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Race to the Championship Playoffs – Everything You Need to Know

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 09/24/20, 1:30PM EDT

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The race remains tight in Group B and Group D as we head into the penultimate weekend

Welcome to the Race to the Championship Playoffs Presented by Synchronicity, where the action so far this week has left plenty up in the air as we go into the final 10 days of the regular season. That’s particularly true in Group B and Group D, where there’s still plenty to be determined starting this weekend.

Here’s an up-to-date look at where everyone stands going into this weekend’s action, including Magic Numbers and each club’s potential to finish in one of the top two positions in their group. And to start us off, three contests that could prove absolutely crucial for both clubs involved over the next two nights.

 

Playoff Race Games to Watch

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. Hartford Athletic

Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Venue: Highmark Stadium
Group F

What to Know - Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC can clinch Group F with its third victory against Hartford Athletic in the regular season on Saturday night, but earning victory in this contest is as important for the Hounds in the big picture as it is for its immediate impact. Pittsburgh currently has the highest available remaining points total in the Eastern Conference, which means if it wins out in its final two games it would be in line to host the Eastern Conference Final should it advance that far. Even a draw here would see that opportunity potentially slide somewhere else. For Hartford, meanwhile, there’s still a narrow avenue to winning the group if it can find victory on the road against the Hounds. With a win, the Athletic would know if it wins out against the Philadelphia Union II and New York Red Bulls II in their final two games, the group victory with be theirs.

FC Tulsa vs. San Antonio FC

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Venue: ONEOK Field
Group D

What to Know - After Austin Bold FC’s convincing victory on Tuesday night, there’s a bit more pressure on FC Tulsa to take points off Group D winner San Antonio FC as they play host at ONEOK Field. The big incentive for San Antonio as it makes the trip to Tulsa is to remain in with a chance at homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. If SAFC takes victory against Tulsa for the second time this season and Reno 1868 FC fails to pick up victory later in the night against Sacramento Republic FC, then San Antonio will go into its final game knowing a win means it would be in line to host the USL Championship Final on November 1 on ESPN should it advance that far. For Tulsa, simply finding a way into the playoffs is all the incentive they need, but to do that the hosts will need to find a way through SAFC’s defense, which has recorded two shutouts in the two prior meetings between the teams this season.

Phoenix Rising FC vs. Orange County SC

Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Casino Arizona Field
Group B

What to Know - It’s a simple equation for Phoenix Rising FC this weekend; win and you clinch a playoff spot, and you could even win the group depending on what happens between Las Vegas Lights FC and the LA Galaxy II, which kicks off at the same time on Saturday night at Cashman Field. Phoenix’s Magic Number is still at five points, but the team controlling that line is Orange County, meaning Rising FC would create a six-point swing if it rebounds from its loss to San Diego Loyal SC last weekend. After Wednesday’s draw between Los Dos and SD Loyal, Phoenix would need Las Vegas to win on Saturday night to have a chance to clinch the group outright this weekend, but Orange County will come in knowing it needs all three points to keep itself in the running for a postseason spot as well. After taking a draw and a win on home turf when these sides met earlier this season, OCSC will try to remain undefeated against its rival as it heads to Arizona looking to make it a two-team race between itself and the Galaxy II for the second playoff spot.

western conference

 

