The one, two, and three seeds in the USL Western Conference playoffs all fell at the first hurdle, bounced out of the post-season at the quarterfinal stage.
The USL's playoffs are agreeably unforgiving: one and done; win or go home. After fourth seed Swope Park Rangers saw off fifth-seeded LA Galaxy, 3-0, to open the league's 2016 post-season, everything went awry for the better-placed teams in the West.
Vancouver Whitecaps 2 fought back from a goal down to claim a 2-1 win over Colorado Springs Switchbacks: the three-seed was out. Oklahoma City Energy found two goals in injury time to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win over Rio Grande Valley FC: two seed down. FInally, top seed and 2014 USL Cup champion, Sacramento Republic was fortunate to get as far as penalties after extra-time against the spirited Orange County Blues, and the visiting eighth-seed knocked the Western Conference's regular season winner out of the playoffs with a 5-4 win in the shootout.
For New York Red Bulls II fans these results are a mixed blessing. On the one hand: most of the Western Conference teams that might be favored to host a USL Cup final against NYRB II are out of the playoffs. That is encouraging news for the II team, if it can get to the Championship game and figure out a way to get more than 500 people to show up to its games.
On the other hand, the results in the West illustrate how easy it can be for a favorite to be bounced out of the USL playoffs. There is no margin for error: miss your chances and there is no chance to atone in a follow-up game. It is one-and-done in USL, and in the Western Conference side of the bracket, the one, two and three seeds are done.
NYRB II - the number one seed in the East - will seek to avoid a similar fate against Orlando City B on October 2 at Red Bull Arena. Kick-off is at 4:00 pm.