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USL Championship Power Rankings – Preseason

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/09/22, 5:00PM EST


Defending title-holders Orange County get the honor of top spot as the season begins

Hello, and welcome back to your favorite series every season.

Yes, it’s Power Rankings time again, where we take what we think we know about the 2022 USL Championship campaign, add in some gut instinct, and rank accordingly.

This idea is not a new one, of course. You can probably go back to 1936 for the potential origins of what are now ubiquitous across digital media in sports when the Associated Press decided it would start ranking the Top 25 college football teams in the country on a weekly basis.

(At least we don’t decide a champion that way, as they used to.)

The idea – as always – is to deliver a barometer for where every team stands in the moment, and potential discussion for those that are rising and falling, and why.

With that said, here’s where we stand as the new season kicks off.

Atlanta United 2 Birmingham Legion FC Charleston Battery Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC Detroit City FC El Paso Locomotive FC Hartford Athletic Indy Eleven
LA Galaxy II Las Vegas Lights FC Loudoun United FC Louisville City FC Memphis 901 FC The Miami FC Monterey Bay F.C. New Mexico United
New York Red Bulls II Oakland Roots SC Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC San Antonio FC
San Diego Loyal SC Tampa Bay Rowdies FC Tulsa





1 Orange County SC
Week 1: @ COS
Ronaldo Damus is back, Cubo Torres has landed, and there’s plenty of returning quality across the squad for the defending title holder. Saturday’s opener and playoff rematch at Colorado Springs will be one of the games of the weekend.
2 Tampa Bay Rowdies
Week 1: @ BHM
Tampa Bay’s defensive unit had almost unmatched continuity over the past two seasons, but even with the departure of Forrest Lasso and Evan Louro after award-winning seasons you’d expect that foundation to remain firmly in place this year.
3 Louisville City FC
Week 1: v. ATL
Cameron Lancaster’s preseason injury is a blow, but the depth LouCity has added to its returning core will keep it right there in the contenders. The club’s best regular season saw it earn 66 points in 2018, that could be surpassed this campaign.
4 Phoenix Rising FC
Week 1: v. MB
For the first time in a while Phoenix isn’t rated as the preseason favorite by After putting up five goals in its preseason finale against FC Tucson, though, the new-look attack sure seems ready to maintain a remarkably high standard.
5 San Antonio FC
Week 1: v. DET
Last year’s Western Conference Finalist was one of the toughest teams to play in the league last season and lived on the edge when it came to physicality. Championship newcomer Detroit City FC will likely be aware, and ready, as it heads to Toyota Field on Saturday
6 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Week 1: @ MEM
Five wins out of six in preseason has seen Dane Kelly find the net alongside his new teammates. The Hounds look in really good shape as they get ready to start season five under Bob Lilley.
7 San Diego Loyal SC
Week 1: v. LA
SD Loyal was hyped for the start of last season, and then lost four consecutive games out of the chute. Don’t expect that to happen again as Landon Donovan’s side welcomes a Galaxy II side it swept across four meetings last season to Torero Stadium to start this campaign.
8 The Miami FC
Week 1: v. NY
Last season’s progression and the club’s offseason additions have Miami looking on paper in a really good spot. Three points from Saturday’s opening game against the New York Red Bulls II would add to that optimism about where new Head Coach Anthony Pulis’ side is headed.
9 Sacramento Republic FC
Week 1: v. ELP
The overhaul conducted on Republic FC’s roster was filled with major moves, all of which look really strong on paper. Saturday’s visit from El Paso Locomotive FC should be appointment viewing and could be the start of something big at Heart Health Park this season.
10 El Paso Locomotive FC
Week 1: @ SAC
There are a lot of quality players returning for Locomotive FC this season, but last season’s underlying numbers said there might have been some major overperformance. Saturday’s test at Sacramento might give us an idea of where Locomotive FC is now.
11 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Week 1: v. OC
