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The Front Three: What to Watch For In Week 29

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 10/21/21, 6:55PM EDT


The postseason field could be set this weekend, and second place is also up for grabs

The battle for a playoff berth in USL League One pivots around the clash on Saturday night between North Texas SC and New England Revolution II, which centers a race for two places among five teams. | Photo courtesy New England Revolution II

Two teams are in win-and-you’re-in situations, while the right combination of results this weekend could set the field for the League One Playoffs before the final weekend of the season. With every team in action on Friday and Saturday, there’s a lot to look forward to as the season hangs in the balance around the playoff line.

What could we expect to see? Here’s a look at the storylines to keep a close eye on.

Potential Path to the Playoffs

Following Forward Madison FC’s dramatic victory on Wednesday night against Union Omaha to stay alive in the postseason race, we’ve got five teams still alive for what appear to be two playoff places going into the final two weekends of the season. That could quickly change, though, with Saturday night’s clash between North Texas SC and the New England Revolution II at Globe Life Park (8:30 p.m. ET | ESPN+) at the center.

The math is relatively simple: If the New England Revolution II take victory and move to 40 points, it opens the door for FC Tucson to move to 39 points with a win against Madison (8 p.m. ET | ESPN+) and for both to clinch a playoff place should Toronto FC II fail to take victory against Fort Lauderdale CF on Friday evening (4 p.m. ET | ESPN+). In that scenario, Tucson would move three points ahead of both North Texas and Toronto, but with 11 wins would be out of reach of both on the first tiebreaker going to the final game of the season.

Flip that around, though, and you have the potential for a chaotic last weekend. Victories for Toronto FC II to move to 38 points and North Texas SC to move to 39 points would flip the board around in favor of the two teams below the playoff line right now. (It would also have the side-effect of eliminating Madison due to total wins as well). That will make for a pair of compelling games on Saturday night, for sure.

Staring Down Second

It probably felt like a long-shot at the start of September when Greenville Triumph SC sat nine points behind Chattanooga Red Wolves SC in the League One standings, but on Saturday night those two teams will square off at Legacy Early College (7 p.m. ET | ESPN+) with second place and a bye to the Semifinals of the 2021 USL League One Playoffs at stake with the Red Wolves now holding only a two-point edge on third-place Triumph SC.

The rise in form from Greenville in recent weeks combined with a run of three defeats in four games for the Red Wolves has accounted for the heightened stakes for this contest. Triumph SC has won three games in a row and is undefeated in its last seven outings overall, and among those results is a 1-0 win against Chattanooga when the teams last met on September 11 at Legacy Early College in a game that was highlighted by red cards for the Red Wolves’ Sebastian Capozucchi and Triumph SC’s Don Smart and a goal by Greenville’s JJ Donnelly that proved the difference.

If Greenville can get the same result this time around, it would not only lock up its postseason berth but also control its chances of a week off to start the playoffs as well before facing last-placed North Carolina FC in the final weekend.

When You’re Hot, You’re Hot

As well as Greenville Triumph SC is running right now, there’s no team hotter in League One than the Richmond Kickers, whose five-game winning streak has put the side one win from clinching a playoff berth with two games to go. The snag? The first of those games comes on Saturday against first-placed Union Omaha (7 p.m. ET | ESPN+) in what – just like Triumph SC vs. Chattanooga Red Wolves SC – could be a preview of a Semifinal matchup in the postseason.

With Emiliano Terzaghi leading the way after last week breaking the League One single-season scoring record with his 17th goal of the season, the Kickers have been just good enough in each of their wins. All five have come by a single goal, which in some ways illustrates the knife-edge the squad has been on for much of the season. They’ll need to maintain that against an Omaha side that is smarting a little bit from Wednesday’s defeat to Forward Madison FC as it missed out on its first chance to seal first place in the standings.

After the late-game pressure Union applied against Madison in its efforts to pull out a result, Richmond will need to be ready from the off if it is going to book its own postseason place without needing help from elsewhere.

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