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Breaking down the close race for the final USL Western Conference playoff spot

A comprehensive look at how everyone who is still in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot can squeeze their way into the playoffs and into a date with whichever team finishes with the top seed.

Indomitable City Soccer/Alex Leguizamo

We are entering the final week of the season and the Western Conference playoffs are still not all decided. The eighth and final spot is still open and five teams have a chance to take it. Since it is impossible for the teams listed below to finish any higher than eighth, this is the last chance any of them have to make it to the playoffs.

Let's meet the teams and see what they each need to do in order to squeeze themselves into the postseason.

The Contenders:

San Antonio FC

The simplest route for San Antonio is "Win and In".  Taking all points from their game against Rio Grande Valley this weekend will send San Antonio into eighth place, where they will be awarded a matchup with either Sacramento or Colorado Springs.  Anything less than a win and things suddenly become complicated.

If San Antonio only draws, they will require Portland, Real Monarchs, and Orange County to fail to win their final matches.

If San Antonio loses, they need Portland and Orange County to lose their matches, or San Antonio would miss the playoffs due to tiebreakers.  San Antonio would remain ahead of Real Monarchs if the Monarchs drew or lost their final game, and would only be caught by Seattle in the event that Seattle won. However, Seattle would need to make up a massive 16 goal gap in goal differential to beat San Antonio on tiebreakers, so unless a massive blowout occurred, it is unlikely that Sounders 2 will threaten them.

Portland Timbers 2

Of all teams in this race that do not fully control their own destiny, Portland requires the least assistance from other results. The Timbers cannot advance without San Antonio failing to win.  In the event that San Antonio drops their match, and the Timbers win against Arizona United, they would momentarily be in eighth place.  However, if Orange County won as well, both Portland and Orange County would be tied for first, and they would share the same first tiebreaker (total wins).

Going into this match, Portland has a "better" goal differential, holding a -5 to -6 advantage.  This means that even if Portland and both Orange County won, Orange County would need to win by more goals to pad their goal differential.  Simply put, as long as Portland wins by more than Orange County, they will remain in front of the Blues.

A loss by San Antonio and a draw by Portland would also leave them ahead of the Texas club on tiebreakers.  To advance in that situation, Portland would need to dodge wins by Orange County and Real Monarchs.  A draw by Portland would eliminate Seattle.

Orange County Blues

The Blues' path to the playoffs is identical to that of the Timbers.  They will require a San Antonio tie or loss, but if that occurs, the door is wide open.

If Orange County wins and San Antonio stumbles, they must also have Portland either fail to win their match or the Blues must win with a larger margin of victory over Colorado Springs than Portland records over Arizona.  If San Antonio fails to win, the Blues take all points, and Portland drops points or has a smaller margin of victory, the eighth place spot goes to Orange County.

The Blues can still advance on a draw, but they will require losses by San Antonio and Portland, and either a draw or loss from the Monarchs.  As was the case with Portland, any points gained by Orange County immediately eliminate Seattle from playoff contention.

Real Monarchs

The Monarchs will require plenty of help to make it to October, but are not yet completely out of the race.  First, they need to win their final game against LA Galaxy II.  A draw will do them no good, regardless of results of other teams.

Additionally, the Monarchs will require that none of the teams ahead of them in the table (San Antonio, Orange County and Portland) win a game.  Any of those three teams taking home three points will cause the Monarchs to be eliminated.

In the event the Monarchs win, they would only advance over a San Antonio side that draws its last game in the exceedingly unlikely situation where the Monarchs manage to beat the Galaxy by 11 goals.

There is no possible way for the Monarchs to end up in a situation where they would be level at the top of the playoff hunt with either Portland or Orange County.  If the Monarchs win, they will finish ahead of either of those sides that end the season on a draw or a loss.  Seeing as the only way the Monarchs can reach the playoffs is with a win, there is no situation where they have a chance and Seattle are also still in it.

Seattle Sounders 2

The long shot of long shots, it is still technically correct to say Seattle is in the playoff hunt.  And technically correct is the best kind of correct. First, Seattle will require San Antonio, Portland and Orange County to lose.  Any points gained from those three teams will immediately eliminate Seattle.  Additionally, they will require the Monarchs to lose or draw their finale.

Only there do things start to become improbable. Seattle would then need to beat Swope Park Rangers by at least 16 more goals than Rio Grande Valley beats San Antonio by in order to make up the goal differential.

Quick Summary Of Paths:



San Antonio

Win against Rio Grande Valley

OR

Draw against Rio Grande Valley

AND

Portland Timbers Draw/Loss against Arizona

AND

Orange County Blues Draw/Loss against Colorado Springs

AND

Real Monarchs Draw/Loss against Los Angeles Galaxy II

OR

Loss against Rio Grande Valley

AND

Portland Timbers Loss against Arizona

AND

Orange County Blues Loss against Colorado Springs

AND

Real Monarchs Draw/Loss against Los Angeles Galaxy II

AND

Seattle Sounders margin of victor + San Antonio margin of loss is 15 or less

Portland Timbers 2


Win against Arizona

AND

San Antonio Draw/Loss against Rio Grande Valley

AND

Orange County Draw/Loss/margin of victory against Colorado Springs less than or equal to Portland margin of victory

OR

Draw against Arizona

AND

San Antonio loss against Rio Grande Valley

AND

Orange County Draw/Loss against Colorado Springs

AND

Real Monarchs Draw/Loss against Los Angeles Galaxy II

Orange County Blues

Win against Colorado Springs

AND

San Antonio Draw/Loss against Rio Grande Valley

AND

Portland Draw/Loss/Margin of victory against Arizona less than Orange County margin of victory

OR

Draw against Colorado Springs

AND

San Antonio Loss against Rio Grande Valley

AND

Portland Timbers loss against Arizona

AND

Real Monarchs Draw/Loss against Los Angeles Galaxy II

Real Monarchs

Win against Los Angeles Galaxy II

AND

San Antonio Draw/Loss against Rio Grande Valley Toros

AND

Portland Timbers Draw/Loss against Arizona

AND

Orange County Blues Draw/Loss against Colorado Springs

Seattle Sounders 2

Win against Swope Park Rangers

AND
San Antonio Loss against Rio Grande Valley Toros

AND

Portland Timbers Loss against Arizona

AND

Orange County Blues Loss against Colorado Springs

AND

Real Monarchs Draw/Loss against LA Galaxy II

AND

Seattle winning margin + San Antonio losing margin is at least 16

Thoughts:

Now that you know all of the scenarios, who do you think will take the final spot?  Will San Antonio hold on to the final seed, or will one of the challengers pick up a win on the final day of the season to sneak into the playoffs?  With Portland being the only side who does not play a team who is already assured of making the playoffs, anything can happen.