Group A

1. Reno 1868 FC
1. Reno 1868 FC
Record: 10-2-1, 31pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: 95%
Second Place Odds: 5%
Max. Points Available: 40pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. SAC (9/26)
Reno has thrived against almost everyone this season except for its Donner Pass Derby rival, Sacramento Republic FC. As the two teams square off for the final time this regular season, 1868 FC will clinch the group with a win, but more importantly taking all three points would keep Reno in line for homefield advantage throughout the postseason.
2. Sacramento Republic FC
2. Sacramento Republic FC
Record: 7-1-5, 26pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: 5%
Second Place Odds: 95%
Max. Points Available: 35pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. TAC (9/20)
Sacramento was a whisker away from making it three wins out of three against Reno 1868 FC when the sides played to a 3-3 draw in their last meeting. Republic FC can keep its division title hopes alive with a win on Saturday, and they’ll have San Antonio FC cheering them on with SAFC needing Reno to drop points to claim homefield advantage in the playoffs for itself.
3. Tacoma Defiance
3. Tacoma Defiance
Record: 2-8-2, 8pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 20pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at POR (9/24), vs. POR (9/27)
Tacoma’s season was already over on Sunday night, but it sure didn’t look like it from its performance against Sacramento. Two meetings with the Portland Timbers 2 this week are unlikely to be dull affairs either.
4. Portland Timbers 2
4. Portland Timbers 2
Record: 2-11-0, 6pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds:N/A
Max. Points Available: 15pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. TAC (9/24), at TAC (9/27)
Marcus Epps had himself a week with two outstanding goals. There’s only regional pride on the line now, but the two meetings this week with Tacoma should be entertaining, at least.
 

Group B

Phoenix Rising FC
1. Phoenix Rising FC
Record: 8-3-2, 26pts
Playoff Odds: >99 percent
First Place Odds: 96%
Second Place Odds: 4%
Max. Points Available: 35pts
Magic Number: 5pts
Up Next: vs. OC (9/26)
The draw between the LA Galaxy II and San Diego Loyal SC was a good result for Phoenix, which would clinch the division this Saturday if it takes victory against Orange County SC and Las Vegas Lights FC takes victory against the LA Galaxy II. Phoenix is guaranteed a playoff spot with a win against OCSC, and after two tough outings in its visits to Championship Soccer Stadium earlier this year there could be a little revenge on the minds of Rising FC’s players as well
2. San Diego Loyal SC
2. San Diego Loyal SC
Record: 6-4-5, 23pts
Playoff Odds: 9 percent
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: 9%
Max. Points Available: 26pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. PHX (9/30)
The Galaxy II’s late equalizer on Wednesday night means first place is officially out of reach for SD Loyal, which can’t catch Phoenix Rising FC any longer with two fewer victories and only one game to play. The Loyal will still have a shot at the playoffs when it gets on the field next Wednesday, but it’s going to be rooting hard for Phoenix and Las Vegas Lights FC this weekend to boost its postseason chances.
3. LA Galaxy II
3. LA Galaxy II
Record: 7-5-1, 22pts
Playoff Odds: 48 percent
First Place Odds: 2%
Second Place Odds: 46%
Max. Points Available: 33pts
Magic Number: 9pts
Up Next: at LV (9/26)
By contrast, Alejandro Alvarado Jr.’s first professional goal couldn’t have been better timed for the Galaxy II, which now heads to Las Vegas knowing a win keeps it firmly on course for the postseason. If the Galaxy II can take victory on Saturday night and complete a season sweep of Lights FC and Orange County SC loses to Phoenix Rising FC, Los Dos are going to be in a very strong position going into the final two games of their season.
4. Orange County SC
4. Orange County SC
Record: 6-4-3, 21pts
Playoff Odds: 43 percent
First Place Odds: 2%
Second Place Odds: 41%
Max. Points Available: 30pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at PHX (9/26)
Orange County SC won’t have been too disappointed by the Galaxy II’s late goal as it set up the potential for a showdown for second place next Wednesday night when OCSC visits Los Dos in its penultimate game of the season. To set itself up to grab second place there, though, Orange County will need to try and come away with something from its visit to Rising FC on Saturday night.
5. Las Vegas Lights FC
5. Las Vegas Lights FC
Record: 2-8-3, 9pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 18pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. LA (9/26)
With games left against the LA Galaxy II and Orange County SC over the next two weekends, Lights FC is going to have a role to play in the playoff race, even though the postseason is now well out of reach for Head Coach Frank Yallop’s side.
 

