The Tampa Bay Rowdies' Steevan Dos Santos and Louisville City FC's Wesley Charpie could again square off on Saturday night as the top two teams in the Eastern Conference meet for another potential epic. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies
At both Louisville City FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies, there are rivalries that sit closer to home.
For LouCity, it’s the annual rivalry with Indy Eleven and the Louisville Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest.
For the Rowdies, it’s the Sunshine State feud with Miami FC that has been rekindled over the past three seasons.
When Louisville and Tampa Bay square off, though, it’s the most consequential series currently ongoing in the USL Championship.
Consider this – since the Rowdies joined the USL Championship in 2017, these two teams have won the five Eastern Conference titles up for grabs in that span. The past three seasons, they’ve met in the USL Championship Playoffs, the past two for a place in the USL Championship Final.
Beyond that, the two sides have dominated the Eastern Conference over the regular season. Since the start of 2017, no team has earned more points than Louisville City FC’s 333 in 170 regular season games, an average of 1.96 points-per-game. Second to them in the East is Tampa Bay, which has notched 304 points in 171 regular season games, an average of 1.78ppg.
Add LouCity’s 14 playoff victories and Tampa Bay’s seven – more than any other teams in the Eastern Conference – and you can understand why Saturday’s showdown between the sides at what could be a sold-out Lynn Family Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN+) means so much to both clubs.
“It’s going to be an intense game, two very good teams, and hopefully we can come out on the front foot and play the football that I know we’re capable of,” said LouCity Head Coach Danny Cruz. “They’re very well coached, I have a lot of respect for [Rowdies Head Coach] Neill [Collins], he’s done an excellent job since he’s come in there. Every single time we play them it’s always a good game, and I’m expecting the same this weekend.”
“Louisville are always highly motivated to win,” added Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “They’ve won a lot of games. The players have been just fantastic in training. That is, for me, always the most important thing. If you’re doing it in training right, you give yourself the best chance for Saturday.”
Currently separated by one point at the top of the Eastern Conference, LouCity enters on an eight-game undefeated streak (7-0-1), and the Rowdies on a 13-game streak (11-0-2). When the teams last met, it marked the last time Louisville suffered a defeat as Leo Fernandes’ penalty kick proved decisive in the Rowdies’ 1-0 win at Al Lang Stadium on June 5.
With the Rowdies having won the last three meetings overall – including last year’s extra time thriller in the Eastern Conference Final before a sold-out Al Lang Stadium – the stage is now set for another epic.