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2016 USL Playoffs Bracket Challenge

The ICS crew calls our shots on who will win it all as the post-season begins

Steve Aibel/

The bracket challenge.  Pure.  Simple.  Fun.  Pick the winners.  This week the ICS crew made our picks for who will win it all.

Ryan Allen (@ILM_Ryan)

The Eastern Conference is the Baby Bulls' to lose. I believe that they march through the conference en route to the final. Sacramento Republic, who I predict will face them in the final, should be able to match NYRB2's play. With the championship seeming like it would being held away from Red Bull Arena if NYRB2 make it, I give the advantage to Bonney Field and Sacramento to win their second USL title in three years.

Jordan Beech (@JBeech13)

Evan Eyster (@IronPonyChef)

The most straightforward conference is the West.  I do not see much of a chance of any team outside of Sacramento, Rio Grande Valley or Colorado Springs taking home the conference title, and the Switchbacks are a distant third.  While Sacramento is still playing good soccer, they will be facing a Rio Grande Valley team who played them close last time out, and this time will not be dealing with a key suspension due to card accumulation.

Out East, it's a bigger struggle.  I can buy a minimum of four teams (New York, Louisville, Rochester and Charlotte) coming out of that bracket, with Cincinnati and Charleston as legitimate dark horses.  In the end though, Rochester is playing their best ball at the optimal time, and Lilley Ball will once again will take them to the finals.

Jeff Shunta (@JTShunta)

Josh Beeman (@josh_beeman)

I am more familiar with the Western Conference than the Eastern, so I'm obviously going to have more confidence with my picks out West. Even though this is the playoffs and anything can happen, I found myself once again heavily favoring home teams here. Especially in the first round, where none of the road teams really inspire confidence.

I think this Republic team has what it takes to go to the final. It will be a hard journey, but I think they can do it. But I'm not sure they can get past NYRBII. The little I watched from NYRBII and what I read about them was very impressive, so I think this could be their year.

But there's really no great way to predict it because there is little to no overlap between East and West, so there's always the question of if NYRBII succeeded more because they were in the East and if Republic faced a more difficult West. Either way, I think we're in for a fun round of playoffs.

Kyle Kepner (@KyleJKepner)

Switchbacks Stadium will be a fortress, but Steve Trittschuch's men will not escape Bonney.  "Team of Destiny" FC Cincinnati is my Cinderella pick to ride their fans all the way to the title game. Republic FC puts another trophy in the cabinet, and takes the monkey off Buckle's back.

George Shiel (@GeorgeMShiel)

Now that you know our picks, what are your picks?  Will Sacramento make the run to the finals?  Who are the dark horse teams that we need to watch out for?  Let us know in the comments!