San Antonio FC and San Diego Loyal SC's top-two showdown in the Western Conference is among the key games in the playoff race this weekend. | Photo courtesy San Diego Loyal SC
Welcome to our latest look at the playoff picture across the USL Championship as we go into this weekend’s action, where five teams have claimed their postseason places in the Eastern Conference, but the Western Conference playoff race continues to offer plenty of intrigue after notable midweek victories for Rio Grande Valley FC and Monterey Bay F.C.
Here are four games to keep an eye on, and where everyone stands.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC clinched its playoff berth on Wednesday night after Louisville City FC’s 2-2 draw with FC Tulsa, but that result – and the bigger picture for both clubs – makes this a crucial game in terms of playoff seeding. For the Hounds, there the importance of picking up three points ahead of a second consecutive key game against Birmingham Legion FC next Wednesday night, while Louisville needs to take victory to ward off the potential challenge of the Tampa Bay Rowdies for top spot, and to try and remain in the hunt for the best record in the league with Western Conference leader San Antonio FC also facing its own challenging fixture later in the night.
Rio Grande Valley FC’s victory on the road against El Paso Locomotive FC on Wednesday night vaulted it into a projected playoff berth in the Western Conference according to fivethirtyeight.com’s projections, which have the Toros as the No. 7 seed ahead of the LA Galaxy II going into this weekend. There can’t be any let-up for the Toros, however, with the battle for the last two positions still firmly in the balance. For New Mexico, meanwhile, a rebound performance on the road against a side it has taken four points from in their prior two meetings this season would help relax some nerves and move United closer to a postseason return.
When San Diego Loyal SC took a 3-0 victory against San Antonio FC when the teams met at Torero Stadium last month, it opened the potential for this game to be for first place in the Western Conference. San Antonio’s rebound in form since then – and consecutive defeats for SD Loyal – have made this as much about San Diego holding off Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC for second place as it is for the visitors in closing the gap to top spot. San Antonio will be eager to turn the tables on SD Loyal back on home turf, meanwhile, and victory would also be another major boost in SAFC’s drive toward finishing with the best record in the regular season.
There is the underlying storyline of recently appointed Phoenix Rising FC Head Coach Juan Guerra facing his former club, but after Wednesday night’s victories for Rio Grande Valley FC and Monterey Bay F.C. this game is massive for both Rising FC and Roots SC’s playoff chances. Now sitting in 11th and 12th place respectively, both Phoenix and Oakland have less than a 20 percent chance of reaching the playoffs going into the weekend according to fivethirtyeight.com. For both teams, that makes this an absolute must-win to try and boost those odds and apply a devastating blow to their rival. A repeat of the 0-0 draw the teams played to in July, meanwhile, would be disastrous for both.
Tag(s): Features San Antonio FC CO Spring Switchbacks LA Galaxy II Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC FC Tulsa Louisville City FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds Tampa Bay Rowdies Las Vegas Lights FC Birmingham Legion FC Indy Eleven Memphis 901 FC El Paso Locomotive FC New Mexico United Loudoun United FC Hartford Athletic San Diego Loyal SC Miami FC Oakland Roots SC Race to the Playoffs Detroit City FC Monterey Bay F.C.