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USL Race for the Playoffs – Aug. 25-27

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 08/26/17, 12:37AM EDT


Monarchs within reach of becoming first team into 2017 USL Cup Playoffs

There may be eight weekends to go in the 2017 USL regular season, but already there is a team within sight of clinching a place in the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs. And so, we’re back with a weekly overview of where everyone stands in the playoff race across the Eastern and Western Conference as the pressure begins to rise in the race for a place in the postseason.

New for this year, you’ll notice we’ve added where each club is projected to finish in the standings by, which has additional numbers as to which results your teams should be hoping as we come down the home stretch


1. Louisville City FC
Current Record:
 13-4-5, 44pts
Maximum Points Available: 74
Points Needed to Clinch: 12
Avg. Finishing Position: 1.3
Last Game: W 5-0 vs. Harrisburg City Islanders
Next Game: 8/26 vs. Orlando City B, 7:30 p.m. ET
Louisville romped to victory on Wednesday night against the Harrisburg City Islanders to move into first place in the Eastern Conference. A challenging contest is set for Saturday with Orlando City B on a club-record 10-game undefeated streak coming into Slugger Field. Some of City’s players will have memories of OCB’s dramatic win in Louisville last year and will be wanting to avoid a repeat performance.

2. Charlotte Independence
Current Record:
 12-4-8, 44pts
Maximum Points Available: 68
Points Needed to Clinch: 12
Avg. Finishing Position: 2.3
Last Game: D 1-1 vs. Orlando City B
Next Game: 8/26 vs. Toronto FC II, 7 p.m. ET
The Independence remained undefeated at the Sportsplex at Matthews after its draw with Orlando City B this past Saturday, and with last-place Toronto FC II coming to North Carolina this weekend, the side could be within single-digits of a second consecutive playoff berth by the end of the weekend. TFC II did earn a 2-2 draw with Charlotte at BMO Field not long ago, however, meaning Charlotte will need to remain focused to get maximum points.

3. Charleston Battery
Current Record:
 11-5-8, 41pts
Maximum Points Available: 65
Points Needed to Clinch: 15
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.4
Last Game: W 1-0 at Rochester Rhinos
Next Game: 8/26 at Richmond Kickers, 7 p.m. ET
The Battery broke a seven-game winless streak with their first victory in Rochester since the 2012 USL Cup Playoffs, and the side will hope that catapults it forward to ensuring a home playoff contest at the end of the regular season. Charleston will have to do without leading scorer Romario Williams when it visits the Richmond Kickers on Saturday but will hope to have enough to maintain its undefeated record since the start of the 2015 season against its historic rival.

4. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Current Record: 
10-6-8, 38pts
Maximum Points Available: 62
Points Needed to Clinch: 18
Avg. Finishing Position: 5.0
Last Game: D 1-1 vs. Ottawa Fury FC
Next Game: 9/2 at New York Red Bulls II, 4 p.m. ET
The Rowdies were held by Fury FC at home this past weekend, which means if they’re going to earn a home playoff game they’re going to have to improve on the road in the final stretch of the season. Tampa Bay shouldn’t have any problems reaching the postseason from here, but how far it goes could be greatly determined by its seed.

5. Rochester Rhinos
Current Record:
 9-5-8, 35pts
Maximum Points Available: 65
Points Needed to Clinch: 21
Avg. Finishing Position: 4.6
Last Game: L 1-0 vs. Charleston Battery
Next Game: 8/26 vs. Saint Louis FC, 6:05 p.m. ET
The Rhinos still have a solid chance at hosting a playoff game even with their defeat to the Battery on Saturday night, but they will want to get back into a more consistent rhythm after losing two of their last three games. Saturday’s game could be a tricky one too, with Saint Louis looking to build on its dramatic victory against Tulsa Roughnecks FC on Wednesday night.

6. FC Cincinnati
Current Record:
 9-9-7, 34pts
Maximum Points Available: 55
Points Needed to Clinch: 28
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.0
Last Game: W 3-1 vs. Ottawa Fury FC
Next Game: 9/2 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 7 p.m. ET
FCC’s victory against Ottawa Fury FC could prove a major moment in the club’s pursuit of the playoffs as it shifted into the top eight for the time being. The break coming up will certainly help the rest of the way, with more than a week before another crucial contest against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds that’s sure to bring the rivalry between the two cities to the fore.

7. Bethlehem Steel FC
Current Record:
 10-10-3, 33pts
Maximum Points Available: 60
Points Needed to Clinch: 23
Avg. Finishing Position: 7.0
Last Game: L 3-1 vs. Louisville City FC
Next Game: 8/26 at Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 7 p.m. ET
Steel FC’s two-game losing streak has hit its projected seed, and dragged it back into the edge of the playoff race. There’s certainly no shame in falling to the top two teams in the conference, and Bethlehem has the edge of having a game in hand on each of the three teams directly below it. That said, a loss to the Riverhounds on Saturday would cause some serious questions after the side struggled down the stretch a season ago.

