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USL Championship Race to the Playoffs – August 12-14

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 08/11/22, 2:00PM EDT

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The top four in the Eastern Conference square off as our road to the postseason begins


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.

Orange County SC
August 12 | 10:00 p.m. ET
Championship Soccer Stadium
Phoenix Rising FC

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.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
August 13 | 7:00 p.m. ET
Highmark Stadium
Memphis 901 FC

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.

Louisville City FC
August 13 | 7:30 p.m. ET
Lynn Family Stadium
Tampa Bay Rowdies

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.

Monterey Bay F.C.
August 13 | 10:00 p.m. ET
Cardinale Stadium
Sacramento Republic FC

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.

Standings


Western Conference

2. San Antonio FC
1. San Antonio FC
Record: 17-4-2, 53pts
Playoff Odds: >99%
Projected Finish: 1st (81%)
Max. Points Available: 86pts
Magic Number: 10
Up Next: vs. LV (8/13)
San Antonio rebounded from last weekend’s setback in San Diego with a victory against Loudoun United FC and remains on course to earn the best record in the league, with a chance at rivalling some of the best points and win totals in a single season in league history. After taking a 2-0 win against Las Vegas Lights FC when the teams met recently at Cashman Field, SAFC will be aiming for a season sweep to remain in control at the top.
2. San Diego Loyal SC
2. San Diego Loyal SC
Record: 15-5-4, 49pts
Playoff Odds: >99%
Projected Finish: 2nd (64%)
Max. Points Available: 79pts
Magic Number: 14
Up Next: at BHM (8/13)
SD Loyal closed out its homestand with a fifth consecutive victory on Wednesday night, defeating Monterey Bay F.C. to set a new club record. It faces a quick turnaround and travel to face Birmingham Legion FC on Saturday, though, with the hosts coming in on a strong run of form themselves after three consecutive victories, and six-goal outings in two of those wins.
3. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
3. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Record: 13-8-2, 41pts
Playoff Odds: 97%
Projected Finish: 3rd (31%)
Max. Points Available: 74pts
Magic Number: 22
Up Next: vs. ELP (8/12)
The Switchbacks have been going through a downturn in form of late with a four-game winless streak, but they have a chance to stabilize their third-place position against an El Paso Locomotive FC squad that’s not only lost four games in a row but hasn’t scored in that run. The bad news? The last team El Paso did score against was Colorado Springs in a 1-0 victory on July 9, a result the Switchbacks will want to reverse this time around.
4. New Mexico United
4. New Mexico United
Record: 10-5-8, 38pts
Playoff Odds: 94%
Projected Finish: 3rd (25%)
Max. Points Available: 71pts
Magic Number: 25
Up Next: at LA (8/14)
New Mexico’s consecutive defeats last week – including to the chasing Sacramento Republic FC – put the side in a position where it could end up as high as third, or as low as fifth in the final standings. Getting Kevaughn Frater back into the attack with the club’s other weapons is a good sign, but United could really use a confidence-boosting win against an LA Galaxy II side that is right in the middle of the battle around the playoff line on Sunday evening.
7. Sacramento Republic FC
5. Sacramento Republic FC
Record: 10-5-7, 37pts
Playoff Odds: 94%
Projected Finish: 4th (28%)
Max. Points Available: 73pts
Magic Number: 26
Up Next: at MB (8/13)
Republic FC is undefeated in its last four games after its dramatic equalizer from Rodrigo Lopez last Saturday night against Rio Grande Valley FC. With a game in hand on both Colorado Springs and New Mexico, it’s got a shot at finishing in the top three and will be eager to continue that drive on the road against NorCal rival Monterey Bay F.C. in one of this weekend’s big games.
2. El Paso Locomotive FC
6. El Paso Locomotive FC
Record: 9-10-6, 33pts
Playoff Odds: 45%
Projected Finish: 7th (16%)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at COS (8/12)
Things were looking well set for Locomotive FC a few weeks ago, but a four-game losing streak has dragged the side back into the battle for a playoff position. The problem El Paso faces is it only has nine games remaining, fewer than all its rivals for the sixth and seventh spot. That means it’s got to maximize its output over the home stretch to ensure it returns to the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season, starting on Friday against Colorado Springs.
