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USL Race for the Playoffs – Sept. 27

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 09/26/17, 7:44PM EDT


Race for the USL Regular Season Championship features on Wednesday

The top teams in both the USL Eastern and Western Conferences take to the field on Wednesday night, as both Real Monarchs SLC and Louisville City FC continue the race for the USL Regular Season Championship in the first of their two road contests in Week 28 of the regular season.

The Monarchs hold a two-point lead on Louisville going into the night’s action, but have struggled of late to a four-game winless streak. That has allowed City to gain ground quickly with a 6-1-2 record in its last nine games. With four games to go in the regular season for both sides, and Reno 1868 FC still a potential challenger, Wednesday’s games could be key in deciding the first silverware of the regular season.

Further down the standings, there’s also a chance for Phoenix Rising FC to clinch its first postseason berth after league officials elected to allow the pre-emptive use of tiebreakers to determine postseason berths. As such, a win for Phoenix against Portland on Wednesday night would send the side to the postseason for the first time. 


1. Louisville City FC
Current Record:
 16-5-7, 55pts
Maximum Points Available: 67
Points Needed to Clinch: IN
Avg. Finishing Position: 1.0
Last Game: D 1-1 at Ottawa Fury FC
Next Game: 9/27 at Toronto FC II, 7:30 p.m. ET
Louisville could have built itself an even bigger lead in the Eastern Conference and moved level on points with Real Monarchs SLC on Sunday after its top two rivals in the standings both fell, but with a seven-point and its nearest two challengers for first having only three games remaining, it’s hard to see a scenario where Louisville isn’t the No. 1 seed in the East. A win against Toronto will clinch at least two home games in the postseason, but more importantly, it will put pressure on the Monarchs to match the result later in the night.

2. Charlotte Independence
Current Record:
 13-7-9, 48pts
Maximum Points Available: 57
Points Needed to Clinch: IN
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.0
Last Game: L 1-0 at Tampa Bay Rowdies
Next Game: 9/29 vs. FC Cincinnati, 7 p.m. ET
The team that benefits immediately from the decision to allow tiebreakers to be used pre-emptively to determine playoff position is the Independence, who cannot be overtaken by Orlando City B in total wins and as a result books its place in the postseason. While Charlotte is back in the postseason for a second consecutive season, though, it will be looking for a bounce-back performance when it hosts Cincinnati on Friday to try and hold onto second place in the standings. If it can, it would provide a boost to the others hovering around the red line directly below FCC.

3. Charleston Battery
Current Record:
 13-8-8, 47pts
Maximum Points Available: 56
Points Needed to Clinch: 1
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.3
Last Game: L 2-1 at Orlando City B
Next Game: 10/1 at Ottawa Fury FC, 2 p.m. ET
The Battery missed out on a chance to overtake the Independence for second place with their loss to Orlando City B and will get a second crack at clinching a playoff place on Sunday afternoon, when it visits Ottawa Fury FC in its first visit to TD Place.

4. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Current Record:
 12-7-8, 44pts
Maximum Points Available: 59
Points Needed to Clinch: 5
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.7
Last Game: W 1-0 vs. Charlotte Independence
Next Game: 9/27 at Bethlehem Steel FC, 3 p.m. ET
The Rowdies couldn’t have asked for a better set of results than those that arrived on Saturday night, which moved the side back into the top four immediately and opened up the chance to take second place in the Eastern Conference when it’s all said and done. That said, a pair of games against a talented Bethlehem Steel FC side that is also fighting for its playoff spot is going to be a challenge over the upcoming week.

5. Rochester Rhinos
Current Record:
 11-7-10, 43pts
Maximum Points Available: 55
Points Needed to Clinch: 6
Avg. Finishing Position: 4.8
Last Game: L 1-0 at Richmond Kickers
Next Game: 9/30 vs. Louisville City FC, 6:05 p.m. ET
Back-to-back draws have been followed by back-to-back defeats for the Rhinos, who have dropped out of the top four in the Eastern Conference as a result. With a visit from Eastern Conference-leader Louisville City FC up next for the Rhinos, getting some kind of bounce-back display is going to be important as it looks to avoid sliding any further.

