How Will FC Cincinnati Clinch A Playoff Berth?

Since their last loss to Louisville City, FC Cincinnati’s unbeaten streak has reached 15 matches (11-0-4). The Orange & Blue haven’t lost a USL match in 13 weeks and 2 days. That feels so long ago; do you remember that time period before the big MLS reveal (“pre-MLS”)?

Fans are now wondering how and when FC Cincinnati will clinch a playoff berth. Based on the posts and chatter on-line, there appears to be varying opinions and some confusion on this. Let’s set the record on the turntable and provide the answer to this burning question.

As posted two weeks ago, recent history tells us that the eighth and final playoff spot will hover around 1.4 points per game (48 points overall). The fourth playoff spot, which guarantees a home match, will likely require 1.7 ppg (58 points). So how does the East stack up after 24 weeks of action, ranked by points per game?

USL Eastern Conference Standings (ranked by points per game)

At 57 points, FCC has all but made the playoffs statistically and are knocking on the door for hosting at least one match at Nippert the weekend of October 20th. Still, let’s take a peek at what is required for the Orange & Blue to officially “clinch” a playoff spot.

There is an easy way to determine whether FCC has clinched a spot against another USL East team that all can follow. Did you notice the last two columns above in the table labeled “Max Points” and “Point Differential”? If FCC’s current point total is greater than the maximum point total achievable by a given team (assuming that team wins the rest of their games), then FCC clinches against that team. To clinch a playoff berth, FCC needs to have more points earned than the maximum points attainable by eight other Eastern Conference teams.

To apply this standard, simply subtract FCC’s current point total from the maximum points an individual team can still earn. For instance, there is a 3-point differential between Bethlehem Steel FC and Cincinnati (60 – 57). This means that any combination of a 4-point swing in Cincinnati’s favor between the two clubs would clinch a spot for FCC. A Cincinnati win (+3) and tie by Bethlehem (-2) equals 5 points, while a FCC win (+3) and Steel loss (-3) is 6 points.

In the table above, we have highlighted in green the teams that FCC has already clinched against. These teams include Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Charlotte, Richmond, Atlanta United 2, and TFC II (all negative point differentials). Even my Texas A&M “Aggie” math indicates that we have already clinched a spot over six teams. Meanwhile, those in yellow – Bethlehem Steel, the Baby Bulls, North Carolina, and Penn FC – are teams that are within this week’s possible clinch zone (i.e. a 6-point differential).

There are eleven games scheduled on the USL Eastern Conference docket this week (Tuesday through Sunday). Not all have a direct impact on FCC’s clinching scenario. Here are the key matches you will want to follow closely:

  • Friday, 8/31 New York Red Bulls II vs Ottawa Fury FC
  • Saturday, 9/1 FC Cincinnati vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
  • Saturday, 9/1 North Carolina FC vs Tampa Bay Rowdies
  • Sunday, 9/2 Bethlehem Steel FC vs Penn FC

To clinch a playoff berth this week, FC Cincinnati would need a win and just one of the following:

  • a Red Bulls II loss or tie to the Fury
  • a NCFC loss or tie to the Rowdies
  • a Steel loss or tie to Penn FC

A Cincinnati tie (or loss) postpones the inevitable one more week, as Bethlehem and Penn FC play each other. Since both of these teams have a point differential of two or more points, an FCC win vs. Pittsburgh is necessary to clinch. Honestly, there is no rush to clinch a berth. The club is still in a battle for winning the conference, and we all know that going on the road to any city in the East during the playoffs will be difficult.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press as we continue to provide all of your 2018 FC Cincinnati regular season and playoff coverage.

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