El Paso Locomotive FC and San Antonio FC square off in a top-three clash in the Mountain Division that highlights Wednesday night's slate in the USL Championship. | Photo courtesy Ivan Pierre Aguirre / El Paso Locomotive FC
Birmingham Legion FC, the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Louisville City FC each earned their places in the 2021 USL Championship Playoffs this past weekend, and there could be more to come in the Eastern Conference by the end of Week 25 with a busy slate and teams within range of clinching should results fall their way.
To start the week, though, the spotlight falls mainly on the Western Conference on Wednesday night where we see a meeting between two teams below the playoff line but in control of their playoff fate, and a crucial game around the playoff line in the Pacific Division.
Here are three games to watch as the picture comes further into focus, and where everyone stands in the big picture.
It might seem odd with both teams sitting below the playoff line in their respective divisions, but Austin Bold FC and the Tacoma Defiance still control their path to the postseason thanks to the game in hand they each hold in the Mountain and Pacific Divisions. That’s going to change for the team that comes out on the short end of this interdivision tilt – and both if the game ends all square – which will provide serious incentive for both teams to push in attack and find a victory that will keep their playoff chances under their control.
El Paso Locomotive FC’s home undefeated streak is at 21 games across the regular season and playoffs as it welcomes the last team to defeat Locomotive FC on its travels in San Antonio FC, which is now in third place in the Mountain Division. This is a key game for both teams; in El Paso’s case, it could clinch a playoff berth with a victory should either Austin Bold FC lose to Tacoma Defiance – with a 2-0-1 record this season, El Paso holds the head-to-head tiebreaker on Bold FC if Austin’s maximum drops to 54 points – or New Mexico United be held to a draw by Hartford Athletic – which would drop United’s maximum to 53 points. On San Antonio’s side, though, there’s a chance to jump into second place ahead of Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC with a draw or a win as SAFC holds a 2-0-1 record against the Switchbacks and the head-to-head tiebreaker. That should make for another engaging clash between these two.
Both Oakland Roots SC and Sacramento Republic FC don’t control their playoff path going into this clash at Laney Stadium, but the winner between the NorCal rivals could take a big step toward that position and put a major dent into the chances of its regional rival. Republic FC is coming off a 3-1 victory on Saturday night against the side both teams are looking to slip up in Tacoma Defiance but has yet to defeat Oakland this year as they meet for the fourth and final time in the regular season. Roots SC has let points slip away in its last two games, meanwhile, and needs to get back on track with the fewest available points of the four teams vying for that fourth spot.