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USL Race for the Playoffs – Aug. 31-Sept 3

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 09/01/17, 11:17AM EDT


Top-two clash could see Monarchs claim playoff berth

A week ago, Real Monarchs SLC needed help to become the first team to clinch a place in the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs. This week, the Monarchs know that with a win in the highest-profile game of Week 24, they’re in, as San Antonio FC visits for a top-two clash in the Western Conference at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night.

There’s plenty else to draw interest this weekend, though, starting with Thursday night’s game in the Eastern Conference between sixth-place Orlando City B and eighth-place Bethlehem Steel FC that has much wider implications on the playoff race overall. With other contests between teams sitting tightly in both the Eastern and Western Conferences arriving on Saturday night, the picture below could look a lot different early next week.


1. Louisville City FC
Current Record:
 13-5-5, 44pts
Maximum Points Available: 71
Points Needed to Clinch: 11
Avg. Finishing Position: 1.4
Last Game: L 3-0 vs. Orlando City B
Next Game: 9/2 vs. Charleston Battery, 7:30 p.m. ET
Louisville sank to a surprise home defeat against Orlando City B, but thanks to the teams around it also falling to defeat City remains the favorite to finish top of the Eastern Conference. Louisville has rebounded from every league defeat this season with a win, which bodes well despite the absence of Mark-Anthony Kaye and Speedy Williams on international duty.

2. Charlotte Independence
Current Record: 
12-5-8, 44pts
Maximum Points Available: 65
Points Needed to Clinch: 11
Avg. Finishing Position: 2.6
Last Game: L 3-2 vs. Toronto FC II
Next Game: 9/2 vs. Richmond Kickers, 7 p.m. ET
The Independence suffered a surprise home defeat to Toronto FC II on Saturday – its first at the Sportsplex at Matthews since moving in – and now takes on one of this past weekend’s surprise winners as the Richmond Kickers visit. Charlotte was held to a draw in Richmond’s first trip to Matthews, N.C. this season, and a win can’t be taken for granted, which could open things up for the chasing pack to draw a little closer.

3. Charleston Battery
Current Record:
 11-6-8, 41pts
Maximum Points Available: 62
Points Needed to Clinch: 14
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.9
Last Game: L 3-1 at Richmond Kickers
Next Game: 9/2 at Louisville City FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
After falling for the first time to archrival the Richmond Kickers since July, 2014, the last thing the Battery would have hoped to see was a trip to a Louisville side that also suffered defeat in its last outing. The Battery are now considered marginally likely to finish below the fifth-place Rochester Rhinos, who hold two games in hand, so anything out of the trip to Slugger Field would be very welcome.

4. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Current Record:
 10-6-8, 38pts
Maximum Points Available: 62
Points Needed to Clinch: 17
Avg. Finishing Position: 4.9
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 got a nice boost from all three of the teams above them suffering defeat on their weekend off, but are under pressure from the Rochester Rhinos, which moved level on points with Tampa Bay after its win. The start of a key three-game road trip arrives on Saturday against the Red Bulls II, with the Rowdies needing to improve on its 1-5-5 away record this season.

5. Rochester Rhinos
Current Record:
 10-5-8, 38pts
Maximum Points Available: 65
Points Needed to Clinch: 17
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.8
Last Game: W 2-1 vs. Saint Louis FC
Next Game: 9/2 at Toronto FC II, 7:30 p.m. ET
The Rhinos did themselves a lot of good with their win against Saint Louis, which coupled with defeats higher up the Eastern Conference put the side in sight of a potential third-place finish if it can keep its momentum. A visit to face Toronto FC II is next, with the 3-2 win the Reds earned last week against Charlotte likely to keep Rochester focused, lest it suffer a similar fate north of the border.

6. Orlando City B
Current Record:
 8-6-11, 35pts
Maximum Points Available: 56
Points Needed to Clinch: 20
Avg. Finishing Position: 6.8
Last Game: W 3-0 at Louisville City FC
Next Game: 8/31 vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
OCB picked up the most notable result of the past weekend, with its victory against Louisville City FC moving its projected seed from 8.3 to 6.8 at Thursday night’s game with Bethlehem Steel FC is also going to be an important one, but with a win the side would move even with Tampa Bay and Rochester on points and be a big step closer to the postseason.

7. FC Cincinnati
Current Record: 
9-9-7, 34pts
Maximum Points Available: 55
Points Needed to Clinch: 21
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.0
Last Game: W 3-1 vs. Ottawa Fury FC
Next Game: 9/2 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 4 p.m. ET
FCC saw enough results go its way this past weekend as it rested up after a tough run of games. The pressure will be on to deliver on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, though, with their visitors to Nippert Stadium on a three-game winning streak and only a point back in the standings.

