Welcome to another edition of USL Round Table! It’s all down to this: one more match for each team in USL League One, while USL Championship clubs have three or four still to play. Crunch time is upon us!
On the Western side of the USL Championship, Phoenix has been faltering a bit of late. They lost to Fresno last weekend and then barely salvaged a 2-2 draw in the dying moments of Saturday’s match against New Mexico United. They’re still totally fine as far as finishing as the top seed, though, so the concern level can’t really be all that high for them right now.
Fresno don’t look as safe a bet to beat Reno 1868 to second place as they did last week, but they still have three points on their rivals with three matches left to play for each side. Real Monarchs sit in fourth with 46 points after 30 matches, and behind them are Austin Bold, who are back on track now and also sit on 46 points, having played 31 matches.
The three clubs from sixth to eighth have 45 points apiece, and those clubs are Sacramento Republic, Orange County, and El Paso Locomotive respectively. The latter two have a game in hand on Republic, having played 30 to Sacramento’s 31. Just one point out of eighth is LA Galaxy II, as Los Dos have 44 points from 31 matches.
San Antonio FC are trying to hold onto tenth position, but they’re even on 41 points with 11th-placed New Mexico United, and the Albuquerque-based outfit have one extra match to play than San Antonio does. Behind New Mexico, chances look slim from 12th place onward as far as finding a playoff spot, but Portland Timbers II have the best outside chance, sitting on 38 points with a game in hand on San Antonio.
In the East, the madness has only intensified. Pittsburgh Riverhounds have completed their astronomical rise to the top, sitting pretty on 61 points after finally catching up to the league in matches played. Three points behind them are Nashville SC, who missed an opportunity to catch up with the Riverhounds in a 0-0 draw last week. This week, though, they took care of their opponents Loudoun United away from home, so it’s not all bad news for the Boys in Gold.
In third place sit the former leaders, New York Red Bulls II. They’re even on matches played with the two clubs in front of them, but they’ve only accrued 57 points. They’ve endured a tough stretch recently, and an away tangle with North Carolina FC won’t be much of a reprieve.
Earlier tonight, Tampa Bay Rowdies lost an away battle with Loudoun, which won’t really be impactful for the home side, who are effectively out of contention for a playoff position. It does, however, hurt the Rowdies, as they’re now staring a fifth-place spot in the face. They’re currently in fourth on 57 points, but they’ve played 32 matches already, and currently-fifth Indy Eleven have 56 from 31 matches. Indy have been struggling for form after four straight defeats, though, so Tampa Bay could be gifted a second chance at a top-four spot.
Louisville City FC have clinched a playoff spot and sit in sixth place, while seventh-placed North Carolina will soon follow suit unless something truly disastrous happens. Ottawa Fury are nine points clear of the playoff line at the moment in eighth position, so they look relatively safe as well, just like they have for about a month now. A few more good results will put a playoff spot in the bag.
Meanwhile, Saint Louis FC now must hold onto the playoff spot they’ve done so well to earn for themselves. They sit in ninth on 42 points, but tenth-placed Birmingham Legion and, more concerningly, 11th-placed Charleston Battery, are each within three points at 39 each. All three clubs have played 30 matches, so it’s down to the last four for each of them to decide who’s in and who’s out.
After winning four of their last five, Memphis 901 FC have earned a mention in this week’s post and a reminder that they can’t quite be counted out yet. They’re on 34 points from 30 matches, so they’ll need to perform exceptionally well and get some help if they’re of a mind to sneak their way into the playoffs.
Nashville SC’s home date with Louisville City will pit two high-level Eastern sides against each other in a battle for top-six position, so that’ll definitely be one to keep an eye on in the USL Championship this week. It’s a midweek game that starts at 7 PM Central on Tuesday, Oct 8, and it’ll be streamed live on ESPN+.
In USL League One, each club is down to just one regular season match to play at the time of publishing. By the time you read this, North Texas and FC Tuscon will have likely finished their matchup on Friday night, but it’s not a meaningful result for the playoff race for either side.
The first three spots in the playoffs are already occupied by first-seeded North Texas, second-seeded Lansing Ignite, and third-seeded Greenville Triumph. If Triumph happens to win and Ignite lose, Triumph would take over the second seed and bump Ignite to third, but the two will face each other in the semifinals of the playoffs in either scenario.
The last playoff position up for grabs is the fourth spot, and the race is down to Forward Madison, those Twitter geniuses, and Chattanooga Red Wolves. The Mingos are in unless Chattanooga wins AND they lose or draw. If Chattanooga draw or lose, Madison will make the playoffs.
Madison take on a tough opponent in Lansing Ignite, and they do so away from home. That match has a rather early 2 PM Central start time this Saturday, October 5, and it’ll be streamed live on ESPN+. The Red Wolves get to host their regular season finale, and they’ll be taking on much less fearsome opponents in Toronto FC II. The Madison match will be over by the time the match in Chattanooga kicks off at 6 PM Central, so one would have to believe that the players will know ahead of time what exactly they’re playing for. That match will be live streamed on ESPN+ as well.
Well, that’s all the drama in USL Championship and USL League One this week! Lots to follow, and definitely a great time of year to be following your local club by attending matches and spreading the word about your club’s successes!
Once again, watch local soccer, unify those around you, and seek out diversity!