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Take Your Pick – Which Club will claim the Championship’s Players’ Shield?

By Staff, 09/19/23, 9:00AM EDT


A trio of teams are aiming at the first silverware of the season, which one has the run-in to make it happen?

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC's Albert Dikwa, Sacramento Republic FC's Luis Felipe Fernandes and the Tampa Bay Rowdies' Charlie Dennis will try to lead their teams to the USL Championship's Players' Shield in the final four weeks of the season.

There won’t be any major single-season records challenged in the USL Championship this season.

Unlike a year ago, when San Antonio FC was in the process of equaling the second-highest point total in campaign and equaling the regular season shutout record, no-one in the league can reach 70 points with four weeks of the season to go.

What that’s given us, however, is a serious battle for which club claims the first silverware of the season – the Players’ Shield.

Introduced last year as interconference play expanded across the two conferences, the Players’ Shield is awarded to the team with the best regular season record. This year, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Sacramento Republic FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies all have a shot to claim the prize, as well as homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

Here’s a look at what lies ahead for each club down the stretch, make your assessment and let us know which team you think will come out on top in then end in the poll below.

Think someone else will make a late run? Vote “Other” and let us know who you think will upset the odds on the USL Championship’s Social Media channels.

 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Record: 16-5-9, 57pts
Games Remaining: 4
Maximum Available Points: 69
Remaining Games: vs. New Mexico United (9/23), vs. FC Tulsa (9/30), at Tampa Bay Rowdies (10/7), at Detroit City FC (10/14)

Outlook: The Hounds have one fewer game remaining than both Republic FC and the Rowdies, a position that at this point becomes advantageous given Sacramento and Tampa Bay both have to win their game in hand to move level with Pittsburgh in the long-run. Home games against New Mexico United and FC Tulsa won’t be easy, but are at home, where the Hounds have earned a league-high 36 points in 15 games. Win those, and top spot could come down to the penultimate game of the season against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium before a Rust Belt duel with Detroit City FC to close the season.

 Sacramento Republic FC

Record: 15-5-9, 54pts
Games Remaining: 5
Maximum Available Points: 69
Remaining Games: vs. New Mexico United (9/20), at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (9/23), vs. Las Vegas Lights FC (10/1), at Rio Grande Valley FC (10/7), vs. Miami FC (10/14)

Outlook: On paper, Sacramento Republic FC currently appears to have the easiest remaining schedule of the three teams in contention. Four of the five teams it will face are below the playoff line going into Week 29, making the side’s trip to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC this weekend – with Colorado Springs in sixth place and fighting for a postseason berth – potentially the biggest test remaining. With three home games remaining – and Republic FC sitting currently with the best home record in the Western Conference – that could provide the edge for the side to not only claim first place in the conference for the first time since 2016 but finish ahead of its two Eastern Conference rivals.

 Tampa Bay Rowdies

Record: 16-7-6, 54pts
Games Remaining: 5
Maximum Available Points: 69
Remaining Games: vs. Memphis 901 FC (9/23), at Hartford Athletic (9/27), vs. Loudoun United FC (9/30), vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (10/7), at Louisville City FC

Outlook: The Rowdies have one more stint of three games in eight days to navigate, but the good news for the side is those games come against the teams filling the bottom two places in the Eastern Conference standings in Hartford Athletic and Loudoun United FC. It’s feasible to see the Rowdies win their next three outings – they’ll want to turn the tables on Memphis 901 FC this Saturday, and will have the advantage of Memphis visiting rival Birmingham Legion FC in midweek prior to that game – before their showdown at Al Lang Stadium with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. If Tampa Bay wins there, then all it has to navigate is the final game of the regular season away at Louisville City FC. Easy, right? Ha. 

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