Analysis / Philadelphia Union II

Bethlehem Steel FC’s playoff prospects

Feature photo of coaches Burke and Hogan courtesy of Bethlehem Steel FC

To be, or not to be – in the playoffs. That is today’s Bethlehem question.

The day before the July 18 Red Bulls 2 game, Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said his team was virtually in a “must-win” situation when playing at home against teams below the playoff line. Earlier, he had called Bethlehem’s five home draws “points out the window.”

The current situation

Teams 1 – 8 are above the USL eastern conference playoff line today, 9-16 below it are in italics .

  1. FC Cincinnati
  2. Charleston Battery
  3. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
  4. Louisville City FC
  5. New York Red Bulls 2
  6. Indy Eleven
  7. Ottawa Fury
  8. Nashville SC
  9. Charlotte Independence
  10. Tampa Bay Rowdies
  11. Penn FC
  12. Bethlehem Steel FC
  13. North Carolina FC
  14. Richmond Kickers
  15. Atlanta United 2
  16. Toronto FC 2

We compare Burke’s idea above to Chris Sherman’s latest SEBA projections. The 14 remaining games are listed in date sequence; home games are underlined.

Game               Burke           Sherman: (W + T)         Previously
Indy Eleven                                   50% + 16%           Beat them at their place
Atlanta 2             Win                          59%                Lost at their place
Richmond       Need pts                45% + 15%           Beat them twice here
Charlotte         Need pts               31% + 21%            Beat a B squad here
Pittsburgh                                     33% + 26%
Toronto 2         Need pts               70% + 14 %           (neutral site game)
Ottawa                                          54% + 13%            Lost at their place
Nashville                                       23% + 18%            Lost here
Penn                   Win                          49%                 Lost at their place
Pittsburgh                                     16% + 23%
Toronto 2            Win                          84%
Ottawa                                          30% + 13%            Lost at their place
Indy Eleven                                   32% + 16%            (See above)
Tampa Bay         Win                           57%                Lost at their place


At the moment the club has 24 points.

Burke wants all 12 of the points available to be earned at home from the teams below the playoff line, and he wants a high number of the nine available to be earned on the road from the same teams. Getting three to five more from the seven games remaining against teams above the playoff line seems possible, for an addition to the current 24 of 22 to 26. The season’s total would be between 46 and 50.

The current eight-teams-per-conference playoff format has existed since 2016, and in that year 8th place Orlando had 35 points from 30 games, or 1.167 points per game. Last year eighth place Bethlehem had 44 points from 32 games, or 1.375 points per game.

If 1.375 points per game were to be the 2018 playoff threshold, there are 34 games this season, so 47 points would be the target. That is roughly double the Steel’s current 24.

The Steel are half-way to 47 but are three games beyond the halfway point of their schedule. In 20 games Bethlehem has accumulated 24 points, a rate of 1.20 per game. In the remaining 14 games, they must accumulate 23 more, i.e., 1.64 per game.

There are 21 points available from the remaining games against teams below the playoff line, 12 home and nine away. Beating those teams is essential. Newly available players such as Omar Holness and Faris should help. But should key absences occur, e.g., Santi Moar, they would hurt quite a bit.

The bottom line is Bethlehem must double the current point total of 24 from 20 games, in only 14 opportunities.

One Comment

  1. WeAreSteel2K18 says:

    It’s depressing to see how far Steel has fallen in the standings.

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