With only one spot left in the Eastern Conference playoffs and the seeds yet to be decided, we are in for an exciting final month to cap off a thrilling USL season. Let us take another look at our Strength of Schedule Playoff Projections. Considering the number of points a team gains per match and the strength of their opponents, we can more accurately predict the final points total of each club.
Below is 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 (68.4)
A sixth straight win - and third consecutive shutout - for the league's top club on Sunday put the Baby Bulls at a 10.3 projected point advantage over second place Louisville City. Barring an unlikely implosion, NYRBII have nearly wrapped up the East's top seed.
2 (2) Louisville City FC (58.1)
Having now strung together a pair of wins, Louisville hold onto second place in our projections. Now they will look to clinch a home playoff game, with two of their final three opponents having already clinched spots in the playoffs.
3 (3) FC Cincinnati (54.7)
Suffering a second consecutive loss this week, FC Cincinnati will look to build momentum towards the end of the season, as four of the last five matches are against clubs currently out of the playoff picture.
4 (6) Charlotte Independence (51.0)
After a week that featured eight goals and a crucial win over FC Cincinnati, the Independence have taken a slight edge in the race for the final spot in the top four.
5 (4) Richmond Kickers (49.6)
Despite extending their unbeaten streak to a tenth straight match, Richmond fall a spot in our standings projections. The Kickers now face a tough slate of matches, as their next three are against clubs that have already clinched playoff spots.
6 (5) Charleston Battery (48.2)
With only two wins in their last ten matches, the Battery have lost a lot of momentum and are in danger of falling out of the race to host a playoff game. They will look to regain momentum in a trip north to FC Montreal.
7 (7) Rochester Rhinos (48.0)
Rochester wrapped up a recent three match road trip with a win in Charleston, taking five points from a possible nine. A home bout against the New York Red Bulls II will help set the tone for the Rhinos headed into the playoffs.
8 (8) Orlando City B (38.3)
Winless through their last five matches, including three where they failed to score, Orlando City B will end the season with a four match road swing, all in hopes they can hold onto the East's final spot in the playoffs.
9 (10) Wilmington Hammerheads FC (31.2)
Another chance for the Hammerheads to end their incredibly long winless streak came and went this past week with a draw on the road against FC Montreal. Now, with potentially their final chance at the postseason, the Hammerheads host Orlando City B this Wednesday.
10 (9) Bethlehem Steel FC (30.4)
A ninth straight match without a win sees Bethlehem fall a spot in our projections. With two of their last three matches against playoff hopefuls, Steel FC will look to keep their fading chance at the playoffs alive.
11 (11) Harrisburg City Islanders (30.1)
After two draws against their fellow Pennsylvania clubs, the City Islanders now find themselves with a midweek home fixture against the New York Red Bulls II that will give them a chance to avenge a 5-0 defeat earlier this season.
12 (13) Pittsburgh Riverhounds (26.2)
The Riverhounds move up a spot after playing the spoiler by defeating Orlando City B on Saturday. With the postseason pretty much out of reach, Pittsburgh can avoid a finish at the bottom of the table with a couple of good results to round out the season.
13 (12) Toronto FC II (24.6)
Toronto FC II have now lost five straight matches and have been outscored 13-5 in that time frame. As a result, they fall a spot in this week's projections and are danger of dropping beneath their Canadian rivals.
14 (14) FC Montreal (21.9)
Louisville City ended FC Montreal's unbeaten streak at five, but the Quebec side remain a very dangerous club and could find potential upsets against the Battery and Baby Bulls over their next two fixtures.
Easiest Strength of Schedule to Date: New York Red Bulls II (1.29 points gained per game by opponent)
Easiest Strength of Schedule in the Future: FC Cincinnati (1.04 points gained per game by opponent)
Hardest Strength of Schedule to Date: Orlando City (1.46 points gained per game by opponent)
Hardest Strength of Schedule in the Future: FC Montreal (1.63 points gained per game by opponent)
Rochester has crashed the party in the race for the fourth seed. They join Charlotte, Richmond, and Charleston, as the gap between fourth and seventh place is now at 3 points, with the Independence holding the slight advantage. With a chance to host a playoff game on the line, be sure to follow this race closely.
Orlando City B remain in the final playoff spot for another week. They hold a 7.1 point advantage over ninth place Wilmington, but travel to the Hammerheads on Wednesday night in a match that could decide the fate of the eighth seed in the East. If any club outside the playoffs want a chance at the postseason, a loss by Orlando City B would definitely help.
What do you think will happen over the course of the final month? Who will take the East's final playoff spot? Let us know in the comments below!