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USL Championship releases 2022 schedule format and conference realignment

Photo courtesy Justin Berl

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.

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 

Eastern Conference 

Atlanta United 2
Birmingham Legion FC
Charleston Battery
Detroit City FC
Hartford Athletic
Indy Eleven
Loudoun United FC
Louisville City FC
Memphis 901 FC
The Miami FC
New York Red Bulls II
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Tampa Bay Rowdies
FC Tulsa

Western Conference 

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

 

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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