The New York Red Bulls started their USL side last year with the goal of giving younger players a chance to flourish and get minutes. And if there was anything extra that was going to come with it, then so be it. NYRB II was competitive in its first year in USL, but in 2016 the team has been dominant.
"I'm not sure where expecting where we would be in the table, but we have a good group and we feel we do a lot of good things with this club," said II team head coach John Wolyniec, "Being in first place wasn't necessarily the focus but it's been a great thing for the team and it's something to strive for, to put an extra oomph to this game and that is great for our players, and forces them to be engaged. And nothing's better to have them get that edge in a game like this."
Louisville City has been setting the pace in USL for most of the season, only recently stumbling to allow NYRB II to draw level on points. The two teams are five points clear of the next-best team in the Eastern Conference (FC Cincinnati) and 10 points better then the best in the West.
"We are excited to play against Louisville City and we know they are a good team. We are ready to battle and ready to race. And in a race you put your best foot forward and go out there to compete."
Both team have 47 points, but the Red Bulls have played two matches fewer than their opponents - no titles will be settled by this game, but it is a big game fr both sides nonetheless.
USL itself has zeroed in on NYRB II's Jamaican International Junior Flemmings and Louiville's George Davis IV as key attacking players in this match-up.
The last time these two sides met was at the start of the season in Louisville Slugger Field on Saturday, April 2. NYRB II won that one, 2-0, with goals for Flemmings and Brandon Allen.
But Louisville head coach James O'Connor has built a title contender, as his team's subsequent form proved.
"It's a team that has made changes over the offseason and they got off to a sputtering start, but James does a great job. After we faced them, he was able to fix things and got very comfortable with each other. The way they are playing they have a good style and it's a great franchise over there. This will be a highly contested game."
The II-team has to build itself anew almost every week. With key players like Derrick Etienne Jr getting called into the senior side for Jesse Marsch, Wolyniec has to regularly shuffle his lineups. Recently, Florian Valot and Vincent Bezecourt have stepped into the starting XI,
"Florian is a guy we watched in college and liked him a lot, what's amazing about him is he has gotten up to speed as a part time player last year and had to wait for him to finish with school. He's really taken advantage of the opportunity of what we have given him, he's a good technical player and a good physical player.
With Vincent he had an injury that disappointed him and he was in and out, it took him some time to get through the injury and it says something about our team that is very competitive. So if you end up on the outside whether it's due to injury or a bad performance you can get back in. He's done very well in the last couple of games and is able to get to the next level."
In last year's USL final we saw the LA Galaxy's Los Dos face the Rochester Rhinos. Even though they weren't able to get the job done, does Wolyniec believe he has the horses to get to that championship final and bring a trophy?
"We have played against the best teams in the league, we have a lot of success against better teams so that sets us up for the playoffs and host a couple of home games. You never know what happens in the playoffs but I wouldn't be surprised if we won a couple of games or head over to the final."
But right now that big match against Louisville City is hours away. If you can't get to Red Bull Arena to watch this huge match, then the live stream from YouTube should get the juices flowing. The right to be at the top of the Eastern Conference table is up for grabs and we shall see who will take the spoils.