Matchday Preview

MLS NEXT Pro Decision Day Preview


2023 MLS NEXT Pro Decision Day is upon us and there are several playoff spots up for grabs in both conferences of the league. 

There are two spots in both the Eastern and Western Conferences heading into the final matchday of the regular season. In addition, several clubs will be seeking to clinch their seed for the playoffs including Columbus Crew 2, New York Red Bulls II, Austin FC II and Sporting KC II. 

Sunday’s full slate is headlined by Huntsville City FC’s home clash with Chicago Fire II. Both teams are seeking a spot in the playoffs with Fire II currently sitting above the red line and Huntsville City FC needing a victory to have any chance of keeping their season alive.

Here is a closer look at the Decision Day schedule:

Sunday - 9/24

Columbus Crew 2 vs. ATL UTD 2 (2 p.m. ET)

Columbus Crew 2 will be seeking to clinch the No. 3 seed on Sunday with three points against ATL UTD 2. 

Laurent Courtois’ men head into Decision Day tied with New York Red Bulls on 51 points apiece. A 4-0 road win over FC Cincinnati 2 on Sunday featured goals from four different players including Coleman Gannon and Taha Habroune. Crew 2 have defeated ATL UTD 2 twice in 2023 and will be seeking the season sweep on home soil this weekend.

ATL UTD 2 are unbeaten in three-straight matches and will be seeking to end their schedule on a high note. Back-to-back wins over FC Cincinnati 2 and Huntsville City FC was followed up by a 5-3 shootout victory over Inter Miami II on Sunday. Nicolas Firmino’s 16 goals in 2023 have him alive in the Golden Boot race, but he will need a few tallies at Historic Crew Stadium on Sunday to have a shot.

Huntsville City FC vs. Chicago Fire II (2 p.m. ET)

Two Eastern Conference clubs seeking playoff berths will clash at Joe Davis Stadium on Sunday. 

Huntsville City FC welcomes Chicago Fire II to town, needing three points to have any chance of making the postseason. Three-straight defeats is a worrying sign for Jack Collison’s squad, especially heading into a must-win affair. Azaad Liadi leads the team with 12 goals in 2023, including scoring once on Sunday in a 2-1 road loss to Philadelphia Union II.

Chicago Fire II heads into Decision Day above the red line in the Eastern Conference. Ludovic Talliander’s men have only lost one of their last eight matches in regulation, most recently falling 4-3 in a shootout to Orlando City B. Luka Prpa will be one to watch for Fire II after scoring four goals in his last five matches.

Inter Miami II vs. NYCFC II (2 p.m. ET)

NYCFC II’s playoff hopes come down to Sunday’s trip to Inter Miami II. 

Matt Pilkington will be hoping for a strong performance from his squad against already-eliminated Inter Miami II. NYCFC II are unbeaten in three-straight matches, which includes victories over Philadelphia Union II and Columbus Crew 2 and a shootout win over TFC II. Jonathan Jimenez is riding strong form right now, scoring in each of his last three appearances. 

Matthew Myers is tied with Orlando City B’s Jack Lynn for the 2023 Golden Boot with 18 goals apiece.

Inter Miami II have taken points from two of their last three matches, which recently included a 5-3 shootout loss to ATL UTD 2. Lawson Sunderland scored twice on Matchday 26 while Tyler Hall also found the back of the net. Sunderland has been one of the key bright spots for Inter Miami II in 2023, despite the club’s inconsistent results.

New York Red Bulls II vs. Philadelphia Union II (2 p.m. ET)

Both New York Red Bulls II and Philadelphia Union II will have much to play for in Sunday’s regular-season finale.

Red Bulls II are fighting to claim the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, as they are level on 51 points apiece with Columbus Crew 2. Red Bulls II are unbeaten in regulation over their last five matches, which included results over Crew 2, Chicago Fire II, and TFC II. Ibrahim Kasule has been Red Bulls II’s Player of the Season in 2023 with 15 goals and five assists to his name. 