Group C

1. El Paso Locomotive FC
1. El Paso Locomotive FC
Record: 8-2-3, 27pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: 82%
Second Place Odds: 18%
Max. Points Available: 36pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. NM (9/26)
El Paso can clinch first place in the group on Saturday night with a victory against New Mexico United, and even a draw would leave Locomotive FC in good position with two games remaining. With playoff seeding also up for grabs, though, El Paso will be wanting to take all three points as it tries to max out its final total.
2. New Mexico United
2. New Mexico United
Record: 7-4-2, 23pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: 18%
Second Place Odds: 82%
Max. Points Available: 32pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at ELP (9/26)
Wednesday night’s postponement against Rio Grande Valley FC meant United will be on full rest for its key game against El Paso Locomotive FC, where a win would make it a one-point margin between the two sides at the top of the standings. If New Mexico falls, though, the group would be out of reach and leave United with a chance to rest players when it faces Real Monarchs SLC next week before starting its playoff run.
3. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
3. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Record: 2-6-5, 11pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 20pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. SLC (9/26)
The Switchbacks gave a massive boost to El Paso with its comeback win against New Mexico United on Saturday night, and will be hoping to build on that this Saturday when it welcomes Real Monarchs SLC to Weidner Field. Planning for 2021 is underway.
4. Real Monarchs SLC
4. Real Monarchs SLC
Record: 3-9-1, 10pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 19pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at COS (9/26)
Real can try to regain third place in the standings as it visits the Switchbacks on Saturday night, but that’s all that’s left to play for this season.
 

Group D

1. San Antonio FC
1. San Antonio FC
Record: 10-1-3, 30pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: Clinched
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 39pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: Up Next: at TUL (9/26)
San Antonio may have clinched the division already, but it could hold the key to which team joins it from Group D. With Austin Bold FC now in second place, SAFC’s visit to Tulsa on Saturday in a huge game for the hosts at ONEOK Field, and San Antonio will also face Bold FC on the final day of the regular season. For a team looking to win out and claim at least the No. 2 seed in the West, these are going to be two good tests.
2. Austin Bold FC
2. Austin Bold FC
Record: 4-3-6, 18pts
Playoff Odds: 66 percent
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: 66%
Max. Points Available: 27pts
Magic Number: 11pts
Up Next: at OKC (9/27)
After its emphatic victory on Tuesday night against Sporting Kansas City II, Austin is going to be watching Saturday night’s game between FC Tulsa and San Antonio FC closely. If San Antonio takes victory then Bold FC could open up a five-point lead on Tulsa for second place when it visits OKC Energy FC on Sunday night and really take a strong grip on second place in the group.
3. FC Tulsa
3. FC Tulsa
Record: 3-2-7, 16pts
Playoff Odds: 34 percent
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: 34%
Max. Points Available: 28pts
Magic Number: 12pts
Up Next: vs. SA (9/26)
Tulsa got no favors from Sporting Kansas City II in midweek, and that only adds to the pressure for the side as it hosts San Antonio FC, which has plenty of motivation of its own to take all three points from its visit to ONEOK Field. If Tulsa fails to take victory, the gap between it and Austin Bold FC for second place could be as large as five points by the end of Sunday night.
4. OKC Energy FC
4. OKC Energy FC
Record: 1-6-6, 9pts
Playoff Odds: <1 percent
First Place Odds: <1%
Second Place Odds: <1%
Max. Points Available: 18pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. ATX (9/27)
It’s not completely over for Energy FC, but unless it wins out – starting on Sunday against Austin Bold FC – and has a whole lot else fall its way, OKC is going to be watching the playoffs from home.
5. Rio Grande Valley FC
5. Rio Grande Valley FC
Record: 0-9-3, 3pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 15pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. ATX (9/30)
The Toros are hoping to get back into action next Wednesday night when they’re scheduled to host Austin Bold FC.

