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Race to the Championship Playoffs – Oct. 8-10

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 10/07/19, 10:49AM EDT

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Half the playoff places in the West are taken, and two more could be by the end of Thursday night


The USL Championship Playoffs are in sight for El Paso Locomotive FC when it plays host to Austin Bold FC on Thursday night. | Photo courtesy Ivan Pierre Aguirre / El Paso Locomotive FC

More than half the places in the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs have been claimed after a wild weekend of action, and another two in the Western Conference could be sealed in this week’s midweek slate which wraps up with a fascinating Thursday night clash between Copa Tejas rivals El Paso Locomotive FC and Austin Bold FC.

Here’s where everything stands with two weeks to go in the regular season.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1.Phoenix Rising FC
1. Phoenix Rising FC
Record: 23-3-6, 75pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (Clinched)
Max Points Available: 81pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. SLC (10/12)
It was an utterly absurd contest, Phoenix’s 5-3 win against the Portland Timbers 2 on Saturday, but the win kept Phoenix on course to set new records for wins and points in a regular season and opened the door for Sacramento and Orange County to earn their places in the playoffs. Rising FC’s return home to host the Monarchs could be a preview of the Western Conference Semifinals, with Real currently sitting with the best chance of the No. 4 seed going into this week.
2. Fresno FC
2. Fresno FC
Record: 16-8-8, 56pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 2nd (56 percent)
Max Points Available: 62pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. LA (10/12)
Fresno’s swoon since ending Phoenix’s winning streak is starting to get unnerving, although it needs to be said the 4-1 scoreline against Tacoma reflected how clinical the Defiance were in their finishing. The good news for the Foxes was that Reno failed to take victory as well, so they have a two-point edge in the race for second place going into the final two games of the season and are still slight favorites to hold on.
3. Reno 1868 FC
3. Reno 1868 FC
Record: 16-10-6, 54pts
Playoff Odds >Clinched
Projected Final Position: 3rd (51 percent)
Max Points Available: 60pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @LV (10/12)
1868 FC has U.S. U-23 National Team goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski to thank for its point against El Paso Locomotive FC, and with some slightly sharper finishing of their own the hosts might have grabbed all three points against the visitors. We now get the most significant Silver State Cup showdown of the short rivalry series’ history, however, with Las Vegas Lights FC still alive in the playoff race and coming off back-to-back victories as it welcomes Reno to Cashman Field.
4. Sacramento Republic FC
4. Sacramento Republic FC
Record: 14-12-6, 48pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 5th (22 percent)
Max Points Available: 54pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. OC (10/12)
Sacramento clinched its sixth consecutive playoff berth on Saturday night thanks to its win against Tulsa and the defeats of both Portland and San Antonio. If it’s going to stay in fourth place, though, its final two games of the season are going to be crucial, starting with Saturday’s visit from Orange County. In terms of variance, Republic FC could end up hosting a Wednesday Conference Quarterfinal (19 percent) or a play-in round game (32 percent) depending on how this plays out.
5. Orange County SC
5. Orange County SC
Record: 13-9-9, 48pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 4th (26 percent)
Max Points Available: 57pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @SLC (10/9), @SAC (10/12)
Welcome to judgement week, Orange County. After a 2-0 win against OKC Energy FC on Saturday that was more of a demolition than the final score let on – OCSC didn’t allow its visitors a shot – Head Coach Braeden Cloutier’s side gets to take on its two biggest rivals for fourth place head-to-head. First up is Wednesday’s trip to Real Monarchs SLC, which is going to be must-see viewing.
6. Real Monarchs SLC
6. Real Monarchs SLC
Record: 13-10-7, 46pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 4th (27 percent)
Max Points Available: 58pts
Magic Number: 2pts
Upcoming: vs. OC (10/9), @PHX (10/12)
The Monarchs could consider putting all of their eggs in one basket this week since a victory against Orange County on Wednesday night would not only clinch a place in the playoffs but also vault them past both OCSC and Republic FC into fourth before it hosts Sacramento on the final day of the regular season. Now would be an ideal time for Real’s dominance at Zions Bank Stadium – where it is 21-5-5 all-time – to shine through.
7. Austin Bold FC
7. Austin Bold FC
Record: 13-11-7, 46pts
Playoff Odds 98 percent
Projected Final Position: 8th (19 percent)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number: 2pts
Upcoming: @ELP (10/9)
Austin closed in on a playoff place thanks to defeats for San Antonio and Portland on Saturday night, and it’s hard to envision the playoff field without Bold FC at this point. Whether it can avoid the play-in round is potentially going to be determined over the next two games, especially with a motivated El Paso Locomotive FC side playing host on Thursday night at Southwest University Park. Victory for either side not only clinches a playoff spot but keeps hope alive of finishing in the top six.
8. El Paso Locomotive FC
8. El Paso Locomotive FC
Record: 12-9-10, 46pts
Playoff Odds 98 percent
Projected Final Position: 6th (20 percent)
Max Points Available: 55pts
Magic Number: 2pts
Upcoming: vs. AUS (10/10)
Locomotive FC will have left Greater Nevada Field wondering what more it could have done to get a winner past Reno goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski, which would have clinched the side a playoff place later in the night thanks to losses from San Antonio and Portland. As it stands, a home contest against Austin offers a chance for a celebration at Southwest University Park on Thursday night if the side can defeat Bold FC, which would also put Locomotive FC in strong position to end in the top six.
9. LA Galaxy II
9. LA Galaxy II
Record: 11-10-11, 44pts
Playoff Odds 65 percent
Projected Final Position: 10th (32 percent)
Max Points Available: 50pts
Magic Number: 4pts
Upcoming: @FRS (10/12)
The Galaxy II’s loss on the road against Colorado Springs could have been a disaster for their playoff hopes. Thanks to San Antonio and Portland also capitulating, Los Dos still have a three-point edge on both teams with two games to go for SAFC and three for T2. If the Galaxy II can go on the road and take points from Fresno FC in the same way Tacoma did on Saturday, the door to the postseason opens wide again.
10. New Mexico United
10. New Mexico United
Record: 10-9-12, 42pts
Playoff Odds 82 percent
Projected Final Position: 9th (27 percent)
Max Points Available: 51pts
Magic Number: 6pts
Upcoming: @TUL (10/12)
New Mexico would have been hoping for more from its home game against the Toros than a 1-1 draw but can’t have too many complaints after the way the game played out. The better news was that both San Antonio and Portland lost, putting NMU back above the playoff line. Two wins from its last three games will be enough for the playoffs; will United get the first on Saturday on the road against the Roughnecks?

