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Eastern Conference Preview: Part Three

By Rowdies Communications, 03/12/20, 9:00AM EDT

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 12, 2020) -- This week, we're previewing the 2020 USL Championship Eastern Conference field. This part two of a three part series.

Part One | Part Two

Today we'll get to know North Carolina FC, Philadelphia Union II, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Saint Louis FC and Sporting Kansas City II.


North Carolina FC

Head Coach: Dave Sarachan

2019 Record: 16-10-8 (W-L-D), 7th place

2019 Postseason: Eliminated in Play-In Round by No. 10 seed Birmingham Legion FC

Stadium: Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina


Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina

North Carolina FC made the USL Championship playoffs in 2019, but was knocked out at home by Birmingham Legion FC in extra time. Last year saw two players, Steven Miller and Robert Kristo both finish on nine goals to lead the team together. Both players remain on the roster for 2020.

The Rowdies struggled against North Carolina last season, losing both matches. It was NCFC that snapped Tampa Bay's 13-game unbeaten streak in league play to start the year. The Rowdies were scheduled to host North Carolina in their home opener on March 21 but that match has been postponed. Tampa Bay will visit North Carolina on July 25.

NCFC opened the season with a 1-0 home loss to Louisville City FC.


Philadelphia Union II

Head Coach: Sven Gartung

2019 Record: 8-19-7 (W-L-D), 16th place

2019 Postseason: Did Not Qualify

Stadium: Subaru Park, Chester, Pennsylvania


Subaru Park, Chester, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Union II rebranded this year after playing previous seasons under the name Bethlehem Steel FC. Last year, Union II/Steel FC struggled through a difficult season, finishing in 16th place, 12 points short of the playoff line. Last year's lead scorer, Faris (11 goals), is no longer with the club. 

Tampa Bay beat up on Steel FC last year, winning both matches by a combined score of 8-2. This year's matches are scheduled for May 30 in St. Petersburg and August 2 in Philadelphia.

The Union opened the year at home against Loudoun United FC with a 0-0 draw.


Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Head Coach: Bob Lilley

2019 Record: 19-4-11 (W-L-D), 1st place

2019 Postseason: Eliminated in Conference Semifinals by No. 4 seed Louisville City FC

Stadium: Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Last year's Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC team slowly but steadily crept its way up the table all the way to a regular season Eastern Conference crown, having lost only four matches. After winning its Conference Quarterfinal, Pittsburgh lost at home in extra time to eventual conference champion Louisville. Last year's leading scorer, Neco Brett (17 goals), has departed the club to sign with Legion FC.

Tampa Bay did well against the Riverhounds last year, beating them 1-0 in St. Pete in March and earning a 1-1 draw in Pittsburgh in July. This year's meeting in St. Pete has been postponed from March 27 and the match in Pittsburgh is scheduled for August 23.

Pittsburgh had the opening weekend of the USL Championship season off.


Saint Louis FC

Head Coach: Steve Trittschuh

2019 Record: 11-14-9 (W-L-D), 11th place

2019 Postseason: Did Not Qualify

Stadium: West Community Stadium, Fenton, Missouri


West Community Stadium, Fenton, Missouri

Saint Louis FC failed to make the playoffs last season, finishing just short of the playoff line in 11th place, one point shy of qualifying. Head Coach Anthony Pulis departed for Inter Miami CF and was replaced by former Colorado Springs Switchbacks coach Steve Trittschuh. Last year, Sam Fink and Kyle Greig tied for the team lead with seven goals. Both players remain with the club.

Tampa Bay found some success against Saint Louis last year, earning a 1-1 draw on the road in March and then winning 4-1 at home in St. Pete on July 20. This year's meetings are scheduled for May 2 in Saint Louis and July 4 in St. Pete.

Saint Louis opened the 2020 season with a dominant 4-1 win over Miami FC.


Sporting Kansas City II

Head Coach: Paulo Nagamura

2019 Record: 6-20-8 (W-L-D), 18th place

2019 Postseason: Did Not Qualify

Stadium: Children's Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kansas


Children's Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kansas

Sporting KC II rebranded from the Swope Park Rangers this winter after a difficult first season in the Eastern Conference. Sporting/Swope Park picked up just six wins a year and finishing last in the conference, 17 points short of the playoff line. Last year's leading scorer, Wilson Harris (12 goals), remains with the club.

Tampa Bay beat Sporting KC in both meetings last year, 1-0 at home in May and then 3-1 in Kansas in July. Sporting KC's visit to Al Lang has been postponed from April 4, while the match in Kansas is scheduled for July 12.

SKC II opened the year with a 2-1 home loss to the Charlotte Independence.