# Playoff Picture: 7/18/18

The Fourth of July has come and gone and with that most of the Eastern Conference is more or less into the second half of their seasons. The holiday also gave me a few days off of work and I spent some of my free time taking a look at FC Cincinnati and the Eastern Conference. That means it’s time for the slightly early, but always on our mind, look at the playoff picture and how the Eastern Conference will shake out at the end of the year.

With my free time, I spent some time look at the USL website and put together a spreadsheet to help us all visualize how the rest of the season can pan out. After taking a look at where things stand a few stories stand out, for example, how close is TFCII to missing the playoffs? How close is the playoff race? Who’s set up for home field advantage? I’ll get to those questions in a little but I want to lay out a few things you will see in the numbers and charts.

I created two charts with accompanying graphs, Points to Clinch a Playoff Spot and Countdown to Elimination. The first part of each chart should be pretty self-explanatory, the second part I have put together a few stats to help us all see what’s what. For reasons you will see below the first graph is laid out in order of total points possible.

### Here is a quick little glossary to explain the Points to Clinch a Playoff Spot:

*Points possible (PP)*: The total possible points available to a team, i.e. how many points they would gain if they win their remaining games: take the games remaining (34 minus their games played) and multiply by 3.

*Points needed to clinch a playoff spot:* The playoffs consist of the top 8 teams in each conference therefore, in order to clinch a playoff spot a team needs to secure one more point than the 9th place team. The points needed to clinch is calculated by subtracting a team's current points from the 9th place teams possible points and adding one. This equation will give the team in question one more point than the 9th place team can possibly gain. Disclaimer: I am still trying to work out a way to break ties, for a complete breakdown of tie-breaks check out the USL standings site.

*Magic number:* This number shows you the quickest possible route to clinching a playoff spot, i.e. the number of games a team would need to win in order to clinch a playoff spot. To reach this number, take the points needed to clinch a playoff spot and divide by 3, rounding up because you cannot have a third of a win.

*Points target:* Another way to visualize how quickly a team can reach the playoffs. This is the target every team needs to hit in order to reach the playoffs, take the 9th place team and add one point; also this sum of a team's current points and their points needed to clinch a playoff spot.

Next, we have the countdown to elimination, or how quickly can we count out TFCII. Again the first part of the chart should be easy to follow and I have calculated one stat to look at the end of the season off of those numbers. For this, I only have one new number, Countdown to Elimination. In order to be eliminated from playoff contention the number of points a team can gain (points possible) must be less than the total points of the 8th place team. To calculate Countdown number take the teams points possible and subtract the points of the 8th place team and subtract one more. In essence, this is the total number of points a team can drop before they are eliminated from playoff contention.

*Note: The points needed to clinch and the countdown to elimination are dependant on many different factors. For example, a team’s numbers can change despite not playing.*

What does this mean for FC Cincinnati? Well, currently things are looking alright. We’re sitting in first (38 points) only 4 points clear of Pittsburgh who has 2 games in hand. The good news is Charleston is 6 points back, tied on games and James O’Connor-less Louisville is 9 points back, also with two games in hand. As it stands, FCC is in a great position to not only clinch a playoff spot (they only need 35 points) but also clinch top four and home-field advantage.

The rest of the playoff spots look quite interesting! From Nashville sitting in the 4th spot of the points possible table (78 points possible) down to North Carolina in 14th with 68 points, the spread is close. That’s 10 teams vying for five spots, separated by only 10 points. Needless to say, these next few months are going come down to the wire. We’ll see if some of the sides with games in hand make up the points difference or if the schedule congestion begins to set in.

Finally, let’s take a look at the bottom dwellers. That’s right TFCII. Taking a look at the Countdown to Elimination side of things, TFCII has only earned a meager 3 points this season, yes one of those points coming against the Orange and Blue. At this point in the season, they can only afford to lose 26 points between them and the 8th place team before they are eliminated from contention. Now while they have had the past two Saturdays off and have two games in hand, they could be eliminated from the playoffs sometime in early/ mid-August. At this point, they would have to win 8 of their remaining games with everyone else above them losing to have them tied for 8th place.

I’ll be around here each week until the end of the season to update you on the playoff race for the East. As the season continues I’ll look forward to adding a few more things, like home-field advantage and trying to work out the best way to show tiebreakers.

See you next week!

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Pete Wietmarschen