-2, 65pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
Projected Finish: 1st (Clinched)
Max. Points Available: 71pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at LDN (10/23)
The Tampa Bay Rowdies earned the best record in the Eastern Conference with their comprehensive victory against and remain on course for the best record in the league thanks to their head-to-head tiebreaker over Phoenix Rising FC. Now all they need to do is close out with road victories against Loudoun United FC and Las Vegas Lights FC and the road to the USL Championship Final runs through Al Lang Stadium.
3. Charlotte Independence
2. Charlotte Independence
Record: 16-9-4, 52pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
Projected Finish: 2nd (72%)
Max. Points Available: 61pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at HFD (10/22)
The Independence have three games to go, and if they win out to continue their current four-game winning streak, they’ll end in second place in the Atlantic Division and earn a home playoff game. Avoiding dropped points on the road against a Hartford Athletic side they’ve won three out of three against so far this season is the focus next on Friday night.
3. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
3. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Record: 15-8-7, 52pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
Projected Finish: 3rd (68%)
Max. Points Available: 58pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. CHS (10/23)
The Hounds can still make a run at second place in the Atlantic with victory against the Charleston Battery on Saturday night, but they would also need the Charlotte Independence to drop points in two of their final three games to pass them with Charlotte holding the head-to-head tiebreaker after winning three of the four meetings between the teams this season.
4. The Miami FC
4. The Miami FC
Record: 14-9-7, 49pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
Projected Finish: 4th (93%)
Max. Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. NY (10/24)
Miami FC is looking set for the fourth spot in the Atlantic after succumbing to the Tampa Bay Rowdies without registering a shot on target on Wednesday night. Getting a positive result against the New York Red Bulls II on Sunday in its home finale would be a good way to restore some morale after being held scoreless in consecutive outings.
Eliminated from Playoff Contention: Charleston Battery, Hartford Athletic, New York Red Bulls II, Loudoun United FC

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