Getting a bit clearer, but still much to play for
Continuing our weekly coverage of the playoff picture, we have a few changes this week, but there are quite a few slots still to be decided.
Here’s what we have right now:
El Paso Locomotive joined the ranks of division winners, which means that only the Central Division champion is yet to be decided.
Home Field Advantage
The Legion secured home field Wednesday evening in grand style over Austin Bold. With that, the Central is the only division with both home field places set despite also being the only one without a champion.
The Legion not only won home field, they also moved into the division lead as Lou City continued to stumble, losing 0-1 to Indy Eleven. Also moving up in the Central was Memphis with a shootout 4-2 win over Atlanta United 2. In the Atlantic, Charlotte Independence moved up a spot into home field position with a convincing 5-1 win over the Charleston Battery, and some help elsewhere…
In the West, there was no shuffling at all among those clubs maintaining position in the playoff field.
That help Charlotte got was courtesy of the referees down in Florida who called off a clear own goal by The Miami FC to deny the Pittsburgh Riverhounds a win, instead ending up with a 1-1 draw and falling a place in the standings.
— x – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) October 17, 2021
Also dropping one spot each were Lou City and FC Tulsa. Tulsa drew 1-1 at San Antonio and were leapfrogged by Memphis.
Only one team entered the field this week: New Mexico United came back in after a week out, despite managing only a 1-1 draw with San Diego, who clinched a playoff spot in the process. New Mexico has 3 straight draws, and are not looking safe by any stretch.
New Mexico’s rise was the loss of Austin Bold, flipping the switch from last week. The Bold of course were the Legion’s victims, then followed that up with a 3-4 loss to Real Monarchs.
The losses this week saw Atlanta and Charleston join the ranks of the eliminated. That means all four Atlantic Division spots have been taken, although the order is far from settled. Seven teams below the line are still in, if only barely in some cases.
Atlantic Division outlook
Charlotte looks to be in the strongest position here. They are tied on 52 points with Pittsburgh, but have a game in hand, and are 3 points ahead of Miami on the same number of games. Most of the games remaining are against eliminated teams; Miami has the hardest task, as they face the Tampa Bay Rowdies next. Still, with only 3 points separating them, anything can happen.
Central Division outlook
Our very own Legion is in the driver’s seat for the division title right now, and could lock it up next weekend. To do that they will need to beat Sporting Kansas City II at home and have Memphis 901 take points at Louisville City. If not, then it all comes down to the final game at the Bank. Memphis has an interesting end to their season: they face Lou City away, then Tulsa at home, then Indy away. So they have two key games in a row. Tulsa has four games remaining: Atlanta and OKC Energy at home, Memphis and Indy away.
Below the line OKC likely ended its chances with the 0-0 against the Legion. They next travel to El Paso and then to Tulsa. In order to qualify, they need to win both of those and have Tulsa to lose 2 of their other 3 games, a tall order. Indy, with only those 2 games left, is 1 point dropped or 1 point earned by Tulsa from elimination. Tulsa has a tough task: they are the only team alive with 4 games still to play. They are going to be tired.
Mountain Division outlook
The division continues to be a mess. San Antonio and Colorado Springs look to be the teams that will take 2nd and 3rd place, both on 48 points, although San Antonio has 3 games left and Colorado only 2. They are 8 points clear of New Mexico and Austin. San Antonio play at New Mexico next and Austin after that, so those games are critical for all concerned. The final playoff spot will likely be between New Mexico. Austin and Rio Grande Valley, who trail by 2 points but are by no means finished.
Pacific Division outlook
Two spots remain to be claimed. Orange County are 1 point earned or 1 point dropped by Tacoma Defiance from clinching one of them. Conversely, Sacramento Republic are 1 dropped or 1 point earned by LA Galaxy II from elimination. LA are in the strongest position to take the final place, leading the 3 teams below the line by 5 points, and are riding high after a 5-0 thumping of El Paso. 4 points from their final 3 games or a 3-goal win over Tacoma sees them in.
The final two weeks of the regular season will be wild, nowhere more so than here in the Magic City. Hang on to your hats!