What will it take for Nashville SC to make the USL playoffs?

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Nashville SC’s roster is complete and the schedule has been released, but there still remains one important question to answer – how good will the Boys and Gold be this season?

A realistic goal for head coach Gary Smith and his players should be to make the USL playoffs. Nashville needs to finish no worse than eighth place out 16 teams in the Eastern Conference.

Nashville fans should feel confident based on the previous performances of expansion teams making their USL debut. Four expansion teams (FC Cincinnati, Rio Grande Valley FC, Swope Park Rangers and Orlando City B) made the playoffs in 2016 and Reno 1868 FC made the playoffs in 2017.

Unfortunately, once an expansion team makes it to the playoffs their luck runs out. Reno 1868 FC, FC Cincinnati, Orlando City B and Rio Grande Valley FC were all knocked out in the first round, but Swope Park made it all the way to the USL Cup Championship match their first season. The Rangers lost 5-1 to New York Red Bulls II in 2016.

Putting points on the board early

Nashville starts the 2018 regular season on the road against the defending USL Cup Champions Louisville City FC. Smith stressed the importance of getting off to a good start and its potential impact on the rest of the season.

“I would hope by the time we start and face a challenge in Louisville, which will be an extremely tough one, we’re in good shape. I’m sure we will be,” Smith said. “For the group, now, starting off well and having a decent three-or-four game opening where we can put some points on the board and just add to what I hope will be a productive opening, a coming together of players.”

How many points does Nashville need to make the playoffs?

Last year, Bethlehem Steel FC finished in the eighth spot in the East after tallying 44 points with a 12-12-8 record in 32 games. Sacramento Republic FC finished in the eighth spot in the West with 46 points and a 13-12-7 record.

With a 34-game regular season in 2018, we are projecting Nashville SC will need at least 46 points to make the playoffs based on previous USL seasons. There are many different ways to compile this magic number. For example, Nashville could finish the 2018 regular season with 6 wins, 28 draws and no losses to reach 46 points. But this scenario is highly unlikely and we are hoping Smith doesn’t turn in to Jose Mourinho to “park the bus.”

The easiest way to reach 46 points is to win games. Orlando City B snuck into the 2016 playoffs with just nine wins out of 30 games. The realistic number of wins Nashville will need is 13 giving them 21 games to grab an additional seven points.

What type of playoff experience does Nashville’s roster have?

Nashville’s 23-man roster has nine players who made it to the USL playoffs last season:

  • Matt Pickens – Tampa Bay Rowdies
  • C.J. Cochran – OKC Energy
  • Lebo Moloto – Swope Park Rangers
  • Liam Doyle – Swope Park Rangers
  • Matt LaGrassa – Reno 1868 FC
  • Ryan James – Rochester Rhinos
  • Bradley Bourgeois – Tulsa Roughnecks
  • Kosuke Kimura – Tulsa Roughnecks
  • Michael Reed – San Antonio FC

Moloto and Doyle reached the 2017 USL Cup finals, but lost to Louisville City FC 1-0.

2017 USL regular season results

Eastern Conference

Pos. P W L T GD Pts
1 Louisville City FC 32 18 6 8 27 62
2 Charleston Battery 32 15 8 9 20 54
3 Tampa Bay Rowdies 32 14 7 11 15 53
4 Rochester Rhinos 32 14 7 11 8 53
5 Charlotte Independence 32 13 10 9 12 48
6 FC Cincinnati 32 12 10 10 -2 46
7 New York Red Bulls II 32 13 14 5 -3 44
8 Bethlehem Steel FC 32 12 12 8 1 44
9 Orlando City B 32 10 10 12 1 42
10 Ottawa Fury FC 32 8 10 14 1 38
11 Penn FC 32 10 15 7 -19 37
12 Saint Louis FC 32 9 14 9 -13 36
13 Pittsburgh Riverhounds 32 8 12 12 -9 36
14 Richmond Kickers 32 8 16 8 -12 32
15 Toronto FC II 32 6 19 7 -27 25

Western Conference

Pos. P W L T GD Pts
1 Real Monarchs SLC 32 20 5 7 28 67
2 San Antonio FC 32 17 4 11 21 62
3 Reno 1868 FC 32 17 7 8 36 59
4 Swope Park Rangers 32 17 8 7 18 58
5 Phoenix Rising FC 32 17 8 7 13 58
6 OKC Energy FC 32 14 11 7 5 49
7 Tulsa Roughnecks FC 32 14 14 4 -3 46
8 Sacramento Republic FC 32 13 12 7 2 46
9 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 32 12 12 8 4 44
10 Orange County SC 32 11 11 10 -4 43
11 Rio Grande Valley FC 32 9 15 8 -13 35
12 Seattle Sounders FC 2 32 9 19 4 -19 31
13 LA Galaxy II 32 8 19 5 -32 29
14 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 32 5 18 9 -20 24
15 Portland Timbers 2 32 3 23 6 -36 15

 

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