11. San Antonio FC
11. San Antonio FC
Record: 11-13-8, 41pts
Playoff Odds 41 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (37 percent)
Max Points Available: 47pts
Magic Number: 7pts
Upcoming: @POR (10/11)
The postseason starts now for SAFC after its defeat in Las Vegas. Anything but victory on the road in Portland is probably going to drop its maximum points total far enough that both the Galaxy II and New Mexico will be able to surpass it easily. The problem? T2 faces exactly the same situation, which means Friday night’s contest at Providence Park is going to be a must-see with both club’s seasons on the line.
12. Las Vegas Lights FC
12. Las Vegas Lights FC
Record: 11-13-8, 41pts
Playoff Odds 10 percent
Projected Final Position: 12th (41 percent)
Max Points Available: 47pts
Magic Number: 7pts
Upcoming: vs. RNO (10/12)
There might be some things you might not like about Lights FC, but you can’t deny it’s making this far more fun and interesting than it has any right to be. Two wins from two in the quest for a four-game winning streak after defeating San Antonio on Saturday night and Silver State Cup rival Reno 1868 FC coming to Cashman Field next? That’s entertainment. The tricky bit? Lights FC has yet to record a three-game winning streak in the league in its first two seasons. No time like the present for Eric Wynalda’s men.
13. Portland Timbers 2
13. Portland Timbers 2
Record: 10-13-8, 38pts
Playoff Odds 6 percent
Projected Final Position: 13th (34 percent)
Max Points Available: 47pts
Magic Number: 10pts
Upcoming: vs. SA (10/11)
Portland’s efforts to rally despite being down to 10 men, and Austin Ledbetter’s mindboggling moment that helped it along, made Saturday night’s game incredibly fun for those that saw it. Unfortunately, it meant that T2’s season could come down to this Friday night’s game against San Antonio. Defeat for either side might be the end of the line, which means it should be compelling viewing.
14. OKC Energy FC
14. OKC Energy FC
Record: 9-12-11, 38pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 14th (47 percent)
Max Points Available: 44pts
Magic Number: 10pts
Upcoming: vs. RGV (10/13)
Energy FC wrote itself into the Championship history book as the first team since the league started using Opta in 2017 to not register a single shot in a game in its loss to Orange County. The end of the season can’t arrive soon enough.