8. Bethlehem Steel FC
Current Record: 
10-11-3, 33pts
Maximum Points Available: 57
Points Needed to Clinch: 22
Avg. Finishing Position: 7.8
Last Game: L 3-2 at Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Next Game: 8/31 at Orlando City B, 7:30 p.m. ET
Steel FC suffered its third consecutive defeat on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and now only holds its position in the top eight in the conference thanks to its win total. There’s still time to turn things around, and a first win in club history against Orlando on Thursday night would push Bethlehem into sixth with seven games to go, a much more comfortable spot than it currently holds.

9. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Current Record:
 8-8-9, 33pts
Maximum Points Available: 54
Points Needed to Clinch: 22
Avg. Finishing Position: 9.0
Last Game: W 3-2 vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
Next Game: 9/2 at FC Cincinnati, 4 p.m. ET
The Riverhounds’ victory against Bethlehem earned not only the second three-game winning streak of the season for the club, but also bumped the team’s chances of reaching the postseason up to 38.7 percent. That number will grow exponentially if Pittsburgh can pull off a win against FC Cincinnati, with the number rising above 60 percent according to’s projection. It’ll be a big test, but the Riverhounds have been up for those lately.

10. New York Red Bulls II
Current Record: 
9-11-5, 32pts
Maximum Points Available: 53
Points Needed to Clinch: 23
Avg. Finishing Position: 9.6
Last Game: D 2-2 at Ottawa Fury FC
Next Game: 9/2 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies, 4 p.m. ET
The Red Bulls II were so close to victory against Ottawa, but their late concession against Fury FC that saw the side leave TD Place with only a point was a tough blow. Getting back home to face a Rowdies side that has struggled on the road this season could provide a nice boost, though, with New York having taken three consecutive victories at MSU Soccer Park.

11. Saint Louis FC
Current Record:
 8-10-6, 30pts
Maximum Points Available: 51
Points Needed to Clinch: 25
Avg. Finishing Position: 10.0
Last Game: D 1-1 vs. Toronto FC 2
Next Game: 9/3 at Ottawa Fury FC, 2 p.m. ET
Saint Louis’ late draw on Wednesday night against Toronto FC II put another dent in the club’s postseason hopes, with a vital victory grabbed away at the last through Shaan Hundal’s goal for the Reds at the Ontario Soccer Centre. Sunday’s game against Ottawa is now looking like a must-win if the side is to keep its position in the hunt for the postseason

12. Ottawa Fury FC
Current Record:
 7-9-8, 29pts
Maximum Points Available: 53
Points Needed to Clinch: 26
Avg. Finishing Position: 10.7
Last Game: D 2-2 vs. New York Red Bulls II
Next Game: 9/3 vs. Saint Louis FC, 2 p.m. ET
Fury FC’s draw with the Red Bulls II was better than the impending loss it appeared to be before Ramon Martin Del Campo’s stoppage-time equalizer, but it still lengthened Ottawa’s odds of reaching the playoffs. Sunday’s game with Saint Louis is a critical one for both teams, with a win the only satisfactory outcome for either side.

13. Harrisburg City Islanders
Current Record:
 6-13-6, 24pts
Maximum Points Available: 45
Points Needed to Clinch: 31
Avg. Finishing Position: 13.0
Last Game: L 5-0 vs. Louisville City FC
Next Game: 9/6 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies, 7 p.m. ET
Harrisburg doesn’t get back into action again until next Wednesday night, but the City Islanders’ game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at FNB Field is about as much of a must-win as you can find. Time will be running out pretty quickly if Harrisburg doesn’t take all three points.

14. Richmond Kickers
Current Record:
 5-12-8, 23pts
Maximum Points Available: 44
Points Needed to Clinch: 32
Avg. Finishing Position: 14.2
Last Game: W 3-1 vs. Charleston Battery
Next Game: 9/2 at Charlotte Independence, 7 p.m. ET
The Kickers played spoiler to their longtime rival the Charleston Battery with their victory on Saturday night, a welcome silver lining to the season. They have a chance to do the same this Saturday as they visit the Charlotte Independence in another game where taking points from one of the top teams in the standings could affect postseason seeding strongly.

15. Toronto FC II
Current Record: 
5-14-7, 22pts
Maximum Points Available: 40
Points Needed to Clinch: 33
Avg. Finishing Position: 14.3
Last Game: D 1-1 vs. Saint Louis FC
Next Game: 9/2 vs. Rochester Rhinos, 7:30 p.m. ET
TFC II has played the role of spoiler to perfection in its last two outings, with a win against the Charlotte Independence affecting the Jacks’ potential seeding, and a late draw on Wednesday night putting Saint Louis FC’s playoff hopes in deeper jeopardy. The top four in the East will be hoping the Reds will produce more of the same on Saturday as the Rochester Rhinos visit the Ontario Soccer Centre.

