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A guide to the USL Eastern Conference playoffs for New York Red Bulls II fans

NYRB II has no choice but to play OCSC B in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, but which teams might it prefer to play if it gets through the next rounds?

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Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The USL Eastern Conference playoffs are a simple proposition for New York Red Bulls II: no worrying about which match-up might see the team forced out of Red Bull Arena to play at a fuller stadium, as there will be if the II team gets to the USL Cup final. For as long as it is in the Eastern Conference playoffs, the II team will play at home. And as the runaway winner of this year's USL regular season title, the Back-up Bulls have already trampled all over most of their potential playoff opponents in the East.

Still, if the II team was allowed to choose who it played in the Eastern Conference playoffs, here's how Once A Metro thinks it might prefer to see the opening round of games concluded.

Rochester Rhinos (4) vs Charlotte Independence (5)

6:05 pm, Eastern; Saturday, October 1, 2016; @ Rochester Rhinos Stadium, Rochester, NY

Watch on USL YouTube channel.

It is generally considered imprudent for a team to look past its next opponent to whatever lies ahead, but neither NYRB II nor OCSC B will have much choice: they will know the team waiting for them in the Eastern Conference semifinals before they kick off on Sunday, October 2.

That team will be the winner of this match. From NYRB II's perspective, the best outcome would be for Rochester and Charlotte to find some way of knocking each other out, so neither is around to contest the next round of the playoffs. The II team need fear no team in the East, given its swaggering march to the regular season title, but it doesn't necessarily match up particularly well with either the Rhinos or the Independence.

Charlotte is the only team to have beaten NYRB II at Red Bull Arena this season. Yes, the Red Bulls lost two home games in USL 2016 - but the loss to Charleston Battery was at the Red Bull training facility. Only Charlotte has walked into Red Bull Arena and walked out with three points: the 2-0 win on May 1 was a while ago, but it serves as a reminder that NYRB II is not invincible.

The Rhinos, however, are probably the team NYRB II would do best to avoid. In two years of existence, the II team has never beaten Rochester. Of course, in 2015, the Rhinos were the best in USL, winning the regular season and USL Cup double. They are, therefore, also the only team in USL to have knocked the II team out of the playoffs. And they would surely like to do so again, as they seek to defend their post-season title.

On balance, NYRB II might prefer to see Charlotte emerge victorious from this one.

OaM's pick: Charlotte Independence

New York Red Bulls II (1) vs Orlando City B (8)

4:00 pm, Eastern; Sunday, October 2, 2016; @ Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ

Watch on USL YouTube channel.

Or buy tickets, help fill the stadium, and make NYRB II a can't-miss host of the USL Cup final (if it gets that far).

This match will get its own preview treatment, and do we need to say which team OaM will be rooting for?

All eyes will be in the II team's stubbornly low attendance. If even post-season games cannot get people out to see the best USL has to offer in 2016, then if the Red Bulls do make the USL Cup final, they will be playing it on the road.

OaM's pick: (fine, we'll say it) NYRB II

FC Cincinnati (3) vs Charleston Battery (6)

4:00 pm, Eastern; Sunday, October 2, 2016; @ Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio

Watch on USL YouTube channel.

Fair to assume that this will be the match that causes USL execs the greatest anxiety. Cincinnati pulls in the sort of crowds MLS would be happy to see (17,000 or so, on average) and is surely the preferred league headquarters' first choice to host USL Cup.

NYRB II has twice beaten Cincy this season, while it lost once to Charleston (at the Red Bull training facility). And it is guaranteed to play either team at Red Bull Arena (if that is how the Eastern Conference final shakes out). But Cincy's last meeting with NYRB II was settled by a dubious call (even with a Video Assistant Referee present), and this writer fears the twin threat of karma and Cincinnati's righteous indignation.

OaM's pick: Charleston Battery

Louisville City FC (2) vs Richmond Kickers (7)

7:00 pm, Eastern; Sunday, October 2, 2016; @ Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, Kentucky

Watch on USL YouTube channel.

Louisville City got closer to beating NYRB II to the regular season title than any team in the league, and looked comfortably the best team in USL for a substantial part of the year.

If the II team makes the Eastern Conference final and has to play one of these two teams, let it be Richmond.

OaM's pick: Richmond Kickers