With its eighth consecutive win, FC Cincinnati continues its dominance of the Eastern Conference and extends its unbeaten streak to 19 matches. Having secured a home playoff game for the two rounds of the postseason, the Orange and Blue take it a step further this week and secure the top finish in the Eastern Conference for the season.
Who’s In and Who’s Out?
Last week, the Richmond Kickers dropped out of playoff contention. This week, Atlanta United II joined Richmond and Toronto after losing spectacularly to North Carolina FC. Though they can tie Ottawa (who currently sit in eighth place) on points, Atlanta can only secure eleven wins and would lose the first tiebreaker.
Cincinnati is joined this week by Louisville City FC, the second team to secure a place in the post-season in the Eastern Conference. Louisville squeaks in this week with some help. With a mid-week game, they earned two wins and six points, but it took New York dropping points against Charlotte to lock in the Purples. The Orange and Blue weren’t standing still and waiting for Louisville to catch up. A win against Penn FC vaulted them to the top of the table and makes their position untouchable by any other team.
Though the playoffs aren’t locked in for all, the top four teams look fairly secure with a significant gap above the rest of the table. However, the remainder of the field remains tight with the five-team closest to the line, separated by only three points. As always, it looks like the Eastern Conference will be a battle to the very end.
Looking at points per match played (Pts/MP) each team earns, it’s possible to predict how teams could end their season if they continue their current form. Based on current form, the postseason bracket would look as follows:
Nashville’s draw against Charleston drops them in the standings again, and now are missing the playoffs unless they pick up their end of season form. North Carolina, who beat Atlanta last week, climb the table and enter the playoff discussion this week. Based on current form, FCC would match up with New York in the first round of the post-season.
What to Watch
On Wednesday, Pittsburgh travels to Harrisburg to take on Penn FC. A win for Pittsburgh would guarantee them a playoff position. A loss for Penn FC also puts them dangerously close to elimination from the post-season though it would take positive results from other teams to end Penn FC’s playoff hopes.
On Wednesday, Charleston plays North Carolina FC and on Saturday, Charleston takes on Toronto FC II. With six points available, Charleston has the opportunity to earn a playoff position.
Dropped points from New York or Nashville this week could also back Pittsburgh and Charleston into the playoffs.
On Wednesday, FC Cincinnati takes on Richmond, and on Saturday, the Orange and Blue play Indy Eleven at Nippert Stadium for their last home game of the regular season. Either game could secure the USL Regular Season Championship for FCC.
USL Regular Season Championship
The USL Regular Season Championship is the best overall record of any team in the Eastern or Western Conferences. Taking a look at the Western Conference, Phoenix currently sits in second place, but with a game in hand. The extra game positions them to achieve the highest number of points in the west, with 71 maximum points. Cincinnati has earned 69 points. Seventy-two points, or one more win, would secure the USL Regular Season Championship for the Orange and Blue. With four games remaining and averaging more than two points per match played, Cincinnati should be able to lock in the best record in the USL for this season.