Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies
There have officially been seven places locked up in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs after this past weekend's action, and both Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and the Charleston Battery look set to add themselves to the field in the Eastern Conference by the end of this week's contests.
That leaves seven positions open over the final three weeks of the season, with four spots up for grabs in the Eastern Conference and three available in the Western Conference.
With so much still to be decided in the race for the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs after the major turns of the past weekend's action and the finish line coming into view, we're curious as to who you think will be part of this season's playoffs from the remaining contenders in each conference.
Check out the capsules below and let us know who you think will end up with the chance to compete for the USL Cup in October in the rankings.
5. Bethlehem Steel FC
Record: 13-12-6, 45pts
Last Five Games: W-W-L-L-W
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoffs Odds: 85%
Remaining Games: 9/30 at Ottawa Fury FC; 10/6 at Indy Eleven; 10/14 vs Tampa Bay Rowdies
Outlook: Steel FC picked up a much-needed three points last time out against Toronto FC II to climb into fifth place in the East, but can the side carry that momentum into its final three games – all of which come against teams just below it in the standings – to secure a place in the field?
6. Indy Eleven
Record: 12-9-9, 45pts
Last Five Games: D-D-W-L-L
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoffs Odds: 81%
Remaining Games: 9/26 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies; 9/29 at FC Cincinnati; 10/6 vs. Bethlehem Steel FC; 10/13 at Louisville City FC
Outlook: Indy Eleven currently controls its own destiny with four games to play, but faces a difficult stretch run that begins on Wednesday when it hosts the red-hot Tampa Bay Rowdies. With games against current top-five opponents to follow down the final stretch, will Indy pick up enough points to stay above the playoff line?
7. New York Red Bulls II
Record: 10-8-12, 42pts
Last Five Games: D-W-L-D-D
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoffs Odds: 41%
Remaining Games: 9/29 at Nashville SC; 10/6 at North Carolina FC; 10/9 at Penn FC; 10/14 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Outlook: Given the amount of games they have against the teams chasing them, the Red Bulls II control their destiny but haven’t been able to win a game on the road all season. Can New York turn around its road form at the most important time of the season to make the postseason for a fourth consecutive year?
8. Ottawa Fury FC
Record: 12-14-5, 41pts
Last Five Games: L-L-W-W-L
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoffs Odds: 18%
Remaining Games: 9/26 at Toronto FC II; 9/30 vs. Bethlehem Steel FC; 10/13 vs. Charleston Battery
Outlook: Fury FC didn’t look like a playoff team in its 4-0 loss at Louisville City FC last time out, but it still has a hold on the eighth spot in the East as play begins this week. The projections the rest of the way are against Fury FC, can Ottawa turn things around – starting on Wednesday at Toronto FC II – to pick up enough points to stay above the playoff line?
9. North Carolina FC
Record: 11-10-8, 41pts
Last Five Games: W-L-D-W-W
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoffs Odds: 75%
Remaining Games: 9/26 at Charleston Battery; 9/29 vs. Richmond Kickers; 10/6 vs. New York Red Bulls II; 10/9 at Louisville City FC; 10/13 at Charlotte Independence
Outlook: With its 6-1 thumping of ATL UTD 2 on Friday and Nashville’s subsequent draw on Saturday, North Carolina FC moved up to ninth place in the Eastern Conference and is just below the playoff line on the total-wins tiebreaker. NCFC has games in hand on the teams above it in the East, can the side make the most of them to join the postseason field?
10. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Record: 11-12-7, 40pts
Last Five Games: W-L-W-W-W
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoffs Odds: 32%
Remaining Games: 9/26 at Indy Eleven; 10/3 at ATL UTD 2; 10/6 vs. Charlotte Independence; 10/14 at Bethlehem Steel FC
Outlook: The Rowdies are the in-form team outside the top four in the Eastern Conference right now but have three of their final four games away from home starting on Wednesday night against sixth-place Indy Eleven. Tampa Bay can see the playoffs from here, but can they do enough – and get enough help from other teams dropping points – to be part of the postseason field?
11. Nashville SC
Record: 10-9-10, 40pts
Last Five Games: W-L-D-L-D
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoffs Odds: 66%
Remaining Games: 9/26 at ATL UTD 2; 9/29 vs. New York Red Bulls II; 10/6 at Richmond Kickers; 10/9 vs. Toronto FC II; 10/13 vs. FC Cincinnati
Outlook: Nashville has hit a blip of form of late, but still has enough games remaining to make up the deficit and work its way into the playoff field. Can the side take advantage of a busy, yet relatively easier schedule – which includes matches against each of the East’s bottom three sides – to make the playoffs in its inaugural season?
