The Rowdies start the USL Cup Playoffs at home Saturday night

Tampa Bay hopes to open the playoffs before a sellout crowd Saturday at Al Lang

The Tampa Bay Rowdies earned the No. 3 seed after Saturday night’s matches. They finished in a three-way battle for the top spot in the Eastern Conference behind Louisville and Charleston.

In their first year as members of the USL, Tampa Bay has grand hopes of being invited to be one of the four or six teams to join Major League Soccer. A good showing in the USL Cup Playoffs is a must for the Rowdies as they gear up to take the next step in their plans as an organization.

One of their biggest challengers for a spot in the MLS will be their first-round opponent. The Rowdies open the USL playoffs by hosting sixth seed FC Cincinnati in an Eastern Conference quarterfinal at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Al Lang Stadium.

They moved up to sixth place with a late 4-3 win on the road against Toronto FC II on Saturday night. The Rowdies had success twice this season against FC Cincinnati and Tampa Bay hopes to see a sellout crowd at Al Lang Stadium to help support their home team as well as a chance to impress those watching from the MLS offices in New York.

A quick look at their head to head battles shows that Tampa Bay has been the better side. In their first battle back on April 19th at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, they were able to come away with a 1-1 draw. Then they were able to beat FC Cincinnati 2-0 on July 6 in the return fixture at Al Lang. Marcel Schäfer, Martin Paterson, and Joe Cole scored Tampa Bay’s goals against Cincinnati this season.

The winner of the Rowdies-Cincinnati game advances to the conference semifinals against the winner of the match between No. 2 Charleston and No. 7 New York.

Here is a look at the first round of the playoffs.

2017 USL Cup Playoffs


Eastern Conference Quarterfinals


Friday, Oct. 20
No. 1 Louisville City FC vs. No. 8 Bethlehem Steel FC, 7:30 p.m. ET, Slugger Field

Saturday, Oct. 21
No. 4 Rochester Rhinos vs. No. 5 Charlotte Independence, 6:05 p.m. ET, Capelli Sport Stadium
No. 2 Charleston Battery vs. No. 7 New York Red Bulls II, 7 p.m. ET, MUSC Health Stadium
No. 3 Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. No. 6 FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. ET, Al Lang Stadium

Western Conference Quarterfinals


Friday, Oct. 20
No. 1 Real Monarchs SLC vs. No. 8 Sacramento Republic FC, 10 p.m. ET, Rio Tinto Stadium

Saturday, Oct. 21
No. 2 San Antonio FC vs. No. 7 Tulsa Roughnecks FC, 8:30 p.m. ET, Toyota Field
No. 4 Swope Park Rangers vs. No. 5 Phoenix Rising FC, 8:30 p.m. ET, Children’s Mercy Victory Field
No. 3 Reno 1868 FC vs. No. 6 OKC Energy FC, 8:45 p.m. ET, Greater Nevada Field