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The Weekend: A long-awaited rematch, and a tension-filled rivalry

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 06/20/24, 5:30PM EDT


Here’s our guide for what to watch for in the USL Championship across a 10-game slate this weekend

El Salvador international Bryan Tamacas could be one of the key players when Oakland Roots SC visits NorCal rival Monterey Bay F.C. on ESPN2 this Saturday. | Photo courtesy Oakland Roots SC

The USL Championship nears the midway point of the regular season this weekend with a slate that includes one of the much-anticipated rematches from the 2023 campaign, a rivalry clash that not only closes the loop on a three-weekend saga, but also brings heat from a prior meeting this season, and an unexpected key game at the top of the Western Conference.

Here are three top storylines to know going in, and what else we’re keeping an eye on. Here’s where to watch all the action.


Phoenix Rising FC lifted the USL Championship Final trophy when it last squared off with the Charleston Battery last November. | Photo courtesy Michael Wiser / Charleston Battery

In this week’s USL All Access, Mike Watts said last year’s USL Championship Final between Phoenix Rising FC and the Charleston Battery was the best he and Devon Kerr have had the chance to call together. On Saturday night, the sides square off for the first time since that game as part of a doubleheader on ESPN2 with each in good position but looking to push on.

  • FALLING, RISING: Phoenix is undefeated in its last three games, but has drawn two of those on the road at Las Vegas Lights FC and El Paso Locomotive FC around a home win against Orange County SC. Currently in sixth, it’s well within reach of the top four but looking for more consistent output in attack where it’s scored 17 goals in 15 games.

  • BATTERY RELOAD: Goals were not a problem for the Charleston Battery early this season as the side surged into first place in the East. More recently, however, the side has struggled in front of goal and is on a 273-minute scoreless streak. Finding a way to re-ignite Golden Boot leader Nick Markanich and the side’s attack would be big this weekend to keep touch with current leader Louisville City FC at the top.

  • CHANCE FOR PAYBACK: In each of the past two years, the team that lost the final the previous season gained at least a little revenge in the regular season, with the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Louisville City FC downing Orange County SC and San Antonio FC respectively.

Both Rising and the Battery will be confident of their chances of returning to the Championship Final later this year. Getting one over here will likely be very satisfying.


Opening Saturday night’s action – and the doubleheader on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. ET – is a clash between Monterey Bay F.C. and Oakland Roots SC that will complete a three-way cycle of matchups between the Championship’s Northern California-based clubs that have spanned this month.

  • BAY BOUNCEBACK: Monterey Bay squared off with Sacramento Republic FC two weeks ago at Cardinale Stadium, and thanks to a pair of second-half goals and a shutout by Danny Vitiello the visitors came out on top with a 2-0 win. That result repeated itself last weekend on the road against North Carolina FC, dropping MBFC to seventh in the West.

  • ROOTS RISING: By contrast, Oakland went into Sacramento’s Heart Health Park last Saturday night and came away with their first road win in the series as Lindo Mfeka shone in a 3-2 victory. Combined with Wednesday night’s 2-1 win against El Paso Locomotive FC, Roots have won five of their last six games and are up to third in the standings.

  • TIGHTLY CONTESTED: This is only the sixth meeting between these clubs, but it’s been a hard-fought series so far. Monterey Bay’s first win in club history came against Roots in March 2022, and it took a 1-0 win earlier this season behind Chase Boone’s later winner to even the series at two wins apiece and one draw.

The aftermath of the first meeting between these clubs in April saw four players shown red cards and multiple-game suspensions doled out. That’s the background to what is becoming one of the more heated rivalries in the league.


Western Conference leader New Mexico United is perfect in five previous home meetings with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC as the sides prepare to meet on Saturday. | Photo courtesy Eric Lovato / New Mexico United

A few weeks ago, we wouldn’t necessarily have had New Mexico United hosting Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC as one of the key games at the top of the Western Conference, but right now it’s looking like a must-see at Isotopes Park on Saturday night.

  • KINGS OF CHAOS: New Mexico United’s continued ascent under Head Coach Eric Quill after last season’s drive to the playoffs has been one of the stories of this season. In Quill’s first calendar year in charge after his appointment on June 13, the side has gone 17-12-6, with only Orange County SC (19-9-5) having recorded more wins in the Western Conference.

  • BUMP IN THE ROAD: United has lost two of its last three since climbing to the top of the standings, however, including last weekend’s 2-1 defeat at Memphis 901 FC that saw the side throw everything at its hosts at AutoZone Park but come away without a result.

  • SWITCHBACKS’ ASCENT: That has allowed other clubs in the West to close the gap to the top two, with the Switchbacks among them. Colorado Springs is a club-record nine games undefeated (6-0-3) coming into this contest after a wild 3-3 draw against Las Vegas Lights FC on Tuesday night. If the Switchbacks can take their first win all-time at Isotopes Park, it would be within a point of United at the end of the night.

New Mexico’s home dominance is a story to watch here. United has won eight consecutive home games dating back to last season and is 5-0-0 with a +8-goal differential all-time at home to the Switchbacks, streaks it’ll be aiming to continue.  


Las Vegas Lights FC and Memphis 901 FC will decide the King's Cup - a golden Statuette of Elvis Presley - when they complete their regular season series on Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Chris Hill / Memphis 901 FC

  • #HFDvTBR – The Tampa Bay Rowdies have victories against Louisville City FC and Sacramento Republic FC in the last three weeks. They’ve also had missteps against opponents lower in the standings and have struggled on turf. That makes their trip to Hartford Athletic trickier than it first seems.

  • #INDvOC Indy Eleven will go for its ninth consecutive victory in front of the fans at the Mike, but we’re wondering which version of Orange County SC they’ll get after OCSC’s four losses in its past five games.

  • #MIAvLDN Loudoun United FC hasn’t previously posted a five-game undefeated streak in a single season. It has a great chance to do so against a Miami FC side that’s lost seven in a row.

  • #NCvPIT North Carolina FC has won consecutive games at home and Oalex Anderson is picking up steam with goals in four consecutive games for club and country. As much as Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC is struggling, it’s a big opportunity for the hosts.

  • #LOUvRILouisville City FC will try to make it eight consecutive wins at home to start the season after its midweek boost in Pittsburgh. Can Rhode Island spoil the party and pull off one of the shocks of the season after earning a draw at home when they first met?

  • #TULvSAC FC Tulsa has never defeated Sacramento Republic FC in 13 prior meetings but took a 1-1 draw at Heart Health Park earlier this season. With two defeats in their last three, Sacramento needs to be sharp here.

  • #LVvMEMMemphis 901 FC can claim the King’s Cup on Saturday having defeated Las Vegas Lights FC on the opening weekend of the season. And who wouldn’t want to take a gold figurine of Elvis Presley back to Graceland?

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