Western Conference

1. Real Monarchs SLC
Current Record:
 17-3-4, 55pts
Maximum Points Available: 79
Points Needed to Clinch: 3
Avg. Finishing Position: 1.0
Last Game: W 2-1 vs. Rio Grande Valley FC
Next Game: 9/2 vs. San Antonio FC, 9 p.m. ET
The Monarchs didn’t get the help they needed to reach the postseason last Friday night, but will be the first team in should it take victory on Saturday against San Antonio FC in the biggest game of the weekend. Defeating its closest challenger would also put one hand on the USL Regular Season Championship for Real, leaving it potentially 14 points away from claiming the first silverware of the season with seven games remaining.

2. San Antonio FC
Current Record:
 12-2-9, 45pts
Maximum Points Available: 72
Points Needed to Clinch: 13
Avg. Finishing Position: 2.6
Last Game: W 1-0 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Next Game: 9/2 at Real Monarchs SLC, 9 p.m. ET
San Antonio’s postponement against Portland on Saturday gave it an extended break before what is effectively a must-win against Real Monarchs SLC if SAFC is to have any hope of edging out the Western Conference leader for the regular-season championship. After a 2-2 draw between the teams when they met at Toyota Field, another compelling contest is likely.

3. Reno 1868 FC
Current Record:
 12-5-6, 42pts
Maximum Points Available: 69
Points Needed to Clinch: 16
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.2
Last Game: W 1-0 vs. Swope Park Rangers
Next Game: 9/2 at Orange County SC, 10 p.m. ET
Reno took its fourth successive victory to move to the inside track for at least a top-three finish and potentially more thanks to its victory against the Swope Park Rangers. Teams a little further down the Western Conference standings will be hoping 1868 FC can maintain that momentum, too, as it visits Orange County SC on Saturday. Another win would be a welcome boost to the hopes of Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and OKC Energy FC.

4. Swope Park Rangers
Current Record:
 12-6-6, 42pts
Maximum Points Available: 66
Points Needed to Clinch: 16
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.8
Last Game: L 1-0 at Reno 1868 FC
Next Game: 9/2 vs. OKC Energy FC
The Rangers’ winless streak is now at six games after their loss in Reno, a trend that the side will want to end on Saturday night when OKC Energy FC visits. A top-four position at the end of the season is still the most likely outcome for Swope Park, though.

5. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Current Record:
 11-11-3, 36pts
Maximum Points Available: 60
Points Needed to Clinch: 22
Avg. Finishing Position: 6.0
Last Game: W 1-0 at Seattle Sounders FC 2
Next Game: 9/3 at Portland Timbers 2, 5 p.m. ET
The Roughnecks’ victory against Seattle Sounders FC 2 on Wednesday night provided a clear insight on how much fortunes can swing in the six-pointers that are to play out in the games between six teams sitting between fifth and 10th in the West going forward. Tulsa upped its odds of reaching the playoffs by 11.4 percent according to with its win, making the Roughnecks a 93.4 percent chance to be in the postseason as it heads to Portland for the second game of its trip to Cascadia.

6. Sacramento Republic FC
Current Record:
 10-8-5, 35pts
Maximum Points Available: 62
Points Needed to Clinch: 23
Avg. Finishing Position: 6.3
Last Game: L 3-1 at Phoenix Rising FC
Next Game: 9/2 vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
Sacramento has fallen to sixth in the Western Conference after Tulsa’s victory on Wednesday night, and with the side on a three-game winless streak there’s added pressure on Republic FC as it hosts Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Saturday night. With nine games to go Republic FC should still be fine in terms of the postseason, but a loss to Colorado Springs would see another drop in the standings, and really start to raise the pressure.

7. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Current Record:
 9-10-6, 33pts
Maximum Points Available: 54
Points Needed to Clinch: 25
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.8
Last Game: L 2-1 vs. LA Galaxy II
Next Game: 9/2 at Sacramento Republic FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
The Switchbacks saw a few things fall their way, and a few others fail to, as it had the past weekend off, but it will go into Saturday’s game knowing a victory against Sacramento Republic FC would give it a big boost in terms of playoff chances. A couple of favorable results elsewhere in the form of a Reno victory against Orange County and a Swope Park win against Energy FC would be very welcome as well.