8. Orlando City B
Current Record: 
7-6-11, 32pts
Maximum Points Available: 56
Points Needed to Clinch: 24
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.3
Last Game: D 1-1 at Charlotte Independence
Next Game: 8/26 at Louisville City FC
Orlando’s 10-game undefeated streak has been an impressive feat, but going 3-0-7 in that span has kept OCB in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. A draw would certainly be a good result against Louisville on Saturday, but the team needs to start winning more frequently if it’s not to see itself overtaken.

9. New York Red Bulls II
Current Record:
 9-11-4, 31pts
Maximum Points Available: 55
Points Needed to Clinch: 25
Avg. Finishing Position: 9.4
Last Game: W 4-0 vs. FC Cincinnati
Next Game: 8/27 at Ottawa Fury FC, 2 p.m. ET
New York’s victory against Cincinnati on Sunday was its third in the past five games, a sign that the defending champion might finally have found its form in a bid to return to the postseason. Sunday’s game with Fury FC could be pivotal, though, with the Red Bulls II’s playoff percentage rising to 55.2 percent with a win and dropping to 24.5 percent with a loss.

10. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Current Record:
 7-8-9, 30pts
Maximum Points Available: 54
Points Needed to Clinch: 26
Avg. Finishing Position: 9.9
Last Game: W 2-1 at Saint Louis FC
Next Game: 8/26 vs. Bethlehem Steel FC, 7 p.m. ET
The Riverhounds are officially back in serious playoff contention after their win against Saint Louis, and they get another big opportunity back at Highmark Stadium on Saturday night when in-state rival Bethlehem Steel FC visits. With a win, the Riverhounds would pull level with Bethlehem on points and earn their second three-game winning streak of the season.

11. Saint Louis FC
Current Record:
 8-10-5, 29pts
Maximum Points Available: 56
Points Needed to Clinch: 27
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.9
Last Game: W 2-1 vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Next Game: 8/26 at Rochester Rhinos, 6:05 p.m. ET
Saint Louis still has a game in hand on the teams it’s chasing for a playoff position, and a dramatic comeback victory against Tulsa Roughnecks FC on Wednesday night has put the side squarely back in the middle of the battle for a first playoff berth. But going into a tough place to play in Rochester on Saturday, the pressure is on to get at least a draw out of the contest and build on the momentum Seth Rudolph’s late goal provided.

12. Ottawa Fury FC
Current Record: 
7-9-7, 28pts
Maximum Points Available: 55
Points Needed to Clinch: 28
Avg. Finishing Position: 10.3
Last Game: L 3-1 at FC Cincinnati
Next Game: 8/27 vs. New York Red Bulls II, 2 p.m. ET
After Wednesday night’s defeat against FC Cincinnati, Fury FC returns home to face another crucial game in its pursuit of a playoff position against the New York Red Bulls II on Sunday. The side has a game in hand on a few of the teams surrounding it, and with five home games in its last nine, there’s a chance for a strong closing drive. The question will be whether the club can find the consistency needed to achieve it.

13. Harrisburg City Islanders
Current Record:
 6-12-6, 24pts
Maximum Points Available: 48
Points Needed to Clinch: 32
Avg. Finishing Position: 12.8
Last Game: L 5-0 vs. Louisville City FC
Next Game: 9/6 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies, 7 p.m. ET
Harrisburg’s 5-0 drubbing against Louisville City FC on Wednesday night put a large nail in the City Islanders’ coffin. The side now has a break before its final seven games of the season, which will likely need the kind of run the club produced of four wins in five games in late June and July that had the idea of postseason soccer at the forefront of the City Islanders’ fans minds.

14. Richmond Kickers
Current Record: 
4-12-8, 20pts
Maximum Points Available: 44
Points Needed to Clinch: 36
Avg. Finishing Position: 14.3
Last Game: W 2-1 vs. Toronto FC II
Next Game: 8/26 vs. Charleston Battery, 7 p.m. ET
The Kickers’ streak of reaching every edition of the USL Cup Playoffs is coming to an end, with the preseason prediction of Head Coach Leigh Cowlishaw that this would be the toughest season competitively in the club’s history proving remarkably prescient. The only thing for Richmond to do now is play spoiler, and they’d like nothing more than to put a dent in longtime rival the Charleston Battery’s playoff plans this Saturday.

15. Toronto FC II
Current Record:
 4-14-6, 18pts
Maximum Points Available: 42
Points Needed to Clinch: 38
Avg. Finishing Position: 14.4
Last Game: L 2-1 at Richmond Kickers
Next Game: 8/26 at Charlotte Independence, 7 p.m. ET
TFC II’s playoff hopes will have to wait another season, too, but the side will want to go out with its head held high. Saturday’s visit to Charlotte gives the team a chance to throw a spanner in the works as the Independence pursue the top spot in the East.

