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2019 USL Championship playoffs: Preview, schedule, how to watch

With Golden Boot winner Solomon Asante, Phoenix looks like the favorite. But watch out for Nashville too.

The first USL Championship season is winding down and just 20 teams remain in contention for the league’s crown.

Playoffs for the 2019 USL Championship begin Wednesday evening with eight teams in action in four different play-in games. The winners will move on to the conference quarterfinals this weekend. Conference semifinals will be played Nov. 1-3, and conference finals will be Nov. 8-10. The highest remaining seed will host the final on Nov. 17.

Here’s everything you need to know about the USL Championship playoffs:

Schedule

Play-In Round, Oct. 23

Eastern Conference

  • No. 7 North Carolina FC hosts No. 10 Birmingham Legion FC at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. at 7 p.m. ET.
  • No. 8 Ottawa Fury FC hosts No. 9 Charleston Battery at TD Place in Ottawa, Ontario at 7 p.m. ET.

Western Conference

  • No. 8 Austin Bold FC hosts No. 9 LA Galaxy II at Bold Stadium in Austin, Texas at 8:30 p.m. ET.
  • No. 7 Sacramento Republic FC hosts No. 10 New Mexico United at Papa Murphy’s Park in Sacramento, California at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Quarterfinals, Oct. 26

Eastern Conference

  • No. 1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will host the lower remaining Play-In Round seed at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at 7 p.m. ET.
  • No. 4 Louisville City FC hosts No. 5 Tampa Bay Rowdies at Slugger Field in Louisville, Kentucky at 7 p.m. ET.
  • No. 3 Indy Eleven hosts No. 6 New York Red Bulls II at Michael A. Carroll Field in Indianapolis, Indiana at 7:30 p.m. ET.
  • No. 2 Nashville SC will host the higher remaining Play-In Round seed at First Tennessee Park in Nashville, Tennessee at 8 p.m. ET.

Western Conference

  • No. 4 Real Monarchs SLC hosts No. 5 Orange County SC at Zions Bank Stadium in Salt Lake County, Utah at 3 p.m. ET.
  • No. 2 Reno 1868 FC will host the higher remaining Play-In Round seed at Greater Nevada Field in Reno, Nevada at 8:30 p.m. ET.
  • No. 1 Phoenix Rising FC will host the lower remaining Play-In Round seed at Casino Arizona Field in Maricopa County, Arizona at 10:30 p.m. ET.
  • No. 3 Fresno FC hosts No. 6 El Paso Locomotive FC at Chukchansi Park in Fresno, California at 10:30 p.m. ET.

How to watch

All games except for the final will be streamed on ESPN+. The final will air on ESPN2 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Internationally, games can be watched through the USL Championship’s YouTube Channel.

The favorite

Phoenix Rising FC is the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, won the league’s shield with 78 regular season points and posted the league’s best goal differential at plus-53. Phoenix’s points, goal differential and wins (24) are all USL records. The club lost just four times all season, most recently suffering a 2-1 home defeat vs. Real Monarchs on Oct. 12.

Leading Phoenix’s attack is 29-year-old Ghanaian winger Solomon Asante, who won the USL Championship’s Golden Boot with 22 goals and 17 assists this season. Adam Jahn has also helped steer the offense this season by tallying 17 goals and five assists, while Junior Fleming has 15 goals.

Also watch out for

Nashville SC isn’t the top seed in the Eastern Conference – that went to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds – but the MLS-bound club might have the most talent in the East. Manning the goal for Nashville is USL Golden Glove winner Matt Pickens, who posted a league-high 14 clean sheets while also making 63 saves.

Gary Smith’s side finished second in the Eastern Conference with 67 points and a goal differential of plus-33. They’re in good form too, having won seven of their last nine games. Leading the offensive attack is Daniel Rios, who finished second in the Golden Boot race with 20 goals and two assists.

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