8. OKC Energy FC
Current Record:
 9-9-6, 33pts
Maximum Points Available: 57
Points Needed to Clinch: 25
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.0
Last Game: W 2-1 at Orange County SC
Next Game: 9/2 at Swope Park Rangers, 8:30 p.m. ET
Energy FC got the win it needed against Orange County SC and as a result boosted its predicted finishing position by a full point after factoring in the rest of the Western Conference’s results in the past seven days. The road to the postseason is still a precarious one, however, and getting something from Saturday’s game against the Swope Park Rangers is going to be essential to the club’s playoff push.

9. Phoenix Rising FC
Current Record:
 8-7-6, 30pts
Maximum Points Available: 63
Points Needed to Clinch: 28
Avg. Finishing Position: 6.9
Last Game: W 3-1 vs. Sacramento Republic FC
Next Game: 9/2 vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2, 10:30 p.m. ET
Phoenix got a big victory against Sacramento Republic FC this past Saturday as Chris Cortez and Jason Johnson led the way offensively. With Seattle Sounders FC 2 visiting the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex this weekend after its defeat on Wednesday night, Rising FC could both continue its run at the postseason, and push S2 even closer to the brink.

10. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Current Record:
 9-14-2, 29pts
Maximum Points Available: 50
Points Needed to Clinch: 29
Avg. Finishing Position: 10.9
Last Game: L 1-0 vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Next Game: 9/2 at Phoenix Rising FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
S2’s defeat to Tulsa Roughnecks FC makes the team’s path to the postseason a difficult one, and this Saturday’s game against Phoenix Rising FC a must-win. With its postseason chances sitting at 5.6 percent according to, a big run of victories and plenty of help elsewhere over its final seven games is going to be needed to have a chance at the postseason.

11. Orange County SC
Current Record:
 7-7-8, 29pts
Maximum Points Available: 59
Points Needed to Clinch: 29
Avg. Finishing Position: 9.4
Last Game: L 2-1 vs. OKC Energy FC
Next Game: 9/2 vs. Reno 1868 FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
Technically, Orange County still has the eighth-best potential points total in the Western Conference, but its loss to OKC Energy FC on Friday night was a pretty decent blow to the club’s playoff hopes. With the team on a seven-game winless streak, having a Reno 1868 FC side that has won four consecutive games come to Champions Soccer Stadium this isn’t really the matchup OCSC would be looking for right now to try and break that streak, either.

12. Rio Grande Valley FC
Current Record:
 7-11-7, 28pts
Maximum Points Available: 49
Points Needed to Clinch: 30
Avg. Finishing Position: 11.3
Last Game: D 1-1 vs. Portland Timbers 2
Next Game: 9/3 at LA Galaxy II, 9:30 p.m. ET
After suffering a loss and a draw in the past week, Rio Grande Valley FC has slid well out of contention for a second consecutive playoff berth. The club’s home record is the main cause for this, with the side sitting at 4-4-5 at H-E-B Park this season, without a win there since June 10. A victory against the LA Galaxy II on Sunday would be nice, but a lot would need to go right elsewhere in addition for the postseason to come back into view over the next couple of weeks.

13. LA Galaxy II
Current Record:
 6-13-4, 22pts
Maximum Points Available: 49
Points Needed to Clinch: 36
Avg. Finishing Position: 13.0
Last Game: L 2-1 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Next Game: 9/3 vs. Rio Grande Valley FC, 9:30 p.m. ET
The Galaxy II’s playoff hopes effectively dropped to naught with their loss against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, with too much ground and too many teams to overtake for the playoffs to be a realistic proposition. Sunday’s game with Rio Grande Valley FC should be an entertaining one, but won’t have any impact on the postseason race.

14. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Current Record:
 5-13-7, 22pts
Maximum Points Available: 43
Points Needed to Clinch: 36
Avg. Finishing Position: 13.3
Last Game: W 2-1 vs. LA Galaxy II
Next Game: 9/6 vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Vancouver at least got to bring its lengthy winless streak to an end on Sunday as Gloire Amanda’s late winner earned victory against the LA Galaxy II. It didn’t mean much for the team’s postseason hopes, however, with WFC2’s role now being that of potential spoiler as Tulsa Roughnecks FC visits next Wednesday.

15. Portland Timbers 2
Current Record:
 2-18-4, 10pts
Maximum Points Available: 34
Points Needed to Clinch: 48
Avg. Finishing Position: 15.0
Last Game: D 1-1 at Rio Grande Valley FC
Next Game: 9/3 vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Wednesday night’s game against Rio Grande Valley FC summed up T2’s season, with the potential of a late victory ending up as another gut-wrenching draw. Mathematical elimination could arrive this weekend should Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and OKC Energy FC take victory on Saturday, or should T2 fall to Tulsa Roughnecks FC on Sunday. 

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