Another exciting week of USL play is in the books, so let us now return to our strength of schedule playoff projections. Taking into account the number of points a team gains per match, and the strength of their opponents, we can more accurately predict the results of the clubs and their final points total.
Here are the updated, expected standings for the Eastern Conference at the end of the season. Here are last week's rankings for comparison.
Eastern Conference Strength of Schedule Projected Standings:
1 (Last Week- 1) New York Red Bulls II (67.9)
The Baby Bulls capped off a perfect August after defeating FC Cincinnati 2-0 for their fifth straight win. New York continues to rise above the rest of the Eastern Conference, now holding a 4-1-1 record against the rest of the top four. After punching their ticket to the postseason, the Red Bulls have their eyes on the top seed.
2 (3) Louisville City FC (57.9)
Louisville will return to the playoffs for the second season after a clinching their spot with a victory against Bethlehem on Saturday. With three of their final four matches against playoff hopeful teams, including a road trip to Saint Louis FC, Louisville will want to regain momentum coming down the home stretch.
3 (2) FC Cincinnati (56.4)
Despite being shutout for only the third time this season on Sunday, FC Cincinnati did clinch a spot in the playoffs. The Ohio-based club had only one win through August, and with only two of their final six matches at home, Cincinnati will look to earn a home fixture in the playoffs.
4 (5) Richmond Kickers (50.5)
The Kickers extended their unbeaten streak to nine games with their 1-0 win over Orlando City B. Richmond remain in a tight race for the 4th spot, and with their next match against Charleston, can begin to distance themselves from the rest of the playoff bound clubs.
5 (6) Charleston Battery (50.0)
Charleston posted a much-needed win, despite a result that should've been a draw with the denial of an obvious goal from Charlotte, halting their winless streak at four. Now they face another tough week, as they travel north to Richmond in a fixture that could decide the East's fourth seed.
6 (4) Charlotte Independence (48.2)
After a controversial no-call on an obvious goal against Charleston cost them potential points, Charlotte's unbeaten streak ended at six. the Independence remain on the bubble for hosting a playoff match, and will look to return to winning ways against FC Cincinnati this weekend.
7 (7) Rochester Rhinos (46.1)
It took a goal in stoppage time for the Rhinos come away with a point against Wilmington. Rochester have scored in each of their last five matches, and with their next three against top-half clubs, the Rhinos will look to build towards a run in the playoffs.
8 (8) Orlando City B (40.5)
Only one win through their last five, Orlando City B need to start picking up positive results if they are to have any momentum for the postseason. As we enter September, the Baby Lions will face the daunting task of playing their last four matches away from home.
9 (10) Bethlehem Steel FC (32.4)
The losses keep coming as Bethlehem lost their third straight game against Louisville on Saturday. Having not earned all three points since July 14th, Steel's playoff hopes are quickly fading.
10 (9) Wilmington Hammerheads FC (31.8)
In a what looked like a chance to end the nine match winless streak, Wilmington gave a up a late goal to the visiting Rhinos and settled for a draw. In a midweek fixture, the Hammerheads travel to Quebec to face red hot FC Montreal.
11 (11) Harrisburg City Islanders (30.7)
The playoffs seem very distant at this point, but Harrisburg, who have yet to lose to a fellow Pennsylvania club, can take in-state bragging rights with a positive result against Bethlehem this week.
12 (12) Toronto FC II (25.4)
Toronto FC II, like their MLS counterpart, lost to Montreal this week. Having now lost four straight, TFCII will look to spoil the chances of playoff bound clubs.
13 (13) Pittsburgh Riverhounds (23.7)
Taking four points from a possible six this week, Pittsburgh will look to avoid a last place finish as they enter the final month of season.
14 (14) FC Montreal (22.4)
FC Montreal finished August flying high with four straight wins.The streaking Quebec club can climb out of the bottom of the table will a string of good results to finish the season.
Easiest Strength of Schedule to Date: Rochester Rhinos (1.30 points gained per game by opponent)
Easiest Strength of Schedule in the Future: Orlando City B (1.11 points gained per game by opponent)
Hardest Strength of Schedule to Date: Orlando City B (1.48 points gained per game by opponent)
Hardest Strength of Schedule in the Future: Rochester Rhinos (1.69 points gained per game by opponent)
The biggest story line from the recent week of Eastern Conference matches was a denial of an obvious goal for Charlotte in their match against Charleston. The no-call proved costly as the Battery walked away with all three points and hold a 1.8 point advantage in the standings. Had that goal been counted and the game ended in a draw, Charlotte would be above Charleston in the table.
Richmond, Charleston and Charlotte remain locked in a heated battle for the fourth seed and a chance to host a playoff game. Only 2.3 points separate these three clubs as we reach the homestretch of the year.
The split between the playoffs clubs and the rest of the East widened to 8.1 points, as the top four clubs all clinched spots in the postseason. With only four spots remaining, it looks like a difficult climb for any club on the outside of the playoffs on the bubble.
What do you think will happen as we enter the final month of the regular season? Let us know in the comments below!