Eliminated: Rio Grande Valley FC, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Tacoma Defiance, Tulsa Roughnecks FC

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
1. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Record:17-4-11, 62pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (49 percent)
Max Points Available: 68pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @STL (10/12)
Riverhounds SC’s draw against Atlanta opened the door a fraction for others to keep the pressure on and Hounds fans will likely have a close eye on Nashville’s contest with Louisville City FC on Tuesday night. A tough test on the road against a Saint Louis side that has yet to clinch its playoff berth is next for Head Coach Bob Lilley’s side before ending the season away to a side in a similar situation in Birmingham Legion FC.
2. Indy Eleven
2. Indy Eleven
Record:18-9-5, 59pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 3rd (29percent)
Max Points Available: 65pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @TBR (10/12)
Indy’s return to form against Memphis 901 FC showed how important homefield advantage might be to Head Coach Martin Rennie’s side, but if it’s going to get a top-two finish it’s going to need to figure things out on the road this weekend, with the Rowdies needing to take victory to jump back past the Eleven and into a chance at hosting at least one playoff game themselves.
3. Nashville SC
3. Nashville SC
Record:17-7-7, 58pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 1st (39 percent)
Max Points Available: 67pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. LOU (10/8), vs. NC (10/12)
No-one outside of Pittsburgh is in as good a position as Nashville to take a top-two spot going into the final two weeks of the regular season after all three of Indy, New York and Tampa Bay dropped points in the past seven days. Louisville City FC’s visit on Tuesday night to open NSC’s three-game homestand to end the regular season sees the defending champions on a 10-game undefeated streak and in with an outside chance at a top-four finish itself, though.
4. New York Red Bulls II
4. New York Red Bulls II
Record:17-9-6, 57pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 5th (28 percent)
Max Points Available: 63pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: @BHM (10/16)
New York is in a precarious position going into its last bye week of the season, but there were silver linings to be drawn from its loss to North Carolina FC, which saw Alex Tambakis put in a stellar display as the visitors outshot their hosts comfortably. With the rest of the top five seeing some challenging contests this week, New York will be hoping for some chaos to leave it poised to pick up some positions in the standings next week.
5. Tampa Bay Rowdies
5. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Record:16-7-9, 57pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 5th (31 percent)
Max Points Available: 63pts
Magic Number: N/A
Upcoming: vs. IND (10/12)
Tampa Bay missed out in a big way in its loss on the road to Loudoun, which ramps up even more pressure on the Rowdies to take all three points when Indy Eleven visits this Saturday night. A win there and Tampa Bay could be all set for at least a top-three finish, but anything else and the side could be looking at hitting the road for the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
6. Louisville City FC
6. Louisville City FC
Record:15-7-9, 54pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 6th (51 percent)
Max Points Available: 63pts
Magic Number:N/A
Upcoming: @NSH (10/8), vs. SPR (10/12)
Louisville’s victory on the road against Saint Louis coupled with the missteps of New York and Tampa Bay left a window open to a top-four finish for the defending champion. All it has to do now is complete a season-sweep of Nashville when it visits First Tennessee Park on Tuesday night, which would pull LouCity level with the fourth- and fifth-place sides and only a point back of NSC with two games to go. That’s easier said than done, but Louisville’s form says it’s a possibility.