It’s pretty simple for Philadelphia Union II, win and you’re in. Marlon LeBlanc’s squad sit in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after back-to-back wins over TFC II and Huntsville City FC. Stefan Stojanovic has scored in each of his last two matches for the club, while Chris Donovan has also added a brace over that span.

Orlando City B vs. FC Cincinnati 2 (2 p.m. ET)

Orlando City B has already locked down their playoff spot and will aim to finish the weekend in the No. 5 spot. 

OCB cannot move up in the Eastern Conference standings, but might drop down if they fail to defeat FC Cincinnati 2 on Sunday. Martin Perelman’s squad have been forced into shootouts over the last two matches, falling to New England Revolution II and defeating Chicago Fire II. Jack Lynn is tied for the Golden Boot lead with NYCFC II’s Matthew Myers as both players have 18 tallies heading into Decision Day.

FC Cincinnati 2 have lost three-straight matches heading into Decision Day and will be seeking to end their schedule on a high note. FCC2’s last regulation win over Orlando City B came in their first-ever showdown on May 29, 2022.

TFC II vs. Crown Legacy FC (2 p.m. ET)

The No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is already guaranteed for Crown Legacy FC, but the overall No. 1 seed in MLS NEXT Pro remains up for grabs. 

Jose Tavares’ men head into Decision Day level on 63 points with Colorado Rapids 2. The 2023 expansion side have been dominant in the East throughout the season, most recently extending their unbeaten run to seven matches. A recent 1-0 win over New England Revolution II featured a first MLS NEXT Pro goal for 15-year-old Nimfasha Berchimas.

TFC II heads into Decision Day without a regulation victory in their last five matches. Gianni Cimini’s squad have held their own against the Eastern Conference leaders for most of 2023, falling 2-1 in regulation and 3-1 in a shootout. A first head-to-head victory for TFC II could spoil Crown Legacy FC’s chances of capturing the No. 1 seed.

Colorado Rapids 2 vs. MNUFC2 (5 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)

MNUFC2 heads into Decision Day above the red line in the Western Conference, but will need at least one point against Colorado Rapids 2 to truly clinch their playoff spot.

Cameron Knowles’ squad are unbeaten in their last three matches, which included shootout results over Earthquakes II and Austin FC II, as well as a 3-2 regulation win over Sporting KC II. Kameron Lacey and Emmanuel Iwe have combined for five goals over the last four matches and will be a tricky duo for the West leaders to contain over 90 minutes.

Colorado Rapids 2 are seeking the overall No. 1 seed heading into the postseason. Rapids 2 have won three-consecutive matches in recent weeks, continuing what has been a strong regular season campaign for Erik Bushey’s squad. Remi Cabral has been on fire in the offensive third, netting four goals during the recent winning streak. He also remains alive in the MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot race with 16 tallies in 2023.

Earthquakes II vs. LAFC2 (5 p.m. ET)

Earthquakes II are in the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and will need a regulation win to truly seal their place.

A recent 5-2 win over Whitecaps FC 2 featured a brace from leading-scorer Eduardo Blancas, as well as tallies from Keegan Tingey, Ousseni Bouda, and Alex Chow. Quakes II cannot afford any slip-ups this weekend, especially against already-eliminated LAFC2. LAFC2 has already defeated Quakes II once in 2023, but this is the first meeting at PayPal Park.

LAFC2 have won back-to-back matches coming into Decision Day and ultimately will be seeking to spoil the party on the road. Leonardo Flores scored twice in last weekend’s 4-0 triumph over Timbers2 and could be the go-to player for LAFC2 once again this weekend.

LA Galaxy II vs. Houston Dynamo 2 (5 p.m. ET)

Houston Dynamo 2 heads into Decision Day needing a regulation win over LA Galaxy II to have any chance of making the playoffs. 

