Nearly halfway through the 2017 USL season, a gap has formed between the top two clubs and the rest of the conference. Playoff runs are usually formed and started in the dog days of summer, making this time of year very important for teams making a push towards the postseason.
Below are the rankings as of July 1st, 2017 (last week’s rankings are in parentheses).
1 (Last Week- 1). Charleston Battery (1152)
With a fifth straight match unbeaten and 15 goals scored during that time, Charleston continue to state their case as not only the conference’s best club, but the league’s. A bout with Louisville this weekend is by far the match of the weekend for the conference.
2 (2). Louisville City (1140)
Louisville has helped create a gap between the top two clubs and the rest of the conference, and their win over Ottawa on Saturday cemented their status as among the conference’s elite. The next two weeks are crucial for Louisville, with a fixture against Charleston before hosting Ohio River rivals, FC Cincinnati.
3 (3). Charlotte Independence (1121)
In a rematch of their 2016 first round playoff fixture, Charlotte reversed the result and defeated the Rhinos, 2-1. Independence has made the fastest climb of any Eastern Conference club in recent weeks and have won their last three matches, two of which were against top five clubs in the conference.
4 (3). Tampa Bay Rowdies (1111)
Saturday’s loss to Charleston marked only the fourth time this season that Tampa Bay was shutout and the first time in consecutive matches. With a seven match winless streak, the Rowdies are in danger of falling behind the conference elites.
T5 (6). Bethlehem Steel FC (1108)
Bethlehem’s unbeaten run has reached a sixth straight match, setting the record for the club’s longest streak in the club’s USL history. The second fixture of a three match homestand sees the Baby Bulls visit Goodman Stadium.
T5 (5). Rochester Rhinos (1108)
Despite suffering two consecutive losses, the Rhinos remain in the heart of the playoff race in the East. A two match week has Rochester travelling midweek to Saint Louis before returning home to host Harrisburg on Saturday.
7 (7). Ottawa Fury FC (1103)
A late goal by Steevan Dos Santos was not enough to rescue a point, as Ottawa fall on the road to #2 club, Louisville. A Canadian Derby against rankings bottom, Toronto FC II, is on tap for the Fury this weekend.
8 (8). FC Cincinnati (1099)
Sitting on the cusp of our average ratings, FC Cincinnati seemed primed to break into the top half of the conference. The Ohio club finishes out a Florida road trip this week when they face a stagnant Rowdies side on Thursday night.
9 (8). Orlando City B (1097)
With a 1-1 draw, Orlando City B remain unbeaten versus FC Cincinnati this year. In the past five matches that have featured the Baby Lions, neither side has scored multiple goals.
10 (10). Pittsburgh Riverhounds (1093)
A bye week has the Riverhounds holding steady in tenth. With two fixtures this week, it is the perfect time for Pittsburgh to ride momentum back into the top half of the conference.
11 (10). Saint Louis FC (1089)
With only two wins in their last ten matches, Saint Louis FC has been slipping spots in our power rankings. July stands to be a tough month for the Missouri club, as they face four of the top five clubs in our rankings.
12 (12). New York Red Bulls II (1084)
It was a return to form for the Baby Bulls, as they snapped a four match winless run with a 1-0 result against Saint Louis FC. NYRB II now face a quick road swing into Pennsylvania with bouts against Bethlehem and Harrisburg over the next two weeks.
13 (13). Harrisburg City Islanders (1082)
Last week’s 4-3 win over TFCII was Harrisburg’s highest scoring match in two years and the City Islanders earned a crucial three points north of the border to boot. Harrisburg has quietly built up a two match winning streak, which they put on the line vs Rochester this weekend.
14 (14). Richmond Kickers (1063)
The winless streak may have reached an eleventh match, but for the first time since May 6th, the Kickers scored the first goal of a contest, as they shared points with top four club, Bethlehem, on Saturday night.
15 (15). Toronto FC II (1051)
Despite having their highest scoring fixture of the season, Toronto FC II dropped a second consecutive match. They have been outscored 10-4 during the past two weeks.
Week Sixteen Matches
Tuesday, July 4th
#10 Pittsburgh Riverhounds (1093) v #3 Charlotte Independence (1121)
Wednesday, July 5th
#11 Saint Louis FC (1093) v #5 Rochester Rhinos (1108)
Thursday, July 6th
#4 Tampa Bay Rowdies (1111) v #8 FC Cincinnati (1099)
Saturday, July 8th
#5 Rochester Rhinos (1108) v #13 Harrisburg City Islanders (1082)
#1 Charleston Battery (1152) v #2 Louisville City (1140)
#3 Charlotte Independence (1121) v #11 Saint Louis FC (1093)
#9 Orlando City B (1097) v #10 Pittsburgh Riverhounds (1093)
#15 Toronto FC II (1051) v #7 Ottawa Fury FC (1103)
Sunday, July 9th
#5 Bethlehem Steel FC (1108) v #12 New York Red Bulls II (1084)
Charleston and Louisville have set themselves up as the two premier clubs in the conference, forming an 18 rating points gap back to third place. Their match between the two sides this weekend will be very important in deciding who controls the fate of the Eastern Conference, and if their 4-4 draw last time out is any indication, it should be a high-scoring affair.
Just outside the top two is a grouping of clubs all jostling for spots in the top four. Charlotte’s win has them taking sole possession of third in our rankings. Further back is Tampa, Bethlehem and Rochester, all separated by only three rating points, fighting for that fourth spot.
What are your thoughts on this week’s rankings? As we reach the midpoint of the season, which clubs have impressed you through the first half of the season? Which clubs are poised to continue their form into the season’s second stanza? Let us know in the comments below!