2. El Paso Locomotive FC
7. Las Vegas Lights FC
Record: 9-8-6, 33pts
Playoff Odds: 34%
Projected Finish: 8th (15%)
Max Points Available: 66pts
Magic Number: 30
Up Next: at SA (8/13)
The closest Las Vegas Lights FC has come to a playoff berth in its history was in 2019 when it finished five points back in what was to date the best season in club history. Head Coach Enrique Duran has his side playing organized and opportunistic soccer this season, and if Lights FC can earn a result on the road in San Antonio on Saturday it would be a nice boost to the current potential finish for the side​.
4. LA Galaxy II
8. LA Galaxy II
Record: 9-11-4, 31pts
Playoff Odds: 40%
Projected Finish: 7th (15%)
Max. Points Available: 61pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. NM (8/14)
Los Dos couldn’t take advantage of its chances on the road against Loudoun United FC this past weekend but has been very good at home overall this season. Even with Preston Judd serving the second game of his caution accumulation suspension on Sunday evening against New Mexico United, the hosts will be keen to get back into the win column and keep pace with the other teams clustered around the playoff line.
Phoenix Rising FC
9. Phoenix Rising FC
Record: 8-10-5, 29pts
Playoff Odds: 40%
Projected Finish: 7th (14%)
Max. Points Available: 62pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at OC (8/12)
This is not the spot we expected Phoenix Rising FC to be in at the start of the season, and now the two-time Western Conference title winner is going to have to fight its way above the line. The good news for Rising FC is it currently sits even with Monterey Bay F.C. for the seventh-highest potential points available in the West. A win against Orange County on Friday night would go a long way to boosting Rising FC’s chances and put another dent in the chances of the defending title holders of reaching the playoffs​.
5. Oakland Roots SC
10. Oakland Roots SC
Record: 6-7-11, 29pts
Playoff Odds: 22%
Projected Finish: 10th (16%)
Max. Points Available: 59pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at DET (8/13)
Oakland Roots SC faces the same problem as El Paso Locomotive FC – it needs fast points and has fewer games to get them in than its rivals. That’s added to by Roots SC being below the playoff line currently, but if there’s something we learned from a season ago it’s that this side can finish strongly. A victory on the road against Detroit City FC could be a tough ask, but it’s almost necessary to put the pressure on the other teams around the playoff line.
6. Rio Grande Valley FC
11. Rio Grande Valley FC
Record: 7-11-5, 26pts
Playoff Odds: 20%
Projected Finish: 12th (17%)
Max. Points Available: 59pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at SA (8/20)
Nothing is quite going right for the Toros currently, just look at their late concession to Sacramento Republic FC last Saturday that took two points away from their playoff bid. Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera’s side has been a tough team to face all season, but it’s got to start picking up wins. On the road against South Texas Derby rival San Antonio FC next weekend would be a great place to start.
6. Rio Grande Valley FC
12. Monterey Bay F.C.
Record: 8-12-2, 26pts
Playoff Odds: 12%
Projected Finish: 12th (22%)
Max. Points Available: 62pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. SAC (8/13)
Monterey Bay F.C.’s six-game undefeated streak came to an end on Wednesday night against San Diego Loyal SC, but it’s still got an outside chance at making the playoffs in its first season thanks to having 12 games left to play. The next four games will be crucial, though, with a visit from NorCal rival Sacramento Republic FC being followed by contests against New Mexico United, the LA Galaxy II and a rematch with SD Loyal.
3. Orange County SC
13. Orange County SC
Record: 5-10-8, 23pts
Playoff Odds: 3%
Projected Finish: 13th (50%)
Max. Points Available: 56pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. PHX (8/12)
Orange County SC is looking likely to become just the second defending title holder to miss the postseason the year after it won the title given its current predicament. Not all is lost yet, but a victory against Phoenix Rising FC on Friday night is basically a must to try and kick-start a late drive up the standings.

