The USL Championship Final is set after a dramatic Saturday evening of Conference Finals. The title-deciding match is now locked in for next Sunday, Nov. 1 (8:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes) between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Phoenix Rising FC.
Here's how teams reached this stage in the second division's postseason race:
Eastern Conference Final
Louisville City FC 1, Tampa Bay Rowdies 2
The Rowdies are into their first USL final, beating Louisville City 2-1 on Saturday night behind first-half goals from Zach Steinberger and Sebastian Guenzatti. Louisville, who won the league in 2017 and 2018, clawed their way back by forcing a Max Lachowecki own goal in the 47th minute, but the full comeback effort fell short.
Louisville were seeking their fourth consecutive Eastern Conference title, but now Tampa Bay will host the final at Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla.. The Rowdies have lost once at home in 2020 and are seeking their second modern-era title after winning the NASL in 2012.
Western Conference Final
Phoenix Rising FC 1 (4), El Paso Locomotive 1 (2)
Penalty kicks were needed to separate Phoenix and El Paso, with goalkeeper Zac Lubin coming up huge. He made a key early save in the shootout, and also registered five stops before the drama-filled ending.
Before PKs rolled around, Phoenix grabbed an early lead through Jordan Schweitzer. His effort was cancelled out by a second-half equalizer from El Paso’s Bryam Rebellon, then Phoenix dispatched four PKs to El Paso’s two after extra time.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 1, Charleston Battery 0
For a second consecutive week, Lucky Mkosana came off the bench to score the winner, lifting the Tampa Bay Rowdies to a 1-0 win over the Charleston Battery Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium. It is the first time the Rowdies had advanced to the Eastern Conference Final since joining the Championship prior to the 2017 season.
The Zimbabwe veteran latched onto a Zach Steinberger free kick and snapped his header into the net from 10 yards out to break the scoreless deadlock in the 79th minute.
Louisville City FC 2, St. Louis FC 0
Goalkeeper Ben Lundt tied a Championship Playoffs record with a 10-save performance to help lead Louisville City FC to a 2-0 win over St. Louis FC in the final Kings’ Cup clash at Lynn Family Stadium Saturday night.
Lundt saved a 12th-minute penalty kick and Cameron Lancaster opened the scoring six minutes later, chesting down Antoine Hoppenot's cross and firing back across the goal to give Louisville City the lead. An own goal by Tobi Adewole seven minutes from time secured Louisville City's win as they seek a fourth consecutive Eastern Conference crown. It was the final match in club history for St. Louis FC.
El Paso Locomotive FC 1 (5), New Mexico United 1 (3)
For a second straight year, El Paso Locomotive FC advances to the Conference Final, edging New Mexico United 5-3 on penalty kicks after the fifth meeting between the teams this season ended up in a 1-1 draw Saturday night at Southwest University Park.
Goalkeeper Logan Ketterer denied Romeo Parkes in the fourth round of the shootout, opening the door for Distel Zola's clinching goal. Parkes had leveled in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time, canceling out Dylan Mares' first-half strike.
Reno 1868 FC 2 (4), Phoenix Rising FC 2 (5)
Goalkeeper Zac Lubin went from potential goat to penalty shootout hero, making a fifth-round save to secure Phoenix Rising FC's spot in the Conference Final with a 5-4 shootout win over Reno 1868 FC after the sides played to a 2-2 draw at Greater Nevada Field Saturday night.
Corey Hertzog and Kevin Partida staked Reno 1868 FC a two-goal lead in the first half, but Kevon Lambert struck in first-half stoppage time and Solomon Asante leveled for Phoenix Rising early in the second half. Both teams converted their first four attempts in the shootout before Lubin came up with the decisive save.
Hartford Athletic 0, St. Louis FC 1
Joaquin Rivas scored the winner in second half stoppage time to lift visiting St. Louis FC to a 1-0 win over Hartford Athletic Saturday night at Dillon Stadium.
With the referee playing advantage after a Hartford foul, Rivas found space as he took two touches into the box before firing over goalkeeper Parfait Mandanda.
Charlotte Independence 1, Charleston Battery 2
Arthur Bosua struck in extratime to send the Charleston Battery to a 2-1 victory over Charlotte Independence Saturday night at the Sportsplex at Matthews.