12. Charlotte Independence
Record: 9-11-10, 37pts
Last Five Games: L-W-W-D-D
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoffs Odds: 1%
Remaining Games: 9/29 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC; 10/3 at Penn FC; 10/6 at Tampa Bay Rowdies; 10/13 vs. North Carolina FC.
Outlook: The Independence are four points below the playoff cutoff with four games remaining and will need to do better than the home draw the side managed last time out against the New York Red Bulls II. Can Charlotte pick up enough wins – especially from its three matches against playoff contenders – and get enough help to qualify for the postseason for a third straight year?
13. Penn FC
Record: 9-13-8, 35pts
Last Five Games: L-W-L-L-L
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoffs Odds: 1%
Remaining Games: 9/26 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC; 10/3 vs. Charlotte Independence; 10/9 vs. New York Red Bulls II; 10/13 vs. Toronto FC II
Outlook: Penn’s recent three-game losing run put the side in a difficult situation, needing to make up six points with just four games remaining in the regular season. With each of those matches coming at home, can Penn pick up enough victories to make things interesting?
Photo courtesy Mark Guthrel / Saint Louis FC
6. Swope Park Rangers
Record: 14-10-8, 50pts
Last Five Games: W-W-L-W-D
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoffs Odds: 90%
Remaining Games: 10/3 at Sacramento Republic FC; 10/14 vs. LA Galaxy II
Outlook: Swope Park’s 2-0 home victory over San Antonio on Wednesday was a huge step towards securing a playoff spot for the third year in a row. Can the Rangers finish the deal with three points over its last two games or will it have to hope SAFC drops points down the stretch to back their way in?
7. Saint Louis FC
Record: 13-8-10, 49pts
Last Five Games: L-W-D-W-W
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoffs Odds: 96%
Remaining Games: 9/29 at Phoenix Rising FC; 10/10 vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC; 10/13 vs. OKC Energy FC
Outlook: Saint Louis is the form team outside of the top-five in the Western Conference and its 2-0 win over San Antonio FC on Saturday was crucial in moving the club closer to its first trip to the USL Cup Playoffs. STLFC has opened a six-point gap over SAFC with three games to play, but will it be able to carry its recent momentum down the stretch – which begins with a tough trip to Phoenix – to secure a spot?
8. Reno 1868 FC
Record: 12-7-10, 46pts
Last Five Games: W-D-L-W-D
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoffs Odds: 89%
Remaining Games: 9/26 vs. Rio Grande Valley FC; 9/29 vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC; 10/3 at Portland Timbers 2; 10/6 at Phoenix Rising FC; 10/13 vs. Orange County FC
Outlook: Reno missed out on an opportunity to put some more distance between itself and San Antonio by conceding late in a 3-3 draw against Las Vegas Lights FC on Saturday, but Head Coach Ian Russell’s side will still like its chances of holding its three-point advantage with two games in hand. Can Reno take advantage of two easier home games – starting on Wednesday against RGVFC – to take the pressure off before a stretch of three games against top-five sides to close the season?
9. San Antonio FC
Record: 12-12-7, 43pts
Last Five Games: W-W-L-L-L
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoffs Odds: 25%
Remaining Games: 9/29 vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2; 10/6 vs. Las Vegas Lights FC; 10/13 vs. Rio Grande Valley FC
Outlook: San Antonio’s three-game losing streak couldn’t have come at a worse time as the side now sees itself three points outside the playoff places with three games to go, but it will like its chances to win all three of those matches on home turf against sides outside the playoff picture. Can SAFC take care of business – starting Saturday against Seattle – and get enough help from those above it to sneak into a playoff spot?
10. OKC Energy FC
Record: 11-14-6, 39pts
Last Five Games: W-L-L-W-D
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoffs Odds: <1%
Remaining Games: 9/29 at Las Vegas Lights FC; 10/3 at Real Monarchs SLC; 10/13 at Saint Louis FC
Outlook: After Sunday’s 0-0 home draw with Sacramento Republic FC, Energy FC will need nothing short of a miracle to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. With three difficult road games remaining, can OKC pull off a string of upset wins and get a lot of help from the sides facing Reno – which would need to fail to pick up three points over its five remaining games – to overcome the odds?