TAMPA, Fla. - USL League Two today announced the structure of the 2021 League Two Playoffs, which will feature 26 teams for the first time in league history.
26 of the top League Two teams from across the country will advance to the 2021 League Two Playoffs, which will kick off in the third week of July. Each Conference has been allotted a specific number of playoff spots with the Southern, Eastern and Central Conference all claiming eight spots a piece and the Western Conference claiming two spots in total.
The 2021 League Two Playoff qualifications are as follows:
Southern Conference: Southeast Division - Top 2 teams advance, Deep South Division - Top 3 teams advance, South Atlantic - Top 3 teams advance
Eastern Conference: Mid-Atlantic Division - Top 2 teams advance, Metropolitan Division - Top 3 teams advance, Northeast Division - Top 2 teams advance. Wild card is awarded to the best 3rd place team amongst the Mid Atlantic and Northeast Division
Central Conference: Great Lakes Division - Top 3 teams advance, Heartland Division - Top 2 teams advance, Mid-South Division - Top 3 teams advance
Western Conference: Mountain Division - Top team advances, Northwest Division - Top team advances.
The following schedule outlines the dates and locations of each round of the 2021 League Two Playoffs:
July 16-18: Eastern, Central, and Southern Conference Quarterfinals & Semifinals (hosted by bid submitters)
July 23-25: Conference Final and National Semifinal Rounds (Eastern and Southern Conference teams to play at one site to be confirmed, Central and Western Conference teams to play at one site to be confirmed)
July 31: National Final (hosted by highest remaining seed)
The Southern, Eastern and Central Conferences will kick off the Conference Quarterfinals and Semifinals on July 16, whereas the Western Conference will bypass both the Conference Quarterfinal and Semifinal rounds. In the Conference Quarterfinals, the Southern, Eastern and Central Conferences will gather at their respective host locations to play in an eight team Quarterfinal tournament. Each divisional champion will automatically earn a top three seed in its conference, seeds 1, 2 and 3. The second place teams will then be seeded 4, 5 and 6, while the third place teams and wild cards will be seeded 7 and 8. Seeding will be based on PTS earned during the regular season matches, unless the number of games is not even amongst the three divisions. If this is the case, PPG will be used to seed the clubs. The No. 1 seed will host the No. 8 seed, the No. 2 seed will host the No. 7 seed, the No. 3 seed will host the No. 6 seed and the No. 4 seed will host the No. 5 seed, with the four winning sides from each conference advancing to the Conference Semifinals. In the Quarterfinal matches, teams are not permitted to face an opponent from the same division.
The qualifying teams will then meet for the Conference Semifinals in the same weekend where the four teams from both the Eastern and Southern Conferences will meet at a host location and the four teams from the Central Conference will meet the two teams from the Western Conference to determine who will advance to the National League Two Semifinals.
The National League Two Semifinals will take place on the weekend of July 23-25 and serve to determine which two teams will advance to the 2021 League Two Final, with the higher remaining seed serving as host.
In the event that two or more teams finish the regular season with the same number of points, the breaking of ties in the final standings, playoffs and finals is accomplished by applying the following criteria, in order of importance:
1. Head-to-head record based on total points in League games. (A,B)
A. League games refer solely to games that count towards the regular season standings. Open Cup specific games are not “League games” when it comes to determining placement in the League standings. (When using these criteria as tiebreakers for Open Cup groups, “League games” should be interpreted as only games that count toward Open Cup group standings.)
B. Should more than two (2) teams involved have played an unequal amount of total games this tie breaker will be skipped.
2. Points Per Game = Total points won / Total games played
3. Total wins in League games.
4. Goal difference in League games. If the number of games is unequal, the Game Average(C) will be used.
C. Game Average = Tie Breaker / number of games played (i.e. goals scored / number of games played).
5. Goals scored in League games.
6. Total points within the smallest group(D). If the number of games is unequal, then point percentage(E) will be used.
D. Grouping = term used to describe the primary unit in which a team competes (i.e. Southwest Division).
E. Point Percentage = number of total points earned / maximum possible points (3 per game)
7. Ranking based on points earned against top four group finishers. This tiebreaker will not be used if four (4) or fewer teams comprise the group. If the number of games is unequal, then point percentage applies.
8. Point percentage outside / smallest division or conference in League games.
9. Total points in all regular season and Open Cup qualifying games combined. If the number of games is unequal, then point percentage applies.
10. FIFA Fair Play – Team with fewest disciplinary points in League games. (If the number of games is unequal, points will be divided by games played to arrive at a common basis for comparison.)
11. Lottery conducted by USL League Two.