Both Louisville City FC's Brian Ownby (left) and Phoenix Rising FC's Didier Drogba have recorded three goals this postseason to lead their sides to the 2018 USL Cup on Thursday night.
This year’s USL Eastern Conference champion Louisville City FC and Western Conference champion Phoenix Rising FC were only separated by three points in the final regular season standings, but ahead of their showdown for the 2018 USL Cup on Thursday night it’s defending champion LouCity that is projected as a strong favorite to lift the trophy at Lynn Stadium.
According to fivethirtyeight.com’s overnight update after the matchup was set, Louisville sits at 70 percent to win the championship for the second consecutive season. The highest-ranked USL side in the website’s world soccer rankings at No. 226 with a 47.8 rating, Louisville’s nine-game winning streak entering the final has pushed the club to impressive heights.
On top of that, Louisville has history on its side. The home team has claimed victory in all seven previous editions of the USL Cup, while Louisville has taken victory in every home playoff game in its history, moving to 10 victories and no defeats after its 5-1 win against the New York Red Bulls II on Friday night.
But if there’s a side built to upset the odds it may be Rising FC, which is in unprecedented territory in its history. Phoenix had never claimed a postseason victory prior to this year’s playoffs, but its run to the Western Conference Championship saw the side take victory against both the defending conference champion in the Swope Park Rangers, and then defeat top-seeded Orange County SC on Saturday night to book its first trip to the USL Cup.
With Rising FC sitting at No. 383 in the fivethirtyeight.com world rankings at a rating of 37.1, the numbers are against the visitors on Thursday night, but with Phoenix looking to send out Didier Drogba with one final trophy – and the legendary forward in good form with goals in each of their three prior playoff outings this year – there’ll certainly be plenty of belief that Rising FC can make its own history and become the first road side to lift the USL Cup.
The 2018 USL Cup is set for Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET with the game being broadcast live in the United States on ESPN2 and to more than 50 countries around the world on ESPN International.