COLUMBUS, OHIO (October 22, 2023) – Austin FC II captured the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Cup on Sunday, defeating the defending Champion Columbus Crew 2, 3-1, at Lower.com Field in Columbus. Austin earned the League’s second-ever Cup after winning all four of their playoff matches on the road over higher seeded teams.
After a scoreless first half, the second half featured a flurry of goals, including a pair of penalty kicks. Valentin Noël scored the game-winning goal on his way to being named MLS NEXT Pro Cup MVP. Austin FC II joins Columbus Crew 2 as the League’s only champions, with both teams winning Cup in their inaugural seasons.
Both Crew 2 and Austin FC II came out of the gates swiftly. Crew 2 forced four crucial saves from 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Goalkeeper of the Year Damian Las. Austin FC II made sure Stanislav Lapkes was alert at the other end of the pitch, with two saves of his own to keep the score even at 0-0 through 45 minutes.
In the second half, Crew 2 took an early lead with a successful penalty kick from Thomas Roberts (49’) (Watch Here). Austin FC II battled on until finding the equalizer through a penalty kick of their own when Alonso Ramírez notched the visitor’s opening goal (70’) (Watch Here). Los VerDos proved why they were a formidable road team this postseason, adding a second goal in a sensational effort from Noël (77’) (Watch Here). The match would be sealed not long after, as an Austin cross into the 18-yard box came off of Diego Almeida, resulting in an Own Goal against Columbus.
Austin’s journey to the title began when No. 3 Sporting KC II selected No. 4 Austin FC II in the first round of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs, as part of the new pick-your-opponent element. Los VerDos emerged with a 2-0 victory. In the Conference Semifinal, Austin faced off against No. 2 Tacoma Defiance and stunned a higher seed yet again with a 1-0 victory. The Texas outfit took on No. 1 overall seed Colorado Rapids 2 in the Western Conference Final. An instant classic saw both teams’ defense stand firm; the match ended in a shootout, with Las making two massive saves to help lift Austin to a 4-1 shootout victory and send the team to MLS NEXT Pro Cup.
About MLS NEXT Pro
Launched in 2022 by Major League Soccer, MLS NEXT Pro is a professional men’s soccer league in the United States and Canada that completes the pro player pathway. MLS NEXT Pro continues to grow the game through innovation and diversity, bringing professional soccer to new communities and creating global opportunities both on and off the field. MLS NEXT Pro entered its second season in 2023 with 27 teams, all affiliated with MLS clubs. Seven are new to MLS NEXT Pro in 2023: Atlanta United 2, Austin FC II, Crown Legacy FC (Charlotte FC), Huntsville City FC (Nashville SC), LA Galaxy II, Los Angeles Football Club 2 and New York Red Bulls II. Additional MLS-affiliated and independent clubs will join in the years ahead, including Carolina Core FC in 2024 and Cleveland in 2025. The majority of MLS NEXT Pro matches in 2023 are available to watch live on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app as part of the groundbreaking partnership between Apple and MLS. For more information about MLS NEXT Pro, visit mlsnextpro.com.