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Eastern Conference Preview: Part One

By Rowdies Communications, 03/10/20, 4:30PM EDT

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 10, 2020) — The 2020 USL Championship season is officially underway and it’s time to look at who the Rowdies will be competing against in the Eastern Conference this season.

The Eastern Conference features 17 teams this season, including expansion club Miami FC. Over the course of the 34-game regular season, the Rowdies will play each of the teams in the Eastern Conference once at home and once away to make up 32 games. The additional matches will be a second road trip to Miami and an additional home game against New York Red Bulls II.


Atlanta United 2

Head Coach: Stephen Glass

2019 Record: 9-17-8 (W-L-D), 14th place

2019 Postseason: Did Not Qualify

Stadium: Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Kennesaw, Georgia


Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Kennesaw, Georgia

Atlanta United 2 has failed to qualify for the postseason in either of its first two campaigns as a member of the USL Championship. Atlanta United 2 traditionally fields a very young lineup supplemented heavily with prospects from the Atlanta United Academy. In 2019, Atlanta improved on its 2018 record by four points, but finished in 14th place for the second-consecutive year. Last year's leading scorer, Bienvenue Kanakimana (7 goals) is no longer with the club.

Tampa Bay took four points off Atlanta United 2 last season, winning 4-1 in Georgia on April, but being held to a 1-1 draw at Al Lang in September.

Atlanta United 2 got off to a losing start this season, falling 1-0 to the Charleston Battery in its opening match last weekend. This year, the Rowdies will host Atlanta on June 6 and travel to Georgia on September 10.


Birmingham Legion FC

Head Coach: Tom Soehn

2019 Record: 12-15-7 (W-L-D), 43 points

2019 Postseason: Eliminated in Conference Quarterfinals by No. 1 seed Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Stadium: BBVA Field, Birmingham, Alabama


BBVA Field, Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham Legion FC had a successful inaugural season in 2019, sneaking into the USL Championship Playoffs as the 10th and final seed. Legion FC upset North Carolina FC on the road in extra time of the Play-In Round before being eliminated by the Eastern Conference Regular Season Champion Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Last year's leading scorer, JJ Williams (eight goals), was expected to return in 2020 being before signed by Atlanta United last week.

The Rowdies took three points off Birmingham last season, winning 2-0 in Alabama in May before falling 1-0 in St. Petersburg in August.

Birmingham did not play on the opening weekend. Legion FC hosts the Charleston Battery in its season opener this coming Sunday evening. Tampa Bay visits Birmingham on June 27 and hosts Legion FC in the regular season finale on October 17.


Charleston Battery

Head Coach: Mike Anhaeuser

2019 Record: 11-10-13 (W-L-D), 46 points

2019 Postseason: Eliminated in Conference Quarterfinals by No. 2 seed Nashville SC

Stadium: Patriots Point Soccer Complex, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina


Patriots Point Soccer Complex, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

The Charleston Battery is one of the oldest and most consistent teams in the USL Championship, having played in a USL league since 1999. This year is an exciting season for the Battery, with new ownership, a new home stadium and new branding. Last year, the Battery made the playoffs for the 12th-straight season and won a Play-In Round game on the road in Ottawa before being eliminated by Nashville in the Quarterfinals. Last year's leading scorer, Zeiko Lewis (eight goals) is back with the club and scored on opening weekend.

The Rowdies took four points off the battery in 2019, being held to a 1-1 draw at Al Lang in June and then dominating the Battery in a 5-0 win in South Carolina in August.

The Battery opened 2020 with a 1-0 win on the road against Atlanta United 2 last weekend and will visit Legion FC this upcoming weekend. The Rowdies visit Charleston on May 23 and host the Battery on September 19.


Charlotte Independence

Head Coach: Mike Jeffries

2019 Record: 9-14-11 (W-L-D), 38 points

2019 Postseason: Did Not Qualify

Stadium: SportsPlex at Matthews, Matthews, North Carolina


SportsPlex at Matthews, Matthews, North Carolina

The Charlotte Independence missed the playoffs in 2019 for the second-consecutive season by finishing in 13th place. Its nine wins in 2019 were the fewest in the five years of club history. Last year's leading scorer, Dom Oduro (eight goals), is no longer with the club.

The Rowdies took four points off the Independence last year after being held to a 1-1 draw at Al Lang in April but beating the Independence 3-1 on the road in September.

Charlotte started the 2020 season with a 2-1 road win over Sporting Kansas City II on Sunday. The Independence hosts Pittsburgh this weekend in its home opener. Tampa Bay hosts Charlotte on April 25 and visits the Independence on September 26.


Hartford Athletic

Head Coach: Radhi Jaidi

2019 Record: 8-21-5 (W-L-D), 29 points

2019 Postseason: Did Not Qualify

Stadium: Dillon Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut


Dillon Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford struggled through its inaugural season, finishing just three points ahead of last season and losing a league-high 21 games. The Athletic has a new head coach for 2020 in former Southampton U23 manager Radhi Jaidi. Last year's leading scorer, Wojciech Wojcik (seven goals), is no longer with the club.

Tampa Bay split the season series with Hartford last year, winning 4-0 at Al Lang in April but falling 2-1 on the road in the regular season finale.

The Athletic had the opening weekend off and will make its season debut on the road Friday night against New York Red Bulls II. The Rowdies will visit Connecticut on June 13 and host the Athletic on October 3.