6. FC Cincinnati
Current Record: 
10-9-10, 40pts
Maximum Points Available: 49
Points Needed to Clinch: 9
Avg. Finishing Position: 7.6
Last Game: D 2-2 at Saint Louis FC
Next Game: 9/29 at Charlotte Independence, 7 p.m. ET
Cincinnati’s dramatic late draw with Saint Louis earned the side a point, but wins for both Orlando City B and Bethlehem Steel FC put the pressure back on in the race for a playoff spot. FCC’s path doesn’t get easier, either, with Friday’s visit to Charlotte seeing the Independence in serious need of a win as well. The biggest question of all, though, is which FCC side will we see in action?

7. Orlando City B
Current Record:
 9-8-12, 39pts
Maximum Points Available: 48
Points Needed to Clinch: 10
Avg. Finishing Position: 7.9
Last Game: W 2-1 vs. Charleston Battery
Next Game: 10/1 at Richmond Kickers, 5 p.m. ET
Orlando’s late victory against the Charleston Battery pulled its playoff push back into focus, but the side still has the fewest available points of the four teams bunched between sixth and ninth positions going into this weekend’s action. Wins for the Charlotte Independence, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Pittsburgh Riverhounds would change that, though, and leave OCB with a chance to maintain its top-eight position at a venue in City Stadium where it has already claimed victory once this season.

8. Bethlehem Steel FC
Current Record:
 11-11-5, 38pts
Maximum Points Available: 53
Points Needed to Clinch: 11
Avg. Finishing Position: 6.7
Last Game: W 3-2 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Next Game: 9/27 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies, 3 p.m. ET
Steel FC’s victory against the Riverhounds not only moved Bethlehem back into the top eight, and put the side at an 84 percent chance to reach the postseason, but put a major dent in Pittsburgh’s hopes. Bethlehem can cement its position in the top eight this week as it squares off with the Tampa Bay Rowdies twice thanks to Wednesday’s rescheduled contest from Sept. 9 due to Hurricane Irma. With as much as is on the line for both teams, and the styles of soccer they bring, both should be must-see contests this week.

9. New York Red Bulls II
Current Record:
 11-12-5, 38pts
Maximum Points Available: 50
Points Needed to Clinch: 11
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.0
Last Game: L 4-2 at FC Cincinnati
Next Game: 9/30 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 4 p.m. ET
The Red Bulls II didn’t see things go their way over the weekend but still go into Saturday’s game with the Riverhounds in the knowledge that if they take care of their business from here out, a playoff place will be waiting for them. With a win, and some good results elsewhere over the week, the Red Bulls II could easily be back in the top eight by next Sunday night.

10. Saint Louis FC
Current Record:
 9-12-8, 35pts
Maximum Points Available: 44
Points Needed to Clinch: 14
Avg. Finishing Position: 10.6
Last Game: D 2-2 vs. FC Cincinnati
Next Game: 9/30 at Harrisburg City Islanders, 7 p.m. ET
Should Saint Louis miss out on the postseason for a third consecutive season, nights like Saturday are the ones that are going to hurt the most when the team looks back on its season. A lost two-goal lead and a dropped two points could prove crucial when it’s all over and means Saint Louis absolutely must win against the Harrisburg City Islanders on Saturday night.

11. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Current Record:
 8-10-11, 35pts
Maximum Points Available: 44
Points Needed to Clinch: 14
Avg. Finishing Position: 10.7
Last Game: L 3-2 at Bethlehem Steel FC
Next Game: 9/30 at New York Red Bulls II, 4 p.m. ET
The path to the playoffs is now a tricky one for the Riverhounds, who will likely need to win out in addition to getting plenty of help to earn a return trip to the postseason. That quest starts on Saturday against a New York Red Bulls II side that has won four consecutive games at MSU Soccer Park and has only lost to the Riverhounds once in six prior meetings between the teams.

12. Ottawa Fury FC
Current Record:
 7-9-12, 33pts
Maximum Points Available: 45
Points Needed to Clinch: 16
Avg. Finishing Position: 11.3
Last Game: D 1-1 vs. Louisville City FC
Next Game: 9/27 at Harrisburg City Islanders, 6:30 p.m. ET
Five consecutive victories, the past two in which Fury FC has hit the woodwork in stoppage time, have almost called time on Ottawa’s playoff hopes for this season. Both of this week’s games for Fury FC are now a must-win, or the side could be mathematically eliminated from postseason contention by the end of Sunday’s clash with the Charleston Battery.