Dynamo Dos are on the outside of the top seven in the West, needing three points to keep their season alive. A 3-1 Texas Derby loss to North Texas SC continued a worrying run of form for Dynamo Dos, who have overall lost four of their last five matches in league play. Diego Gonzalex and Papa Ndoye remain one of the league’s top attacking duos, but ultimately Dynamo Dos need to try and keep the ball out of their own net as well (15 goals conceded in last five matches).

LA Galaxy II will try and play spoiler at home with only pride to play for. Three-straight losses have continued a disappointing summer for Galaxy II despite Aaron Bibout’s individual heroics to keep them competitive. Bibout has 14 goals in 2023 and will be one to watch at the MLS level in 2024.

North Texas SC vs. Austin FC II (5 p.m. ET)

Austin FC II’s quest to capture the No. 3 seed in the West comes down to Sunday’s Texas Derby against North Texas SC. 

Brett Uttley’s squad can ultimately clinch the No. 3 spot with two points or more against NTX, while anything less could see them drop into fourth place. ATX II have failed to win any of their last five matches in regulation, despite taking points against MNUFC2, LAFC2, and Whitecaps FC 2. Consistent scoring has become an issue for ATX II so hopefully Valentin Noel and others can help fill the gap.

North Texas SC will not be heading to the playoffs, but will be seeking a first head-to-head win over Austin FC II. NTX lost 3-0 at Parmer Field back in April and ultimately will seek a bounce-back performance on home soil. Jose Mulato and Hope Avayevu will lead the NTX attacking front once again.

Sporting KC II vs. St. Louis CITY2 (5 p.m. ET)

Sporting KC II and St. Louis CITY2 both have higher seeds on their mind coming into Sunday’s regular-season finale. 

SKC II are in fourth place coming into Sunday’s match while CITY2 are in fifth. Benny Feilhaber’s squad could claim the No. 3 seed in the West with a home victory on Sunday paired with a dropped result for Austin FC II. Back-to-back losses for SKC II though won’t have confidence at an all-time high. Pau Vidal remains SKC II’s top offensive threat in 2023.

CITY2 could also finish as high as the No. 3 seed with a road victory at Rock Chalk Park and a dropped result for Austin FC II. Bobby Murphy’s squad clinched their playoff spot on Sunday after a 4-1 home victory against LA Galaxy II. CITY2 have won their last five matches and overall are riding a nine-match unbeaten run. John Klein and Faysal Bettache have been an in-form attacking duo this summer, coming for 21 goals and six assists for CITY2.

Tacoma Defiance vs. Whitecaps FC 2 (5 p.m. ET)

Tacoma Defiance can’t go up or down on Decision Day after already being guaranteed the No. 2 seed in the West. 

Wade Webber’s men have won four matches in a row, registering two clean sheets in that span. A recent 3-0 victory over Real Monarchs featured a brace from Braudilio Rodrigues and an additional tally from Raul Miglietti. Both Rodrigues and Miglietti have been key in the Defiance attack this season and will be riding strong form heading into the postseason.

Whitecaps FC 2’s disappointing summer comes to an end on Sunday with an opportunity to snap a 13-match regulation winless streak. The Canadian club has lost their last four matches in league play, scoring just two goals over that span. Ricardo Clark’s squad ultimately hurt their playoff chances during this recent winless streak, but will try and knock off one of the league’s best teams on Sunday.

Timbers2 vs. Real Monarchs (5 p.m. ET)

Timbers2 and Real Monarchs will both seek a winning end to the season as both teams enter Decision Day with 31 points apiece. 

Timbers2 have lost three-consecutive matches coming into Matchday 27 and overall have lost four matches in a row to Real Monarchs. Keesean Ferdinand has been a rock in Timbers2’s backline in 2023 while Florian Monzon has been a consistent threat in the final third. Both players will seek strong season finales before unknown futures with the first team.

Real Monarchs have lost their last two matches in league play, failing to score in both of them. Jamison Olave’s squad do hold the head-to-head advantage against Timbers2 and will seek to extend that streak to five matches. Ilijah Paul is a promising attacker to watch in 2024 after scoring five goals this season for Monarchs.