Memphis 901 FC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC square off this Saturday night in a top-four clash in the Eastern Conference that is key for positioning for both clubs. | Photo courtesy Eric Glemser / Memphis 901 FC
It’s that time of year. While it may still only be August, a confirmed place in the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs is coming into view for the top teams in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.
We’ll be providing regular updates on where everyone stands, providing both Magic Numbers and standings projections from fivethirtyeight.com until the bracket is set in just over two months for the postseason after October 15’s final day of the regular season.
Ahead of this weekend’s action in Week 23, here are four games to watch, and the big picture of where everyone in the Championship stands in this year’s playoff picture.
Longtime rivals Orange County SC and Phoenix Rising FC square off with both in the unfamiliar position of being below the playoff line at this point of the season. For Orange County – currently last in the West – this is almost a must-win, and for Phoenix earning a victory on the road would be a big boost as it looks to put pressure on the other teams it’s currently fighting for what look like two open spots as it stands. That should make for a compelling contest at Orange County’s home venue.
The first of Saturday night’s top-four contests in the East sees fourth-placed Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC hoping to jump past third-placed Memphis 901 FC on its home turf. The sides are separated by two points in the standings going in, with the Hounds having emerged with victory when they visited 901 FC on the opening day of the season in March. If Memphis can get a result here, it would then have the chance to take advantage of its game in hand on the Hounds and push toward a top-three finish and first home playoff game in club history.
This is the marquee matchup we’ve all been waiting for since the Tampa Bay Rowdies took a 1-0 win in June against Louisville City FC at Al Lang Stadium. Now separated by a point with LouCity holding first place and the Rowdies in second, this game is one of the biggest in the Championship’s regular season history. A win for Louisville would put it not only four points ahead, but also sitting with a game in hand to try and add to that lead. If the Rowdies take their fourth consecutive win in the series, though, it should set up a battle to the finish line.
2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Finalist Sacramento Republic FC is currently in fifth place in the Western Conference but could find its way into a home playoff game if things fall its way. Taking victory on the road against a Monterey Bay F.C. side that is still in contention for a playoff spot in its inaugural season would be big for the visitors as MBFC comes off short rest after defeat to San Diego Loyal SC on Wednesday night.
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