We’re coming up on the end of the USL regular season. Believe it or not, Nashville is still alive to host a first-round playoff game… but could also finish outside of the playoffs.
First, the playoff update: There are still five teams in the hunt (along with Nashville SC) for four playoff positions, so two of them will be missing out. Across those five teams, there are seven games yet to be played:
- New York Red Bulls II @ Penn FC – Tues
- North Carolina FC @ Louisville City FC – Tues
- Charleston Battery @ Ottawa Fury – Sat
- North Carolina FC @ Charlotte Independence – Sat
- Indy Eleven @ Louisville City FC – Sat
- Tampa Bay Rowdies @ Bethlehem Steel FC – Sun
- Pittsburgh Riverhounds @ New York Red Bulls II – Sun
There are 2187 potential outcomes to those games (win, lose, or draw in each). The only ones that see Nashville miss the playoffs on 50 points include both New York and North Carolina winning out: IF Nashville gets to 50 points (i.e. beats Toronto tomorrow night or Cincinnati Saturday), Ottawa Fury cannot catch them in the standings. That means NSC would only need one other team to drop enough points that it 1) can’t reach 50, or 2) can reach exactly 50 but lose the tiebreakers to Nashville.
A playoff position would be sealed in that instance. Hey, what do you know, the two teams I mentioned both needing to win out to keep a victorious Nashville out of the playoffs also have games tomorrow!
Charlotte Independence 2, Penn FC 2 – This officially knocked both teams out of playoff contention.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 1, Atlanta United 1 – This took Tampa one result away from missing the playoffs (spoiler alert: they’d get it over the weekend).
Louisville City 3, Toronto FC 1 – This result made it so, regardless of what happens tomorrow night, Toronto is finishing bottom-of-table. That takes a little wind out of their sails heading into the Nashville contest.
Bethlehem Steel 1, Indy Eleven 1 – This caused two teams ahead of Nashville to split points, and put NSC’s fate in its own hands when it comes to passing both of them in the table.
Charlotte Independence 2, Tampa Bay Rowdies 1 – This officially eliminated Tampa from the playoffs (and also makes Nashville’s strength of schedule a little better, since Charlotte was one of their three-plays, though that’s not super-important for anything other than pride).
Atlanta United 2, Charleston Battery 1 – Shockingly, this gave Nashville the opportunity to keep hope alive for a first-round playoff home game. If Charleston loses out and Nashville wins out, NSC will host the 5 seed in First Tennessee Park.
New York Red Bulls 2, North Carolina FC 1 – I initially had this one with a preference to go the other way (with the ideal being to split points), to make for an easier path to Nashville ensuring its place in the postseason. However, with the results rolling in positively around the rest of the East, this may actually have been the better outcome: it makes Nashville control its own playoff destiny 100%.
Ain’t nothin’ to see here.
New York Red Bulls II @ Penn FC
5:30 p.m. Tuesday • Watch/follow
If Nashville wins Tuesday night and one of New York Red Bulls II and North Carolina FC fails to get all three points, the Boys in Gold are officially in the playoffs.
North Carolina FC @ Louisville City FC
6:00 p.m. Tuesday • Watch/follow
Same as above: one of these teams drops points while Nashville wins, it’s playoff time. If both do and Nashville wins, NSC is guaranteed seventh or better. In the instance Nashville loses (god forbid), these teams also dropping points keeps the playoff hope strong, if still a much tougher ask.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds @ Atlanta United 2
6:00 p.m. Wednesday • Watch/follow
This isn’t the most impactful game, but an Atlanta win does all-but lock Pittsburgh into the three seed (it would indeed be locked-in if Louisville is to get at least one point the night before). Your mileage may vary as to whether you’d rather play Lou City or Pitt in the first round, and whether you think Nashville finished in the seventh or sixth spots, respectively, to achieve those outcomes.
Charleston Battery @ Ottawa Fury FC
1:00 p.m. Saturday • Watch/follow
If Nashville knocks off Toronto FC II on Tuesday, Ottawa is no longer a threat to catch the Boys in Gold, so there’s no harm in rooting for them. Charleston would be within sniping distance in that case, so you’d want the Fury to win. HOWEVER, if Nashville fails to get all three points Tuesday evening, they can still be caught by Ottawa, so you’d be pulling for the Battery to knock them out of the playoffs with a win or draw.
North Carolina FC @ Charlotte Independence
6:00 p.m. Saturday • Watch/follow
The importance of this game is highly dependent on Tuesday’s results: it can either be totally irrelevant (Nashville wins Tuesday and NCFC doesn’t), or pretty crucial (Nashville doesn’t win while NCFC gets at least a draw). We’re obviously hoping for the former, but in either case, it doesn’t hurt to prepare yourself to pull for the Independence, because there’s no outcome where a Charlotte win is bad for Nashville.
Indy Eleven @ Louisville City FC
6:30 p.m. Saturday • Watch/follow
If Nashville wins Tuesday, it controls its own destiny to pass Indy either way. Of course, they’d need either a win over Cincinnati or an Indy loss to guarantee making the pass. you want Louisville to win.
We’re very hopeful that Sunday’s results won’t be needed by the time Saturday is complete, but just in case…
Tampa Bay Rowdies @ Bethlehem Steel
2:00 p.m. Sunday • Watch/follow
If it all goes to hell Tuesday and Saturday (but NSC gets one point), Nashville can still finish ahead of Bethlehem with a if the Steel lose to Tampa Bay. Even if Nashville ends up with only a win over Toronto, they’ll need the Steel to lose or draw this one to stay ahead in the table (Bethlehem holds the tiebreaker in the instance of a win).
Pittsburgh Riverhounds @ New York Red Bulls II
4:00 p.m. Sunday • Watch/follow
Another “in case of emergency” game, Nashville controls its destiny to render this one irrelevant, but if they don’t get full points from Toronto and Cincy, while New York gets a mid-week result, this one could come into play, and you want the Riverhounds to win it.