The Switchbacks rolled up seven goals in each of their final two preseason games. If they’ve got the defense sorted out with new goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell between the sticks, this squad could be extremely dangerous this season.
12 Birmingham Legion FC
Week 1: v. TBR
Birmingham’s new-look attack will get to take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ newly organized defense in the club’s first regular season game at Protective Stadium on Sunday in what could be the key area of the contest on ESPN2.
13 New Mexico United
Week 1: v. LV
Neco Brett’s addition to New Mexico United’s squad gives the club something it’s not had before – a consistent goalscorer. That’s going to be music to Chris Wehan and the rest of United squad’s ears as they look to become a consistent threat in the attacking third.
14 Indy Eleven
Week 1: @ LDN
The Mark Lowry era begins at Indy Eleven on Saturday with a visit to Loudoun United FC. After missing the postseason for two consecutive years, getting out to a strong start this season would be a big boost for what looks like a solid squad.
15 FC Tulsa
Week 1: @ CHS
FC Tulsa has added size and quality in both the defensive and attacking thirds, but the biggest question is which player is going to be the consistent goalscorer a top contender typically needs to have if Head Coach Michael Nsien’s side is going to be a serious contender?
16 Rio Grande Valley FC
Week 1: v. OAK
The Toros look like they’ve got a solid foundation in defense and midfield, but aside from Frank Lopez the attack is looking a little light, and its unlikely they’ll be able to surprise anyone this season as they did at the start of 2021.​
17 Oakland Roots SC
Week 1: @ RGV
Roots SC surprised a lot of people with its first-year success, and with new Head Coach Juan Guerra at the helm the side has added some interesting new pieces for the new season. Saturday’s opening game at RGVFC could be a sleeper pick in terms of intriguing matchups.
18 Detroit City FC
Week 1: @ SA
From the outside, it sure seems like Detroit City FC likes a challenge. Getting to visit a San Antonio FC team that’s gone 14-3-7 at home over the past two regular seasons for your inaugural game in the league is certainly that.
19 Memphis 901 FC
Week 1: v. PIT
Memphis saw two major pieces in defender Mark Segbers and Kyle Murphy depart this offseason, which leaves two big questions – who can fill Murphy’s goalscoring shoes, and who’s the new emergency goalkeeper?
20 Charleston Battery
Week 1: v. TUL
The Battery got their new era under Head Coach Conor Casey to a rousing start with a preseason win against MLS expansion side Charlotte FC. As the club kicks off its 30th anniversary season, the expectations are raised at Patriots Point.
21 Hartford Athletic
Week 1:BYE
Playmaker Danny Barrera is a difference-maker with 44 regular-season assists in his career. He’s going to need someone else to step up if Hartford’s going to vie for serious playoff contention.
22 Monterey Bay F.C.
Week 1: @ PHX
The road to Cardinale Stadium’s opening begins at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix on Saturday night for Head Coach Frank Yallop’s squad. It’s going to take every ounce of focus to come away with an opening night result.
23 Atlanta United 2
Week 1: @ LOU
Atlanta gets the unenviable task of going to Louisville for its first game of the season. A four-goal preseason outing against League One’s Greenville Triumph SC this past weekend delivered a positive to build on, though.
24 LA Galaxy II
Week 1: @ SD
Los Dos has lost five times in seven all-time meetings with San Diego Loyal SC, and it gets to go to Torero Stadium to kick off the new season on Saturday. Not the easiest assignment.
25 Las Vegas Lights FC
Week 1: @ NM
Las Vegas notched a 3-0 victory against defending title-holder Orange County SC this preseason. Then again, it beat Toronto FC 5-1 in preseason in 2019, so I’m going to need more convincing.
26 New York Red Bulls II
Week 1: @ MIA
The Red Bulls II have some dynamic attacking pieces, but it’s got to be so much better defensively if it’s going to come out of its opening game at Miami with a result.
27 Loudoun United FC
Week 1: v. IND
One of Loudoun United’s four victories last season was a 4-1 triumph against Indy Eleven, its visitors on Saturday. Lightning can’t strike twice, can it?

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