MLS NEXT Pro Cup Returns to Lower.com Field in Columbus For Second Straight Year After Pair of Upsets in Conference Finals
MLS NEXT Pro Cup will return to Columbus, Ohio for the second straight year when Eastern Conference Champion Columbus Crew 2 hosts Western Conference Champion Austin FC II Sunday, October 22 at Lower.com Field (5pm ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV). Crew 2, winners of the first MLS NEXT Pro Cup in 2022, will have the opportunity to defend their title at home thanks to upsets in both Conference Finals over the weekend.
After defeating No. 1 Crown Legacy FC on the road in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, No. 3 Crew 2 pulled off another upset in the Conference Finals on Saturday. Columbus went into Foxborough, MA and handed No. 2 New England Revolution II a loss in stoppage time. Scoreless through 90 minutes, the match seemed destined for extra time before Columbus’ Gibran Rayo (90’+1’) put one past New England goalkeeper Nick Campuzano. The 1-0 victory booked the defending Champions a spot back in MLS NEXT Pro Cup.
On Sunday night, another upset led to Crew 2 hosting the final game of the 2023 season. With a win in the Western Conference Final, No. 1 overall Colorado Rapids 2 would have hosted Cup. However, it would be No. 4 Austin FC II that would play spoiler for the third straight round of the playoffs, sending themselves and MLS NEXT Pro Cup to Columbus.
The two evenly matched clubs battled through 90 scoreless minutes of regulation. Thirty minutes of extra time would not decide a winner between Colorado and Austin, forcing a shootout. 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Goalkeeper of the Year Damian Las proved why he earned the prestigious award, providing two massive saves and helping Austin FC II to a 4-1 shootout win to advance to MLS NEXT Pro Cup. It was Austin’s third successful playoff match against a higher-seeded opponent on the road this postseason.
2023 MLS NEXT Pro Cup will air live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV and will feature an enhanced broadcast. James Hadnot will provide play-by-play and will be joined by analyst Ricky Lopez-Espin in the booth. Jalil Anibaba and Michelle Montaine will provide coverage on the sidelines.
Tickets for 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Cup at Lower.com Field are available for purchase online.