The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will play a 34-game USL Championship schedule in 2022, which will include a return to home-and-away matches against the entire Eastern Conference, the USL announced on Tuesday.
The upcoming season will begin on March 11, and the regular season will end on Oct. 15.
The USL Championship final will be played on a date to be determined from Nov. 10-14, bringing the season to a close at least a week before the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The biggest change announced to the format is the abolition of division play, which came to the league in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
– 34 matches
– 2 Conferences, no divisions
– Balanced conference schedule
– 8 matches vs West
– Top 7 in each conference make the playoffs https://t.co/1ZSpGFAhAg
— Steel Army (@SteelArmy) December 21, 2021
The new year brings a return to a single set of standings for the 14-team Eastern Conference and 13-team Western Conference. The Hounds will play all 13 of their conference foes twice — once at home and once on the road — and their remaining eight games will be against Western Conference opposition with four home and four road games.
Only the top seven teams in each conference will make next year’s USL Championship Playoffs, and the top seed will receive a bye into each conference’s semifinals.
Joining the Hounds in the Eastern Conference are six of their Atlantic Division opponents from a year ago: the Charleston Battery, Hartford Athletic, Loudoun United FC, Miami FC, New York Red Bulls II and the Tampa Bay Rowdies. USL Championship newcomer Detroit City FC joins the Eastern Conference, and the remaining six teams played last year in the old Central Division: Atlanta United 2, Birmingham Legion, Indy Eleven, Louisville City FC, Memphis 901 FC and FC Tulsa.
The Hounds have faced every current Eastern Conference team in the regular season except for two: Detroit and Tulsa. Detroit and the Hounds played to a 0-0 draw in a preseason match in 2021 when DCFC was a member of NISA, the U.S. fourth division, while Tulsa and the Hounds have never met.
In addition to their USL Championship schedule, the Hounds will compete in the 2022 U.S. Open Cup, as the U.S. Soccer Federation’s national championship tournament returns after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic.
The USL’s complete announcement about the competition format for 2022 can be found here.
The full USL Championship schedule is expected to be announced in January.
2022 USL CHAMPIONSHIP REALIGNMENT
Atlanta United 2
Birmingham Legion FC
Detroit City FC
Loudoun United FC
Louisville City FC
Memphis 901 FC
The Miami FC
New York Red Bulls II
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Tampa Bay Rowdies
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
El Paso Locomotive FC
LA Galaxy II
Las Vegas Lights FC
Monterey Bay F.C.
New Mexico United
Oakland Roots SC
Orange County SC
Phoenix Rising FC
Rio Grande Valley FC
Sacramento Republic FC
San Antonio FC
San Diego Loyal SC