eastern conference

 

Group E

1. Louisville City FC
1. Louisville City FC
Record: 9-3-2, 29pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: >99%
Second Place Odds: <1%
Max. Points Available: 35pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at STL (9/26)
A playoff place in hand, LouCity visits Saint Louis FC on Saturday night knowing a draw would be enough to clinch first place in the group, but that its Kings’ Cup rival needs a victory to keep its playoff chances alive. Three points are also vital for Louisville, though, as the chance to finish with the best record in the East is still out there should Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies slip up in their final two games.
2. Indy Eleven
2. Indy Eleven
Record: 7-5-2, 23pts
Playoff Odds: 77 percent
First Place Odds: <1%
Second Place Odds: 77%
Max. Points Available: 29pts
Magic Number: 6pts
Up Next: vs. SKC (9/30)
Indy couldn’t close out the win on Wednesday night against a nine-man Saint Louis FC, but if STLFC fails to take victory against Louisville City FC on Saturday then a playoff place will be there for the taking when the Boys in Blue return to action next Wednesday. With Indy holding one win more than STLFC going into their final two games, a Saint Louis draw or loss in Louisville would allow Indy to clinch a playoff place through the total wins tiebreaker against SKC II, and avoid the pressure of having to go to Saint Louis to get a result on the final weekend of the season.
3. Saint Louis FC
3. Saint Louis FC
Record: 6-4-3, 21pts
Playoff Odds: 23 percent
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: 23%
Max. Points Available: 28pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. LOU (9/26)
In a vacuum, Saint Louis holding on for a point against Indy despite being down to nine men at the end of the game was a really good result. In real life, though, it means anything but a win against Louisville City FC on Saturday could mean the end of the playoff line. Should STLFC draw with LouCity, while it would move level on points with Indy Eleven for second place, Indy would be able to close out Group E’s second playoff place with a win next Wednesday night against Sporting Kansas City II thanks to its edge in the total wins tiebreaker, leaving no chance for STLFC to pass the Boys in Blue in their final meeting of the season on October 3.
4. Sporting Kansas City II
4. Sporting Kansas City II
Record: 4-9-1, 13pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 19pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at IND (9/30)
Sporting Kansas City II was officially eliminated from playoff contention after Tuesday’s loss to Austin Bold FC. Now it’ll try to play spoiler over its final two games on the road against Indy Eleven and Louisville City FC..
 

Group F

1. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
1. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Record: 10-3-1, 31pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: 98%
Second Place Odds: 2%
Max. Points Available: 37pts
Magic Number: Clinched
Up Next: vs. HFD (9/26)
The Hounds will clinch the division with victory on Saturday night against Hartford Athletic after the latter’s draw on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Union II. Three points would also keep Pittsburgh on course to claim the best record in the Eastern Conference for the postseason, too.
2. Hartford Athletic
2. Hartford Athletic
Record: 8-3-2, 26pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: 2%
Second Place Odds: 98%
Max. Points Available: 35pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at PIT (9/26)
The Athletic still have a chance at winning Group F. All they’ve got to do is beat Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Saturday night at Highmark Stadium, and then win their final two games of the season. After suffering two losses already to the Hounds this season, though, that first part could be pretty tricky.
3. New York Red Bulls II
3. New York Red Bulls II
Record: 4-9-0, 12pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 21pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. PHI (9/26)
The Red Bulls II fell on Wednesday night in a high-scoring affair with Atlanta United 2. There could be more entertainment like that 90 minutes to come down the final stretch with little left to play for.
4. Philadelphia Union II
4. Philadelphia Union II
Record: 2-8-3, 6pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 18pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at HFD (9/20), at NY (9/23)
The Union II battled back to earn a draw against Hartford Athletic on Wednesday, continuing a solid run late this season that has seen the side lose only once in its last four games going to New York on Saturday.
5. Loudoun United FC
5. Loudoun United FC
Record: 1-9-3, 6pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 15pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at CHS (9/26)
Loudoun’s visit to Charleston was postponed in midweek, meaning the next time we might see United is next Wednesday at home to the Red Bulls II.
 