Nicque Daley opened the scoring for the visitors in the third minute, but Charlotte leveled through Hugh Roberts in the 64th minute. Bosua then beat goalkeeper Brandon Miller to a Jarad van Schaik lofted free kick and headed into the open net from 12 yards out for the 101st minute winner.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 4, Birmingham Legion FC 2
Lucky Mbosana and Leo Fernandes scored two minutes apart late as the Tampa Bay Rowdies defeated Birmingham Legion FC 4-2 Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium.
Both players were part of a double substitution in the 67th minute, with Mkosana breaking the deadlock in the 78th minute and Fernandes adding the insurance tally in the 80th minute. Jordan Doherty gave the Rowdies the lead on eight minutes and Sebastian Guenzatti doubled the advantage 30 minutes later. Goals in quick succession by Prosper Kasim and Bruno Lapa leveled for the visitors early in the second half before the Tampa Bay veteran duo put the game away late.
Louisville City FC 2, Pittsburgh Riverhounds 0
For a second consecutive season, Louisville City handed the Pittsburgh Riverhounds a playoff defeat with Cameron Lancaster and Corben Bone scoring a goal in each half Saturday night at Lynn Family Stadium.
Lancaster, on loan from Nashville SC, opened the scoring in the 17th minute and Bone, who played for Chicago Fire FC, the Philadelphia Union and FC Cincinnati, put the game away with his finish four minutes from time.
Reno 1868 FC 4, LA Galaxy II 1
Corey Hertzog had two goals and an assist as Reno 1868 FC cruised past 10-man LA Galaxy II 4-1 at Greater Nevada Field Saturday night.
Hertzog, who had brief stints with the New York Red Bulls and the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS, opened his account in the 35th minute after teammate Kevin Partida, who spent parts of two seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes, and Los Dos’ Jalen Neal exchanged goals in the opening 10 minutes. Hertzog then set up Foster Langsdorf in the 53rd minute and buried a penalty kick six minutes later to send Reno 1868 FC on their way. Los Dos finished with 10 men after Adam Saldana was sent off on a straight red card in the 76th minute.
San Antonio FC 0, New Mexico United 1
Christopher Wehan broke a scoreless deadlock in the 101st minute to lift New Mexico United to a 1-0 extratime victory over host San Antonio FC at Toyota Stadium Saturday night.
The former Earthquakes winger, who came close to the game’s first goal in the 82nd minute, flicked over a defender in the box and tucked his left-footed shot inside the near post from 14 yards out.
El Paso Locomotive FC 2 (4), FC Tulsa 2 (2)
El Paso Locomotive FC advanced to the Conference Semifinals following a 4-2 penalty kick shootout advantage over FC Tulsa after the sides played to a 2-2 draw through 120 minutes Saturday at Southwest University Park.
Leandro Carrijo struck for a brace, including the 82nd minute equalizer after Callum Chapman-Page, who was later sent off for his second bookable offense, had given FC Tulsa the lead 14 minutes earlier. Former Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper Logan Ketterer saved Ariel Martinez’s attempt in the third round of the shootout after Lebo Moloto missed a round earlier for FC Tulsa. Nick Ross, Bryam Rebellon, Richie Ryan and Saeed Robinson converted for El Paso.
Phoenix Rising FC 1, Sacramento Republic FC 0
A controversial goal by Solomon Asante in extratime lifted Phoenix Rising FC to a 1-0 win over Sacramento Republic 1-0 Saturday night at Casino Arizona Field.
Asante, who earlier in the match hit the woodwork on an early free kick, guided Santi Moar’s cross into the net in the 114th minute, But it appeared the Ghanian punched the ball into then net rather than head it, but the handball was not detected.
Check out the full line-up for Saturday’s games below.
All matches in the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs through the Eastern and Western Conference Finals will be available on ESPN+. International viewers can stream the games on the USL Championship's YouTube channel. The final on Sunday, November 1 will be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and SiriusXM FC.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Saturday, October 10
- Charlotte Independence vs. Charleston Battery, Sportsplex at Matthews, 7 pm ET
- Hartford Athletic vs. Saint Louis FC, Dillon Stadium, 7 pm ET
- Louisville City FC vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Lynn Family Stadium, 7:30 pm ET
- Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Birmingham Legion FC, Al Lang Stadium, 7:30 pm ET
Western Conference Quarterfinals
Saturday, October 10
- San Antonio FC vs. New Mexico United, Toyota Field, 9 pm ET
- Reno 1868 FC vs. LA Galaxy II, Greater Nevada Field, 9 pm ET
- El Paso Locomotive FC vs. FC Tulsa, 9:30 pm ET
- Phoenix Rising FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC, Casino Arizona Field, 10:30 pm ET