Steel FC’s Path to the USL Cup Playoffs
After a frenzy of Tuesday results, the path for Bethlehem Steel FC is clear
If you’ve been wondering what exactly Bethlehem Steel FC needs to make its second consecutive appearance in the USL Cup Playoffs then this is the post for you. After picking up another draw at Indy Eleven last weekend, the path seemed sort of clear. But results from Louisville City FC and New York Red Bulls II make things a bit more chaotic. Right now, Steel FC is still in control of its own destiny as four teams battle for the last two spots in the Eastern Conference, but they could still end up anywhere from fifth place in the standings to out of the playoffs entirely.
Bethlehem Steel FC (47 points)
Simply for Steel FC to clinch its path to the playoffs it has to win in its home finale against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Sunday. That’s it: Win and Steel are in. If Charleston knocks off Ottawa (2 p.m. Saturday) and North Carolina doesn’t beat the Charlotte Independence to overcome the current goal differential (7:30 p.m. Saturday), then Steel are in the postseason whether they beat the Rowdies or not. An added advantage to playing the final day of the season, Steel FC will go into its final matchup knowing what score line it would need as Steel FC’s goal differential is higher than NC. So there’s a chance Brendan Burke’s men could go into their final match with just playoff positioning on the line.
Getting in is the simple part but there are still are opportunities for Steel FC to climb as high as the fifth seed in the playoffs.
Fifth place: Like most of the scenarios below, Steel FC will need to get all three points on Sunday in order to rise up the table and look at facing fourth-seeded Charleston. A win along with all the following would set up a Steel FC at Battery contest in the first round:
1) Indy Eleven lose/draw at Louisville City (if these teams draw and BST win, Steel and Indy would tie at 50 points, but Steel own a higher goal differential)
2) New York Red Bulls II lose/draw vs. Pittsburgh (if these teams draw and BST win, Steel FC gets higher seed due to overall wins)
3) Nashville lose/draw vs. FC Cincinnati
Sixth place: A sixth place finish in the standings would present an intriguing matchup in the Eastern Conference semifinals as Steel FC would make the short trip across the state to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Just like above a win along with any of the following scenarios puts the boys in blue in an third rivalry contest:
1) Indy Eleven OR New York Red Bulls II OR Nashville SC win, all others lose
2) Indy Eleven win, NYRBII AND Nashville draw; Steel FC hold tiebreakers over both
3) NYRBII win, Indy Eleven lose/draw AND Nashville lose/draw; Steel FC would win on tiebreakers
4) Nashville win, Indy Eleven lose/draw AND NYRBII lose/draw; Steel FC would win on tiebreakers
Seventh place: Should teams ahead of Steel FC pull out victories then a Steel FC victory at Goodman Stadium would set up for a rematch of the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs that saw Steel FC travel to Louisville City FC. For this to happen, Steel FC can win or draw depending on what happens to Indy, NYRBII, and Nashville:
1) Steel FC wins, Indy Eleven and NYRBII win plus Nashville lose/draw
2) Steel FC wins, Indy Eleven and Nashville win plus NYRBII lose/draw
3) Steel FC wins, NYRBII and Nashville win plus Indy Eleven lose/draw
4) Steel FC draws and Nashville loses (BST wins tiebreaker on overall wins)
Eighth place: The final scenario is where things get tricky and would only happen if other results favor Steel FC on Saturday night:
1) Steel FC draws, Ottawa wins and Nashville loses (Ottawa finishes 7th with 14 overall wins, Steel FC finishes 8th with 13 overall wins)
2) Steel FC loses, Ottawa loses, North Carolina doesn’t win by enough goals to overcome goal differential (BST +14, NC +8).