7. North Carolina FC
7. North Carolina FC
Record:15-9-8, 53pts
Playoff Odds Clinched
Projected Final Position: 7th (72 percent)
Max Points Available: 59pts
Magic Number: N/As
Upcoming: @NSH (10/12)
North Carolina is officially into the postseason field but is going to do well to improve its station and avoid the play-in round when the playoffs arrive in two weeks. Those chances will become clearer before the club’s trip to Nashville SC on Saturday, with NSC taking on sixth-place Louisville City FC – which sits one point ahead of NSC with a game in hand – on Tuesday night.
8. Ottawa Fury FC
8. Ottawa Fury FC
Record:13-9-9, 48pts
Playoff Odds >99 percent
Projected Final Position: 8th (82percent)
Max Points Available: 57pts
Magic Number: 2pts
Upcoming: @SPR (10/8), vs. BST (10/12)
Fury FC was helped greatly by the draw between Birmingham Legion FC and the Charleston Battery and Saint Louis FC’s defeat to Louisville City FC, putting the side in position to clinch a playoff place with victory on Tuesday night against the Swope Park Rangers and almost certain to host a play-in round game. The Rangers have been tricky customers of late, however, and Ottawa is going to have to be focused to pick up all three points.
9. Saint Louis FC
9. Saint Louis FC
Record:11-11-9, 42pts
Playoff Odds 78 percent
Projected Final Position: 9th (39 percent)
Max Points Available: 51pts
Magic Number: 8pts
Upcoming: @LDN (10/9), vs. PIT (10/12)
Saint Louis’ loss to Louisville City FC still leaves it with work to do to clinch a playoff place, and after seeing the Tampa Bay Rowdies fall to Loudoun United last Friday night the trip to Segra Field on Wednesday is going to potentially be trickier than it might have been previously expected. The two sides played to a 2-2 draw when they first met this season and that’s the sort of result that if replicated could raise some added nerves in the STLFC camp.
10. Birmingham Legion FC
10. Birmingham Legion FC
Record:11-13-7, 40pts
Playoff Odds 43 percent
Projected Final Position: 11th (54 percent)
Max Points Available: 49pts
Magic Number: 10pts
Upcoming: @HFD (10/9)
On paper, Saturday’s draw benefitted the Charleston Battery more than it did Legion FC, which is looking like it might be the team left without a chair when the music stops. Taking victory on the road against an improved Hartford Athletic side on Wednesday night – while hoping that Saint Louis drops points on the same night in Loudoun – could get things shifted in Birmingham’s favor quickly, however.

11. Charleston Battery
11. Charleston Battery
Record:9-9-13, 40pts
Playoff Odds 78 percent
Projected Final Position: 9th (43 percent)
Max Points Available: 49pts
Magic Number: 10pts
Upcoming: vs. LDN (10/13)
Charleston has recorded more draws than any other side in the Championship this season, and while that’s not great for its tiebreaker status, it has kept the Battery in position for a playoff place at the end of the season. Now, though, the side must start putting up wins on its three-game homestand to close the season, starting this Sunday against Loudoun United FC.
12. Memphis 901 FC
12. Memphis 901 FC
Record:9-15-7, 34pts
Playoff Odds <1 percent
Projected Final Position: 12th (67 percent)
Max Points Available: 43pts
Magic Number: 16pts
Upcoming: vs. CLT (10/12)
Memphis came up short in its measuring-stick contest against Indy Eleven, and now all there is to do is look for positive results for the remainder of the season, starting at home against the Charlotte Independence on Saturday night.

Eliminated: ATL UTD 2, Charlotte Independence, Loudoun United FC, Bethlehem Steel FC, Hartford Athletic, Swope Park Rangers

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