Western Conference

1. Real Monarchs SLC
Current Record:
 16-3-4, 52pts
Maximum Points Available: 79
Points Needed to Clinch: 6
Avg. Finishing Position: 1.1
Last Game: D 2-2 at Swope Park Rangers
Next Game: 8/25 vs. Rio Grande Valley FC, 9 p.m. ET
The Monarchs are within sight of the playoffs after last Friday’s draw against the Swope Park Rangers and could clinch their first trip to the postseason if things fall their way on Friday night. A Real victory against Rio Grande Valley FC and an OKC Energy FC loss to Orange County SC would put the Monarchs out of reach of seven teams in the Western Conference on 55 points and switch the spotlight to the historic milestones that could be reached on the way to the USL Regular Season Championship.

2. San Antonio FC
Current Record:
 12-2-9, 45pts
Maximum Points Available: 72
Points Needed to Clinch: 13
Avg. Finishing Position: 2.5
Last Game: W 1-0 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Next Game: 8/26 vs. Portland Timbers 2, 8:30 p.m. ET
San Antonio’s 1-0 victory against Vancouver on Wednesday night wasn’t completely convincing, as it needed some late misses by the visitors to hold on for victory. As it is, the win kept up the chase of the Monarchs for the regular season title. SAFC will look to add a victory on Saturday as it hosts the Portland Timbers 2, who sit last in the conference, which would set up its rematch with the Monarchs on Sept. 2 at Rio Tinto Stadium nicely.

3. Swope Park Rangers
Current Record:
 12-5-6, 42pts
Maximum Points Available: 69
Points Needed to Clinch: 16
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.4
Last Game: D 2-2 at Sacramento Republic FC
Next Game: 8/26 at Reno 1868 FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
The Rangers probably thought they’d done enough to take victory against Sacramento Republic FC on Wednesday night, but the late equalizer for the hosts at Papa Murphy’s Park just added to the anticipation of its visit to Reno 1868 FC on Saturday, with pride as much at stake for Swope Park as securing at least a top-three finish in the Western Conference. After 1868 FC’s 4-1 win at Children’s Mercy Victory Field when they first met, the Rangers will be hoping to hand out a little revenge.

4. Reno 1868 FC
Current Record: 
11-5-6, 39pts
Maximum Points Available: 69
Points Needed to Clinch: 19
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.7
Last Game: W 2-1 at Sacramento Republic FC
Next Game: 8/26 vs. Swope Park Rangers, 10:30 p.m. ET
Reno’s victory against Sacramento, earning the regular-season series between the regional rivals, established the club as not only a strong contender for a home playoff game, but maybe even more as the Rangers come to town. Reno’s run of four wins in the past five games puts it even with Louisville as the hottest team in the league, and a repeat performance of its 4-1 win against Swope Park could put second place in the standings within range.

5. Sacramento Republic FC
Current Record: 
10-7-8, 35pts
Maximum Points Available: 65
Points Needed to Clinch: 23
Avg. Finishing Position: 5.6
Last Game: D 2-2 vs. Swope Park Rangers
Next Game: 8/26 at Phoenix Rising FC, 11 p.m. ET
Sacramento’s dramatic late draw against the Swope Park Rangers on Wednesday night might have left the side feeling positive coming out but moved the possibility of a home playoff game a little further away. Now the side heads on the road against a Phoenix Rising FC that is in serious need of a win. A win would keep Sacramento where it needs to be. A loss, and the pressure could start to rise a little bit.

6. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Current Record:
 10-10-3, 33pts
Maximum Points Available: 60
Points Needed to Clinch: 25
Avg. Finishing Position: 6.7
Last Game: L 2-1 at Saint Louis FC
Next Game: 8/30 at Seattle Sounders FC 2, 10:30 p.m. ET
The Roughnecks are still in decent enough shape, even though their late defeat on the road in Wednesday night’s visit to Saint Louis FC will be a tough one to swallow. The side now gets a few days off before it makes the three-game swing through Cascadia starting next Wednesday. Victory against Seattle Sounders FC 2 would strengthen Tulsa’s bid for a first postseason berth, damage S2’s chances seriously, and set the side up for more success as it goes on to face the struggling Portland and Vancouver.

7. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Current Record:
 9-10-6, 33pts
Maximum Points Available: 54
Points Needed to Clinch: 25
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.9
Last Game: L 2-1 vs. LA Galaxy II
Next Game: 9/2 at Sacramento Republic FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
The Switchbacks’ loss to the Galaxy II this past Saturday was a tough one, especially given the manner of the late game-winner for Los Dos. As a result, Colorado Springs will wait for September’s clash with Sacramento Republic FC hoping results elsewhere don’t make the mountain they now have to climb too steep.