13. Harrisburg City Islanders
Current Record:
8-14-7, 31pts
Maximum Points Available: 40
Points Needed to Clinch: 18
Avg. Finishing Position: 12.6
Last Game: W 2-1 vs. Toronto FC II
Next Game: 9/27 vs. Ottawa Fury FC, 6:30 p.m. ET
Harrisburg will get to try and continue its good recent run of form against Ottawa Fury FC on Wednesday night but would be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with a loss at FNB Field in either of its games this week.

14. Richmond Kickers
Current Record:
 7-14-8, 29pts
Maximum Points Available: 38
Points Needed to Clinch: 20
Avg. Finishing Position: 13.7
Last Game: W 1-0 vs. Rochester Rhinos
Next Game: 10/1 vs. Orlando City B, 5 p.m. ET
The Kickers continued to play spoiler on Saturday night, as they helped knock the Rochester Rhinos out of the top four in the Eastern Conference, and the teams hovering around the red line will be hoping Richmond can do the same when Orlando City B arrives at City Stadium in need of a victory to maintain its playoff push.

Eliminated: Toronto FC II


1. Real Monarchs SLC
Current Record:
 17-5-6, 57pts
Maximum Points Available: 69
Points Needed to Clinch: IN
Avg. Finishing Position: 1.3
Last Game: D 0-0 vs. Orange County SC
Next Game: 9/27 at Sacramento Republic FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
The pressure continued to build on the Monarchs after Friday night’s draw with Orange County SC, with both Louisville City FC and Reno 1868 FC in range to challenge for the USL Regular Season Championship. Real still has the best chance at the silverware thanks to Louisville’s draw on Sunday, but needs to break its four-game winless streak when it visits Sacramento Republic FC on Wednesday night.

2. Reno 1868 FC
Current Record:
 16-6-7, 55pts
Maximum Points Available: 64
Points Needed to Clinch: IN
Avg. Finishing Position: 2.5
Last Game: W 6-1 vs. Portland Timbers 2
Next Game: 9/27 vs. Real Monarchs SLC, 10 p.m. ET
Reno will be hoping for victories against both Toronto FC II and Sacramento Republic FC on Wednesday night to keep the door open on their path to top spot in the Western Conference and the USL Regular Season Championship. With the Monarchs having previously defeated Reno in their two meetings at Rio Tinto Stadium this season, there’s also the opportunity for revenge at hand for 1868 FC in the final meeting of the regular season between the clubs.

3. San Antonio FC
Current Record:
 14-4-10, 52pts
Maximum Points Available: 64
Points Needed to Clinch: IN
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.1
Last Game: L 1-0 vs. Rio Grande Valley FC
Next Game: 9/30 at Tulsa Roughnecks FC, 8 p.m. ET
San Antonio’s first back-to-back defeats of the season suddenly turned up the pressure on a top-three finish in the Western Conference, with the Swope Park Rangers now only a point back with four games to go in the regular season. Saturday’s trip to face Tulsa Roughnecks FC should also be a test, with the hosts looking to close in on a playoff position themselves at ONEOK Field.

4. Swope Park Rangers
Current Record:
 15-7-6, 51pts
Maximum Points Available: 63
Points Needed to Clinch: IN
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.5
Last Game: W 3-1 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Next Game: 9/27 vs. LA Galaxy II, 8:30 p.m. ET
Eight goals in two games put the Rangers into the postseason after Saturday night’s win, and the question now is whether Swope Park can edge higher in the standings by the end of the regular season. Wednesday night’s game against the Galaxy II offers a chance to put pressure on San Antonio FC in Saturday night’s slate of games and would also send the side closer to clinching at least one home playoff game as well.

5. Phoenix Rising FC
Current Record:
 13-7-7, 46pts
Maximum Points Available: 61
Points Needed to Clinch: 3
Avg. Finishing Position: 4.7
Last Game: W 4-0 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Next Game: 9/27 at Portland Timbers 2, 10:30 p.m. ET
Rising FC can clinch a place in the postseason for the first time on Wednesday night when it visits Portland by virtue of its superior win total to ninth-place Orange County SC, which would be unable to overtake Phoenix on wins in its final four games. Phoenix would need a win to earn its postseason spot, which might be a tougher ask than expected against a T2 side that has drawn twice in its last two home games, and almost took victory against first-place Real Monarchs SLC in its last game at Providence Park.

6. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Current Record:
 13-11-4, 43pts
Maximum Points Available: 55
Points Needed to Clinch: 7
Avg. Finishing Position: 6.4
Last Game: W 1-0 vs. LA Galaxy II
Next Game: 9/30 vs. Swope Park Rangers, 8 p.m. ET
The Roughnecks got back on a winning track against the Galaxy II, thanks to Joey Calistri’s first-half goal, and are now well on their way to a first postseason berth, sitting with a six-point cushion on ninth-place Orange County SC with four games to go for both teams. Saturday’s visit from the Swope Park Rangers could also provide a playoff preview and should bring some good entertainment to ONEOK Field.

7. Sacramento Republic FC
Current Record:
 12-9-6, 42pts
Maximum Points Available: 57
Points Needed to Clinch: 8
Avg. Finishing Position: 6.8
Last Game: L 3-1 vs. OKC Energy FC
Next Game: 9/27 vs. Real Monarchs SLC, 10:30 p.m. ET
Republic FC’s defeat to Energy FC was a major disappointment, especially given the early goals conceded, but not a real threat to Sacramento’s playoff hopes. With home games against first-place Real Monarchs SLC and the hottest team in the league in Phoenix Rising FC over the upcoming week, though, Sacramento will want to try and get itself back on track quickly to make sure there’s no added pressure from below.

8. OKC Energy FC
Current Record:
 11-11-7, 40pts
Maximum Points Available: 49
Points Needed to Clinch: 10
Avg. Finishing Position: 7.9
Last Game: W 3-1 at Sacramento Republic FC
Next Game: 10/1 vs. LA Galaxy II, 6 p.m. ET
Energy FC gained a fairly good grip on the final playoff place in the Western Conference with its remarkable road victory against Republic FC and now returns to Taft Stadium for its final three games of the season, knowing three wins will see it home. Some help along the way could arrive, though, with ninth-place Orange County SC set to visit 10th-place Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. A draw in that contest, and OKC would have added breathing room as it gets set to face the LA Galaxy II on Sunday.

9. Orange County SC
Current Record:
 9-9-10, 37pts
Maximum Points Available: 49
Points Needed to Clinch: 13
Avg. Finishing Position: 9.0
Last Game: D 0-0 at Real Monarchs SLC
Next Game: 9/30 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, 8 p.m. ET
Orange County was hoping it would get some help after its draw against Real Monarchs SLC on Friday night, but OKC Energy FC’s victory on Saturday left Orange County in a must-win situation when it visits the Switchbacks this Saturday. With Colorado Springs aiming to try and fight one more day with a win, the meeting is going to be one of the biggest of the weekend, as both try to keep their playoff hopes alive.

10. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Current Record:
 9-12-8, 35pts
Maximum Points Available: 44
Points Needed to Clinch: 15
Avg. Finishing Position: 10.0
Last Game: L 3-1 vs. Swope Park Rangers
Next Game: 9/30 vs. Orange County SC, 8 p.m. ET
The Switchbacks’ defeat to the Swope Park Rangers put the side closer to mathematical elimination, and now Colorado Springs needs to win out and get help from elsewhere if it’s to reach the playoffs for a third consecutive season. The Switchbacks would move into ninth with a win against Orange County on Sunday but then would have to hope for positive results elsewhere to lift its chances further.

11. Rio Grande Valley FC
Current Record:
 9-13-7, 34pts
Maximum Points Available: 43
Points Needed to Clinch: 16
Avg. Finishing Position: 10.9
Last Game: W 1-0 at San Antonio FC
Next Game: 9/30 vs. Swope Park Rangers, 8:30 p.m. ET
The Toros’ again kept their playoff hopes alive with victory against San Antonio FC, but the side still has less than a one percent chance of reaching the playoffs. If it can play spoiler again against the Swope Park Rangers on Saturday, though, the other teams in the upper tier of the Western Conference would certainly appreciate it.

12. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Current Record:
 9-16-4, 31pts
Maximum Points Available: 40
Points Needed to Clinch: 19
Avg. Finishing Position: 11.9
Last Game: L 1-0 vs. Phoenix Rising FC
Next Game: 10/7 at Tulsa Roughnecks FC, 8 p.m. ET
S2 doesn’t see action again until Oct. 7, when it visits Tulsa Roughnecks FC. With only 40 points available as the side’s maximum total, the chances are it will be mathematically eliminated by the time that game arrives.

Eliminated: LA Galaxy II, Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, Portland Timbers 2

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