Eastern Conference

2. Louisville City FC
1. Louisville City FC
Record: 15-3-4, 49pts
Playoff Odds: >99%
Projected Finish: 1st (54%)
Max. Points Available: 85pts
Magic Number: 10
Up Next: vs. TBR (8/13)
Louisville City FC currently holds the inside track for first place in the Eastern Conference. With a one-point lead over the Tampa Bay Rowdies and a game in hand, even a draw at home on Saturday night against their closest rival would keep that position, with the potential to extend their lead with one more game to play. If LouCity falls to the Rowdies for the fourth consecutive outing, however, we’re likely to have a fight to the finish for top spot.
1. Tampa Bay Rowdies
2. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Record: 14-3-6, 48pts
Playoff Odds: >99%
Projected Finish: 2nd (40%)
Max. Points Available: 81pts
Magic Number: 11
Up Next: at LOU (8/13)
The Tampa Bay Rowdies can move into first place with a victory against Louisville City FC on Saturday night, and probably need to if they’re to challenge for top spot and a bye to the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the playoffs with LouCity holding a game in hand. If the Rowdies don’t earn victory, they could quickly come under pressure from Memphis 901 FC, which sits with an equal maximum available points mark going into this weekend.
3. Memphis 901 FC
3. Memphis 901 FC
Record: 14-5-3, 45pts
Playoff Odds: >99%
Projected Finish: 3rd (30%)
Max. Points Available: 81pts
Magic Number: 14
Up Next: at PIT (8/13)
Memphis 901 FC is part of the other top-four clash in the Eastern Conference this weekend as it visits Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. The side is on a good course to host its first playoff game in club history right now, but a win would strengthen its position for a top-three finish. All it has to do is beat a Hounds side that has won its last three games and is undefeated in seven overall.
3. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
4. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Record: 13-6-4, 43pts
Playoff Odds: >99%
Projected Finish: 4th (32%)
Max. Points Available: 76pts
Magic Number: 16
Up Next: vs. MEM (8/13)
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC faces almost the same scenario as the Tampa Bay Rowdies do in their respective quests for a top-three finish and first-place finish. The Hounds can overtake third-place Memphis 901 FC with a victory at home this weekend, but if they miss out then 901 FC – holding a game in hand – could put clear water between the two clubs as LouCity can with Tampa Bay at the top.
1. Birmingham Legion FC
5. Birmingham Legion FC
Record: 12-6-5, 41pts
Playoff Odds: >99%
Projected Finish: 5th (39%)
Max. Points Available: 74pts
Magic Number: 17
Up Next: vs. SD (8/13)
Birmingham Legion FC’s recent run of form looks like its solidified its place in the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season, and there’s still a chance for the Three Sparks to host a playoff game if things go right. A victory at home to San Diego Loyal SC on Saturday in what should be a fascinating matchup would go a long way to that aim, as would Memphis doing Birmingham a favor and taking points off Pittsburgh. (Yes, we’ve reached the point where you’re going to have unorthodox rooting interests for the rest of the season.)
1. Birmingham Legion FC
6. Detroit City FC
Record: 9-5-8, 35pts
Playoff Odds: 87%
Projected Finish: 7th (34%)
Max. Points Available: 71pts
Magic Number: 24
Up Next: vs. OAK (8/13)
Detroit City FC has been magnificent all season and is looking well set for a playoff berth in its first season in the Championship. A win at home to familiar foe Oakland Roots SC would go a long way to maintaining the separation between Le Rouge and eighth-placed FC Tulsa.
4. The Miami FC
7. The Miami FC
Record: 9-8-7, 34pts
Playoff Odds: 89%
Projected Finish: 7th (39%)
Max. Points Available: 64pts
Magic Number: 25
Up Next: at ATL (8/13)
Miami FC’s defeat to FC Tulsa on Wednesday night left the door open in the playoff race, with Tulsa now just six points back of the seventh spot going into this weekend’s action. Miami will want to put that result behind it and at least maintain that separation as it heads to Atlanta this weekend.
4. FC Tulsa
8. FC Tulsa
Record: 8-12-4, 28pts
Playoff Odds: 22%
Projected Finish: 8th (53%)
Max. Points Available: 58pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. IND (8/20)
FC Tulsa doubled its playoff odds with Wednesday night’s victory against Miami FC, bringing potential life to a playoff race that looked close to done. Now Tulsa will be hoping for favors from Atlanta United 2 and Oakland Roots SC this Saturday night as it looks on waiting for its game on August 20 against Indy Eleven.
5. OKC Energy FC
9. Indy Eleven
Record: 6-12-4, 22pts
Playoff Odds: 3%
Projected Finish: 9th (45%)
Max. Points Available: 58pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at HFD (8/13)
Indy’s form is unfathomably poor currently, but if there’s anything it can take from this week its that nothing is lost until the final curtain comes down. A revival has to start on the road in Hartford on Saturday night, though, otherwise it’s probably the end of any realistic hopes of a playoff place.
5. OKC Energy FC
10. Loudoun United FC
Record: 5-15-3, 19pts
Playoff Odds: < 1%
Projected Finish: 11th (28%)
Max. Points Available: 51pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. ATL (8/20)
The playoffs are out of reach – if not officially, but certainly the numbers don’t add up for a revival here – for Loudoun United FC, but the performance it put up against San Antonio FC on Wednesday night should be a warning for any contender that has to square off with this group down the stretch. Underestimate them at your peril.
5. OKC Energy FC
11. Hartford Athletic
Record: 4-14-5, 17pts
Playoff Odds: < 1%
Projected Finish: 10th (35%)
Max. Points Available: 50pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. IND (8/13)
There’s likely not a way back into the playoff race for Hartford this season, so the least it can try to do now is drag everyone else down. Indy Eleven needs a victory on Saturday night to get back into the playoff race, and Hartford will look to play spoiler.
5. OKC Energy FC
12. Atlanta United 2
Record: 4-17-4, 16pts
Playoff Odds: < 1%
Projected Finish: 13th (36%)
Max. Points Available: 43pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. MIA (8/13)
Atlanta United 2 had a lead and a man-advantage against the New York Red Bulls II in the second half on Tuesday night and found a way to lose. FC Tulsa will be hoping it can muster a better performance against Miami FC on Saturday night.
5. OKC Energy FC
13. Charleston Battery
Record: 3-16-4, 13pts
Playoff Odds: < 1%
Projected Finish: 12th (25%)
Max. Points Available: 46pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at NY (8/12)
The Battery are going to miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season this year. Now they’ll be aiming to take victory against the New York Red Bulls II on Friday night to ward off the potential for a last-placed finish.
5. OKC Energy FC
14. New York Red Bulls II
Record: 3-17-3, 12pts
Playoff Odds: < 1%
Projected Finish: 14th (61%)
Max. Points Available: 45pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. CHS (8/12)
The Red Bulls II rallied while down a man to take a 2-1 win against Atlanta United 2 on Tuesday night. That earned the club’s third win of the season – and a sweep of Atlanta in their series – and meant a New York win against Charleston on Friday night would move the hosts out of last-place in the standings.

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