New York Red Bulls II wrapped up the USL's top spot this week. But there are still seven more seeds and one more playoff spot to fill in the Eastern Conference, so let us 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 each club's final points total.
Here are the new expected standings of the Eastern Conference, and here are last week's rankings for comparison.
Eastern Conference Strength of Schedule Projected Standings:
1 (Last Week- 1) New York Red Bulls II (67.8)
The Baby Bulls became the first 'MLS 2' side to win a major trophy when they clinched the USL regular season title on Wednesday night. Almost everything has gone right for the New Jersey based club this season, as they lead the league in wins (19), goals scored (55) and goal differential (+35). However, the league's best club should still take care not to fall victim this week to an FC Montreal club that has developed a recent habit of defeating playoff-bound clubs.
2 (2) Louisville City (59.6)
After posting a third straight shutout win, Louisville will strive to finish the regular season on a high note and with the number 2 seed of the Eastern Conference locked down. A cross-conference match versus Saint Louis FC awaits this weekend for Louisville.
3 (3) FC Cincinnati (56.8)
A win on Sunday has kept FC Cincinnati in third of our projections. With two of their three remaining matches against the struggling Pittsburgh Riverhounds, FCC can improve upon their unbeaten, 4-0-1 record against Pennsylvania-based clubs this season.
4 (4) Charlotte Independence (52.0)
Over the past two months, Charlotte has become one of the East's hottest clubs, with only one loss in their last ten matches. The week ahead features crucial fixtures with Richmond and Rochester. Charlotte can solidify their spot in the top four with a pair of positive results.
5 (5) Richmond Kickers (48.4)
After only one win in their last five, Richmond have fallen from the ranks of the top four. With their final matches against the three clubs of the Carolinas, the Kickers will look to make one last push for a home playoff game.
6 (7) Rochester Rhinos (48.3)
With their draw against top club, New York Red Bulls II, Rochester stretched their unbeaten streak to seven. Sitting 3.7 points behind Charlotte, this weekend's bout between the two clubs will go a long way in deciding seeding for the Eastern Conference.
7 (6) Charleston Battery (47.2)
A win over Bethlehem Steel ended a recent string of bad results for the Battery that saw the club fall to seventh in the table. With their final two matches against playoff clubs, Charleston will look to build momentum towards the season's end.
8 (8) Orlando City B (34.4)
After a fourth straight loss - and seventh straight result without a win - Orlando City B continue to see their lead over the rest of bubble clubs evaporate, now down to just a two point advantage. With games against FC Cincinnati and Bethlehem to close out the season, the race for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs may last until the final day of the season.
9 (9) Wilmington Hammerheads FC (32.4)
One step forward and two steps back was the theme of the week for the Hammerheads. After notching a crucial win over Orlando City B on Wednesday that kept their playoff hopes alive, Wilmington dropped points on Sunday to a visiting FC Cincinnati, losing out on a chance to take eighth in the table.
10 (11) Harrisburg City Islanders (29.9)
Wednesday night was Harrisburg's third and final game of the season against New York Red Bulls II. It was also their third loss of the season to the regular season champs. Through the course of this season's three game series, the City Islanders were outscored by the Baby Bulls 10-1. With only one win in their last five, the City Islanders must win out and receive lots of help to make the playoffs.
11 (10) Bethlehem Steel FC (29.7)
After a tenth straight match without a win, Bethlehem are barely holding on to their playoff hopes. With a fixture against Pittsburgh on tap this weekend, and a match against current eighth place club Orlando City B to close out the season, Steel face the unpleasant specter of a debut season without a playoff appearance.
12 (13) Toronto FC II (26.8)
Posting their first win in over a month, Toronto FC II moves up a spot in this week's projected table. With only one match remaining in the season, TFCII will look to go out on a high note against Rochester and avoid finishing at the bottom of the conference.
13 (12) Pittsburgh Riverhounds (25.3)
After suffering their largest loss of the season on Saturday, Pittsburgh now have no chance at the postseason. However, the Riverhounds can play the spoiler for the playoff bound FC Cincinnati, whom they face twice over their final three matches.
14 (14) FC Montreal (24.4)
Despite being eliminated from the playoffs, FC Montreal proved that they should not be overlooked with a win over playoff team Charleston on Wednesday. The Baby Impact will look to crash the celebrations of the Baby Bulls as they host the league's top club this weekend.
Easiest Strength of Schedule to Date: New York Red Bulls II (1.29 points gained per game by opponent)
Hardest Strength of Schedule to Date: Orlando City B (1.43 points gained per game by opponent)
After holding a 7.1 projected point advantage over Wilmington last week, Orlando City B's lead has fallen to just a slim 2 points. As both sides enter their final two matches, Orlando City B faces opponents that have earned 1.39 points per game compared to Wilmington's remaining slate of adversaries that have earned 1.30 points per game. It is worth noting that both Orlando City B and Wilmington are in the top three of the league with the hardest schedules to date.
The week ahead will prove crucial for Charlotte, who are in the hunt to bring playoff soccer to Ramblewood. First up is a midweek fixture at Richmond, whom Charlotte has defeated in their two previous meetings. Following that match on Saturday is a bout with Rochester, another club hot on the Independence's tail for the fourth seed. With a potential to gain six points over the course of the week, Charlotte will look to cement its place among the top clubs of the Eastern Conference.
What do you think will happen over the final two weeks of the season? Can Orlando City B hold onto the final spot in the playoffs? Let us know in the comments below!