Group G

1. Birmingham Legion FC
1. Birmingham Legion FC
Record: 7-3-4, 25pts
Playoff Odds: >99 percent
First Place Odds: 64%
Second Place Odds: 35%
Max. Points Available: 31pts
Magic Number: 1pt
Up Next: vs. NC (9/26)
Birmingham was understandably delighted by the scoreless draw for the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday night against Miami FC, which kept Legion FC on top of Group G thanks to a far better goal differential than Charlotte. A draw with North Carolina would be good enough to clinch a playoff spot on Saturday, but Legion FC will have all three points in mind to keep its edge at the top of the standings.
2. Charlotte Independence
2. Charlotte Independence
Record: 7-3-4, 25pts
Playoff Odds: >99 percent
First Place Odds: 36%
Second Place Odds: 64%
Max. Points Available: 31pts
Magic Number: 1pt
Up Next: vs. MEM (9/26)
The Independence came the width of a post from claiming top spot in the group with a victory against Miami FC, and now will need to take victory against Memphis 901 FC and hope Birmingham Legion FC slips up at home to North Carolina FC on Saturday to gain the upper hand in the race for first place.
3. North Carolina FC
3. North Carolina FC
Record: 4-7-1, 13pts
Playoff Odds: <1 percent
First Place Odds: <1%
Second Place Odds: <1%
Max. Points Available: 25pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at BHM (9/26)
The midweek postponement against Memphis 901 FC doesn’t change the equation for North Carolina FC as it goes into its matchup with Birmingham Legion FC on Saturday night. Anything other than a win and the season’s over.
4. Memphis 901 FC
4. Memphis 901 FC
Record: 2-7-4, 10pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 19pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at CLT (9/26)
Memphis’ record against the Charlotte Independence this season is one of the reasons it’s not going to the playoffs. 901 FC should use that as motivation to try and get a result on the road this weekend as it looks to end on a positive note.
 

Group H

1. Tampa Bay Rowdies
1. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Record: 9-2-3, 30pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: 74%
Second Place Odds: 26%
Max. Points Available: 36pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at MIA (9/26)
The Rowdies will look to claim victory on the road against Miami FC on Saturday night to keep their lead in Group H going to the final game of the regular season against the Charleston Battery. Tampa Bay will certainly be aware of Charleston’s presence only three points back in the standings with a potential showdown looming at Al Lang Stadium.
2. Charleston Battery
2. Charleston Battery
Record: 8-2-3, 27pts
Playoff Odds: Clinched
First Place Odds: 26%
Second Place Odds: 74%
Max. Points Available: 36pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at MIA (9/30)
The Battery’s postponed contest with Loudoun United FC on Saturday could make for a congested fixture list before the playoffs begin as Charleston looks to chase down the Tampa Bay Rowdies for first place. Ahead of their own trip to South Florida next Wednesday, the Battery will be hoping Miami can take points off the Rowdies on Saturday night to help those efforts at claiming first place.
3. Atlanta United 2
3. Atlanta United 2
Record: 3-9-3, 12pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 15pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: at MIA (10/4)
Atlanta lit it up on Wednesday night as Jackson Conway moved to five goals this season. He’s been among the bright spots for the side this campaign.
4. The Miami FC
4. The Miami FC
Record: 2-7-4, 10pts
Playoff Odds: Eliminated
First Place Odds: N/A
Second Place Odds: N/A
Max. Points Available: 19pts
Magic Number: N/A
Up Next: vs. TBR (9/26)
Miami got away with a point from its visit to the Charlotte Independence, doing a favor for Birmingham Legion FC in the process. The Charleston Battery will be hoping for more of the same when Miami takes on the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday night.

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