San Antonio FC and New Mexico United are set to square off in one of this weekend's key games as the USL Championship Playoffs draw closer. | Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC
With six weekends to go in the 2021 USL Championship regular season, three of the division leaders are closing in on clinching their return to the postseason while other battles to move – or stay – above the playoff line are already in full swing.
Ahead of this weekend’s action in Week 23, here are three games to watch on Saturday and Sunday, and the big picture of where everyone in the Championship stands in this year’s playoff picture.
Memphis 901 FC’s victory against Indy Eleven on Wednesday night put the side fully in the driver’s seat when it comes to the fourth and final playoff place in the Central Division, level on points with OKC Energy FC but with two games in hand down the stretch. The hosts will get a big test from a Louisville City FC side that could clinch a playoff place with a win and help elsewhere, though, as 901 FC tries to continue its drive toward a first trip to the USL Championship Playoffs with two of the league’s leading marksmen in Memphis’ Kyle Murphy (14 goals) and Louisville’s Cameron Lancaster (13 goals) set to feature.
San Antonio FC moved into second place in the Mountain Division as it wrapped up its four-game road trip last week with three consecutive victories, but still has work to do to secure that spot ahead of a Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC side that it will face on the final day of the regular season. By contrast, New Mexico United arrives fighting for its playoff life as it sits five points behind fourth-placed Austin Bold FC with nine games to go in its season. United is coming off a sparkling attacking display last weekend in a victory against Real Monarchs SLC and will need more of the same to try and knock off its hosts to take a step toward a potential third consecutive postseason berth.
Oakland Roots SC moved into the playoff positions for the first time this season on Wednesday night after its 2-1 victory against San Diego Loyal SC, a result that was also a good one for Orange County as the sides get set to meet in Southern California on Saturday night. With a four-point gap separating the two sides in the Pacific Division, Oakland can not only solidify its position ahead of Tacoma Defiance and Sacramento Republic FC, but close the gap to Orange County with a win, while the hosts have the chance to remain within range of SD Loyal for second place in the standings and a potential home playoff game to open the postseason should they close out the season strongly.