Newly-crowned USL Regular Season Champion Real Monarchs SLC remains unanimously on top of the USLSoccer.com Power Rankings as they go into the final week of the season the No. 1 seed for the USL Cup Playoffs. Moving into second place this week is the team that, if everything plays out according to seeding, would be the Monarchs’ opponent in the 2017 USL Cup in Louisville City FC, which has produced of the more remarkable team performances in earning its place at the top of the Eastern Conference.
As it once again displayed on Saturday night in a 2-1 victory against the Charlotte Independence, Louisville’s greatest strength is its depth throughout the roster. It’s allowed for significant squad rotation throughout the year for Head Coach James O’Connor, as he tries to balance minutes and keep players fresh and focused over the grind of the regular season.
At the same time, no matter who has been on the field, the quality has shone through. Louisville has no player in the top 10 individually in goals or assists this season but sits fourth in goals with 55 and tied for fifth in assists with 37. That’s thanks to an attack that has had 10 players record at least three goals – Luke Spencer leading the way with 10 – and nine players record multiple assists – Oscar Jimenez leads the way there with five.
Add in a defense that is tied for the third-best in the league with only 30 goals against and 12 shutouts, and you have one of the two most complete teams in the league. Only Louisville and the Monarchs rank in the top five in both attack and defenses this season, which is why they’re the favorites to meet for a championship in November.
The five-person USLSoccer.com voting panel tabulates 10 points for first-place team votes, nine points to the second-place team and so forth to one point for 10th place. The accrued points among the group determines the final ranking.
Here’s your new Top 10.
1. Real Monarchs SLC (50pts)
Last Week: D 1-1 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
The Monarchs didn’t put in a vintage performance to claim the USL Regular Season Championship, but after Saturday night’s celebration, the side will take this week to make sure everyone gets through the final game of the regular season healthy and focused for the postseason. The only major goal the side could look to drive for is providing Chandler Hoffman with enough service to make a run at the Golden Boot against the LA Galaxy II.
2. Louisville City FC (44pts)
Last Week: W 2-1 vs. Charlotte Independence
The fact that Louisville both had little to play for and was shorthanded on Saturday night seemed to make little difference to City, as it claimed another home victory and sent the Independence to potentially miss out on a home playoff game. Louisville can equal the Tampa Bay Rowdies for the Eastern Conference high on Saturday night with its 11th home win of the season when it takes on the Richmond Kickers.
Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
3. Reno 1868 FC (36pts)
Last Week: W 4-1 at Orange County SC
It’s going to take a mathematical miracle for Reno to not be at home for its opening game in the USL Cup Playoffs after 1868 FC did rival Sacramento Republic FC a favor and eliminated Orange County from playoff contention. With Chris Wehan one assist away from setting a single-season record after notching his 12th of the season against OCSC, Reno’s attackers will want to look sharp if anything good comes their way against Republic FC on Saturday.
4. Phoenix Rising FC (34pts)
Last Week: W 4-3 vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC, W 2-0 vs. Rio Grande Valley FC
Don’t look now, but Rising FC might be able to grab a home playoff game this weekend after two more home victories over the past week. Phoenix will know whether it has a chance or not after the Swope Park Rangers’ game on Wednesday night. If the Rangers fail to beat Seattle Sounders FC 2, the door will be wide open for Rising FC to walk through.
5. San Antonio FC (27pts)
Last Week: D 1-1 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
San Antonio kept its hope of a top-two finish in the Western Conference alive thanks to its late equalizer against the Rowdies with Ever Guzman’s first goal for the club coming at a very timely moment. The margin for error has narrowed for SAFC, though, and the club will need to take victory in each of its remaining two home games to guarantee it sits above Reno when the regular season ends.
6. Tampa Bay Rowdies (25pts)
Last Week: W 3-2 vs. New York Red Bulls II, D 1-1 at San Antonio FC
The Rowdies were so close to maintaining their path to second place in the Eastern Conference with what would have been an impressive road victory against San Antonio FC but came up just short at Toyota Field. Tampa Bay will now visit Orlando City B in its final game of the regular season on Thursday night aiming to eliminate its I-4 Derby rivals from postseason contention and also put pressure on the Charleston Battery to match its victory on Saturday night.
Photo courtesy Ralph Mawyer Jr. / San Antonio FC
7. Charleston Battery (19pts)
Last Week: W 4-0 vs. Harrisburg City Islanders
There aren’t many attackers as hot as Heviel Cordoves right now, and his two goals gave the Battery pole position when it comes to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference thanks to a thumping of the City Islanders. The Charlotte Independence are all that stand between Charleston and a second-place finish now, and while that will be a challenge, it’s likely one that the Battery will relish as they look to relegate their regional foe out of the top four in the standings.
8. Swope Park Rangers (15pts)
Last Week: L 4-1 at OKC Energy FC
The Rangers’ undefeated streak came to an end with a thump on Sunday, and now the side needs to take victory in its final game of the season on Wednesday night against Seattle Sounders FC 2 to almost certainly guarantee a home game to start the playoffs. The absence of Kharlton Belmar and Kevin Oliveira provide some explanation for Sunday’s defeat, but Head Coach Nikola Popovic will have expected better from his side and will be looking for a big response.
9. OKC Energy FC (7pts)
Last Week: W 4-1 vs. Swope Park Rangers
Energy FC clinched its playoff place with an emphatic win, and with victory in four of its last five games is now looking like a side that could prove a threat in the postseason. The club’s fans have been waiting for OKC to click into gear repeatedly this season, now they might have their wish just as the season reaches its key month.
10. Tulsa Roughnecks FC (5pts)
Last Week: W 1-0 vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2
The Roughnecks launched into celebration on Saturday night upon clinching their first trip to the USL Cup Playoffs, and now it will try to hold onto the No. 6 seed as it rounds out the season on Saturday night against a Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC side that was mathematically eliminated on Sunday. Getting a positive result moving into the postseason would definitely be a nice boost for Head Coach David Vaudreuil’s squad.
Also receiving votes – New York Red Bulls II 4, Rochester Rhinos 3, Bethlehem Steel FC 3