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Eastern Conference Strength of Schedule Playoff Projections: Week 26

Penultimate weekend of the USL has passed and we head into final slate of matches. Let's return once more to our Strength of Schedule Playoff Projections!

Indomitable City Soccer/Alex Leguizamo

The Eastern Conference is poised to end on a thrilling note, as three clubs look to take the final spot in the top four. Further down the table, either Orlando City B and Wilmington can clinch the eighth and final playoff spot if results go favorable for them. Let us take another look at our Strength of Schedule Playoff Projections. As we take into account each team's number of points per game, and the strength of their opponents, we can more accurately predict the final points total for each club.

Here are the updated expected standings for the Eastern Conference and here are last week's rankings for comparison.

Eastern Conference Rankings

1 (Last Week- 1) New York Red Bulls II (67.7)

Continuing their season-ending victory lap, the New York Red Bulls II extended their unbeaten streak to nine with a statement 4-0 result against FC Montreal. A trip to Charleston is on tap this weekend, as the Baby Bulls will look to carry this momentum into the playoffs.

2 (2) Louisville City (60.6)

With a 5-1 win over cross-conference foes Saint Louis FC, Louisville City captured the #2 seed for the Eastern Conference. The Kentucky based club puts their four match winning streak on the line as they welcome Charlotte to Louisville Slugger Field this weekend.

3 (3) FC Cincinnati (55.7)

A record-breaking crowd of 24,000+ packed Nippert Stadium to see FC Cincinnati defeat Orlando City B and clinch a home playoff game. A win versus Pittsburgh this weekend would see FCC end the season winning four of their final five matches.

4 (6) Rochester Rhinos (50.5)

The Rhinos are getting hot at just the right time, as they stretched their unbeaten run to an eighth straight match in a win over the Independence. If results go their way this weekend, Rochester will host a home playoff fixture for the second straight season.

5 (4) Charlotte Independence (50.2)

After a loss in their final home match of the regular season, Charlotte have dropped below Rochester by less than half a point in our projections. The Independence will look to reclaim their spot in the top four in a bout against Louisville City this weekend.

6 (7) Charleston Battery (49.0)

After a crucial win over Richmond, the Battery remain in the heat of the race for the #4 seed. With a daunting task of hosting the red-hot Baby Bulls this weekend, Charleston need a win - and help from Louisville and Toronto FC II - to take a spot in the top half of the playoffs.

7 (5) Richmond Kickers (47.0)

The loss to Charleston eliminated the Kickers from hosting a playoff game. Richmond will be looking to turnaround their recent form as they have failed to collect all three points in their last four matches.

8 (8) Orlando City B (33.1)

Giving up a goal in the final ten minutes to FC Cincinnati just dumped another load of misery on the Baby Lions, who have now lost five straight matches and have failed to win any of their last eight. If Orlando City B can post a win over Bethlehem in the league's final match, they will find themselves playoff bound.

9 (9) Wilmington Hammerheads FC (32.2)

A draw with Harrisburg has kept the Hammerheads a little under a point behind eighth in our projected table. The #8 seed will be decided on the final day of the season, and Wilmington's match against Richmond has turned into a must-win.

10 (11) Bethlehem Steel FC (29.8)

Sunday's draw against Pittsburgh has ended Bethlehem's playoff run. They have the chance to play the spoiler next weekend, as they host playoff hopeful, Orlando City B.

11 (10) Harrisburg City Islanders (29.5)

Another club who needed a win to stay alive in the playoff race, Harrisburg shared the points with Wilmington on Saturday, thus bringing an end to their chase for the postseason. The City Islanders will look to close the season on a high note as they travel north to FC Montreal.

12 (12) Toronto FC II (26.8)

After bye week, Toronto FC II will close out their 2016 campaign looking to spoil a chance for Rochester to host a playoff game.

13 (13) Pittsburgh Riverhounds (25.7)

Despite being long eliminated from the playoff race, Pittsburgh showed that they can still have an impact on the table as their draw with Bethlehem ended the playoff hopes for Pennsylvania's newest USL side.

14 (14) FC Montreal (24.2)

FC Montreal suffered their largest defeat of the season, losing 4-0 to the USL regular season champs, New York Red Bulls II on Saturday. Montreal will look to avoid a last place finish as they face Harrisburg this Saturday

Thoughts

After Richmond were eliminated from the race this weekend, the race for #4 seed has narrowed to either Charlotte, Charleston or Rochester. The Independence and Battery each face daunting matches against the East's top two clubs, and the Rhinos have a more manageable fixture, hosting Toronto FC II. Each of these three clubs have had time in the top four over the course of the season and wins by any of these sides will likely cement their place in the top half of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Orlando City B and Wilmington have stretched their race for 8th to the final weekend. The playoff race hinges on the result from the Wilmington v Richmond match, as the Hammerheads need a win to stay alive. A loss by the North Carolina club will send the Baby Lions into the playoffs. If Wilmington win on Saturday, Orlando City B will need reverse their recent poor form and defeat Bethlehem to punch their ticket to the postseason.

What do you think will happen in the final weekend of the season? Which playoff race are you watching? Let us know in the comments below!