8. OKC Energy FC
Current Record:
 8-9-6, 30pts
Maximum Points Available: 57
Points Needed to Clinch: 28
Avg. Finishing Position: 9.0
Last Game: D 0-0 vs. San Antonio FC
Next Game: 8/25 at Orange County SC, 10:30 p.m. ET
After its 0-0 draw with San Antonio, Energy FC now faces a true playoff six-pointer as it visits Orange County SC’s new home at the Champions Soccer Stadium. Only a point ahead of its opponent, but having played two more games, the pressure is squarely on the visitors to earn a victory and shift the pressure to those trying to catch them.

9. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Current Record:
 9-13-2, 29pts
Maximum Points Available: 53
Points Needed to Clinch: 29
Avg. Finishing Position: 10.3
Last Game: W 2-1 at Portland Timbers 2
Next Game: 8/30 vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
The numbers don’t look great for S2 right now, but two consecutive wins have at least kept the side in the playoff picture as it enters the final quarter of the season. Next Wednesday’s game with Tulsa Roughnecks FC could be a make-or-break point, though.

10. Orange County SC
Current Record: 
7-6-8, 29pts
Maximum Points Available: 62
Points Needed to Clinch: 29
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.4
Last Game: D 1-1 vs. Phoenix Rising FC
Next Game: 8/25 vs. OKC Energy FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
Only one team has a bigger window of opportunity that Orange County SC going into this weekend’s action, but that won’t matter if the team is unable to break a five-game winless streak that has seen the side miss out on the chance to take advantage of the games in hand it had on the teams it is pursuing for a playoff place. That makes Friday’s game with Energy FC doubly critical. A win would launch OCSC into the top eight and provide a platform to push on. A loss, and the pressure will mount.

11. Phoenix Rising FC
Current Record: 
7-7-6, 27pts
Maximum Points Available: 63
Points Needed to Clinch: 31
Avg. Finishing Position: 7.7
Last Game: D 1-1 at Orange County SC
Next Game: 8/26 vs. Sacramento Republic FC
Phoenix could be sitting in the top eight right now if it hadn’t seen four points slip away in the past two games after conceding late goals to both Rio Grande Valley FC and Orange County SC. The manner in which the team responds to those setbacks could determine whether it gets a first playoff berth in club history. Sacramento Republic FC has a little momentum but had to work hard on Wednesday night for its 2-2 draw with the Swope Park Rangers ahead of Saturday’s visit to the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex, giving the rested Rising FC a chance to get a big win.

12. Rio Grande Valley FC
Current Record: 
7-10-6, 27pts
Maximum Points Available: 54
Points Needed to Clinch: 31
Avg. Finishing Position: 11.3
Last Game: D 1-1 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Next Game: 8/25 at Real Monarchs SLC, 9 p.m. ET
The Toros are in trouble after last Saturday’s draw with a Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 side that sits below it in the standings. While RGVFC is undefeated in its last four games, three draws have left the side looking up at both Orange County and Phoenix, both of which have multiple games in hand. With a trip to Real Monarchs SLC next, the Toros need to get back in the win column, but that’ll be a tough ask this week.

13. LA Galaxy II
Current Record:
 6-12-4, 22pts
Maximum Points Available: 52
Points Needed to Clinch: 36
Avg. Finishing Position: 12.7
Last Game: W 2-1 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Next Game: 8/27 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, 6 p.m. ET
It’s almost certainly too late for Los Dos to make a run to a fourth consecutive playoff berth, but their recent wins against Orange County SC and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC showed the influence the side could still have on the playoff race. A win against Vancouver on Sunday would keep the slim hopes of a postseason berth alive, too.

14. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Current Record: 
4-13-7, 19pts
Maximum Points Available: 43
Points Needed to Clinch: 39
Avg. Finishing Position: 13.7
Last Game: L 1-0 at San Antonio FC
Next Game: 8/27 vs. LA Galaxy II, 6 p.m. ET
WFC2’s narrow defeat against San Antonio FC on Wednesday night, which saw the team squander some good late chances, pushed it closer to mathematical elimination from playoff contention. Last season’s Western Conference Final participant hasn’t been able to replicate that magic, now winless in its last 14 outings.

15. Portland Timbers 2
Current Record:
 2-18-3, 9pts
Maximum Points Available: 36
Points Needed to Clinch: 49
Avg. Finishing Position: 15.0
Last Game: L 2-1 vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Next Game: 8/26 at San Antonio FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
T2’s playoff hopes have been long gone, and the side could get mathematically eliminated this weekend should it fail to take a result against second-place San Antonio FC, a pretty tough ask on the road.

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