Luv 2 re-use my Louisville stock photo. Hate 2 ponder the existential dread of my impending retirement with the understanding that merely expressing these thoughts in a voice-over narration will inevitably lead to
Nashville SC doesn’t play again until Tuesday. That’s no fun! However, there’s still a lot of soccer to be played in the USL Championships Eastern Conference this week. Many of those game will have an effect on Nashville’s eventual playoff seeding. Who should the Boys in Gold be rooting for?
As a side note, there are still too many relevant games remaining for me to become an insane spreadsheet person. Regardless of this week’s outcomes, we should be able to hammer down some numbers before the Louisville City game, though.
On with the show!
Where things stand
You may have noted this pretty-lookin’ detail at the top of the Eastern Conference table:
Nashville currently occupies the top spot, though that’s only on tiebreakers over Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and the Hounds have more opportunities (four games remaining) to add points to their total than does Nashville (three games left). Indy Eleven also has a chance to pass NSC in the table simply by catching up in the number of games played. Nashville is in first for now, but the out-of-town scoreboard is relevant.
With 58 points right now, Nashville has locked in a finish of seventh or better in the final table, with only the following teams in play to pass them for No. 1:
- Pittsburgh (70 possible points, 58 current points)
- Indy (68 possible points, 56 current points)
- New York Red Bulls II (66 possible points, 57 current points)
- Tampa Bay Rowdies (66 possible points, 57 current points)
- Louisville City FC (63 possible points, 51 current points)
- North Carolina FC (59 possible points, 50 current points)
Nashville’s maximum total points total – if they win the remaining three games – is 67, so the Boys in Gold control their destiny for the No. 3 spot in the table, and anything better than that will require a little help from the teams playing Pittsburgh and Indy, even in a best-case scenario.
The next points that North Carolina FC drops (or next points that Nashville gains) will prevent NCFC from finishing ahead of NSC. A top-six finish is inevitable by any reasonable expectation; it’s very close to being officially clinched.
This week’s games
So, it stands to reason, based on the above, that we’re cheering against those six teams, with priority Nos. 1 and 2 being additional losses for Pittsburgh and Indy.
Loudoun United v. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
7:30 p.m. EDT (6:30 Nashville) • Leesburg, Va.
The first of two times this week that Loudoun can play Best Supporting Actor to Nashville’s top-billed role in this production. A loss for Pittsburgh puts them on even footing with Nashville (58 points with three games left to play), and behind on tiebreakers, with NSC having more wins and a better goal differential than Bob Lilley’s squad.
Root for: Loudoun United FC
Ottawa Fury v. Indy Eleven
7:00 p.m. EDT (6:00 Nashville) • Ottawa, Ont.
If the Fury – capable of plenty of up-and-down-results – can knock off the Eleven, that would put Nashville SC a point ahead on even games played with Indy. Which is to say, that gives Nashville control of its own destiny for finishing ahead of Indy. Martin Rennie’s squad has laid a number of eggs in recent weeks (losing to Charleston Battery, Birmingham Legion, and Atlanta United 2, all in September alone), so I wouldn’t put it past them to do it again. That would be extremely helpful for NSC.
Root for: Ottawa Fury
Loudoun United v. Tampa Bay Rowdies
7:30 p.m. EDT (6:30 Nashville) • Leesburg, Va.
Once again, Loudoun has a chance to do Nashville a major solid. The Boys in Gold don’t necessarily need Tampa to lose – they control their own destiny for finishing ahead of the Rowdies already – but getting a little bit of help certainly would be welcome. Loudoun isn’t quite technically eliminated from the playoffs, either, so they may have a lot to play for in this one if they’ve already beaten Pittsburgh.
Root for: Loudoun United
Indy Eleven v. Memphis 901
7:00 p.m. EDT (6:00 Nashville) • Indianapolis
Another team not technically eliminated from the playoffs in Memphis. Another crack at Indy Eleven dropping points. This calls for former Nashville SC defender Liam Doyle to rekindle his loyalty to the Boys in Gold and get a game-winning goal for Memphis, yeah? They’ll still need help to make the playoffs – especially if Ottawa has already knocked off Indy, sealing the Fury ahead of 901FC – but a little more motivation may not be needed with a shot to knock off a top side.
Root for: Memphis 901
North Carolina FC v. New York Red Bulls II
7:00 p.m. EDT (6:00 Nashville) • Cary, N.C.
As noted above, any dropped points for NCFC seals their fate behind Nashville, while the Boys in Gold currently control their own destiny when it comes to a finish ahead of the Baby Bulls. It may be best to see these teams split points, so Nashville’s standing in comparison to each of them improves. Second-best scenario is for NCFC to win, giving the Boys in Gold a bit more cushion in aiming for that No. 3 guarantee, while still leaving it fairly unlikely NCFC can catch up.
Root for: Draw or North Carolina FC
Pittsburgh Riverhounds v. Atlanta United 2
7:00 p.m. EDT (6:00 Nashville) • Pittsburgh
If the Hounds take care of business against Loudoun United tonight, there’s still a chance that Nashville can make up a little bit of ground before taking the field again. Away teams have a rough time at Highmark Stadium, and Atlanta United 2 is a particularly horrible away team (we can probably just say “particularly horrible team”), but any assistance would be welcomed by their Southern brethren. ATL has been playing its best ball lately – and getting help from players who aren’t going to participate in the playoffs with the senior team – so there’s a chance.
Root for: Atlanta United 2
Saint Louis FC v. Louisville City
7:30 p.m. CDT • Fenton, Mo.
Saint Louis FC is playing for its postseason life, with a tenuous hold on the No. 9 spot. Meanwhile, Louisville has locked up its playoff spot, and still technically has a chance to finish anywhere between No. 1 and No. 10. There’s an additional wrench in the works here, with Louisville’s very next game coming just a couple days later in Nashville. How will the different results impact their motivation for that one? If they get all three points, there’s still a realistic chance to pass Nashville in the final table, whereas getting no points still leaves a possibility that they have a play-in-round away game. I think it’s best that the two split points here, and if there’s a clear winner, it’s better for Nashville to see Saint Louis earn all three.
Root for: Draw or Saint Louis FC