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Phoenix Rising begins playoff run after conference-winning regular season

UPDATE: The Rising were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday night after losing 4-3 in penalty kicks.

The Phoenix Rising of the United Soccer League Championship, the second-highest tier of professional soccer in the United States, kicks off its fifth straight playoff run Saturday, in search of the franchise’s first USL title.

The Rising finished with the second best record in the USL, a conference-leading 20 wins, five losses and seven draws, while scoring 68 goals in that span.

Head coach Rick Schantz says the team’s regular season was impressive, but the playoffs add more pressure to succeed.

“At the end of the day, it’s playoffs, it’s win or go home. No matter what you say, you’re just going to have to go out there and get a result, and I trust my players more than anybody,” said Schantz.

The Rising made the USL Final last season, but were not able to play due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the opposing team’s organization.

The Rising face the Rio Grande Valley Football Club at home, where the Rising haven’t lost a single game all season, Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

Vaughan Jones is the weekend reporter for KJZZ, and a graduate of ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism, with a minor in music. As a Phoenix native, Jones’s dream is to serve his community by covering important stories in the metropolitan area.He spent two years as music director at Blaze Radio, ASU’s student-run radio station. His passion for radio stems from joining Blaze his freshman year as a DJ.When he is not working, Jones can be found writing music with his band, playing video games with his friends, or watching his favorite Phoenix-area sports teams.