USL Championship Revamps Playoff Format for 2019
TAMPA - With the United Soccer League (USL) Championship announcing its schedule on Thursday, it also announced a new playoff format for the 2019 season. As a result of expanding to 36 teams, the USL Championship will also expand to 20 playoff teams, 10 in each conference. There will also be an added "Play-In Round" the midweek prior to the first weekend of the postseason.
More expansion teams means more playoff teams. The addition of seven USL Championship expansion teams means that 20 of the 36 total teams will now reach the postseason, the top 10 from each of the Western and Eastern Conference. Like last year, the higher seed will host each game in the USL Championship playoffs.
In 2019, the 7-10 seeds will play in a play-in round. The round will take place on the Wednesday after the season finishes and before the first playoff weekend. The No. 7 seed will host No. 10 and No. 8 will host No. 9. Then the lowest remaining seed of those games will travel to take on the No. 1 seed while the better seed will play the No. 2 team. It should make for a fun playoff appetizer before the first weekend of the postseason.
What it means for Nashville SC
If you remember last year, then you know that it came down to the final week of the season for Nashville SC to clinch a playoff spot as the final Eastern Conference team in the playoffs, the No. 8 seed. Now, the No. 8 seed will be in a little more comfortably, with 10 teams getting in the field.
The bigger takeaway for Nashville SC fans might be the introduction of the Play-In Round. While it does mean a couple of lower seeded teams get to host a playoff game, it also means that the winners of the play-in games have to turn right back around 3 days later and play the No. 1 and 2 seeds. That creates a distinct advantage for the top two teams, who themselves have had a full week's rest prior to the playoffs starting.
A top four seed is still critical because it means hosting the first weekend, but now, the top two seeds will be even more coveted under the new format.
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United Soccer League Championship Stories from December 19, 2018
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