Week 18 of MLS NEXT Pro action will feature a Game of the Week clash between Columbus Crew 2 and New England Revolution II at Historic Crew Stadium on Sunday, July 24, at 5 p.m. ET. 

The two sides met once before on May 8 at Gillette Stadium, where Crew 2 took home the three points with a 4-0 victory.

This fixture could shake up the Eastern Conference playoff picture with only a few games left in the season, so let's preview how both teams are coming into the game.

How to watch:

This and every match will be available to stream live and free of charge on MLSNEXTPro.com.

MLS NEXT Pro has teamed up with automated camera technology provider Spiideo to deliver live streams of all MLS NEXT Pro matches, ensuring every game this season will be available for viewing on MLSNEXTPro.com.

The matchup is this week's MLS NEXT Pro Game of the Week so viewers will experience a multi-camera production for this match.

The Black & Gold have been arguably the best and most consistent MLS NEXT Pro side through the first 17 weeks of the season. They currently lead the overall standings with 35 points and have not suffered a defeat since May 29.

When Jacen Russell-Rowe signed with the Columbus Crew first team on June 29, fears arose about how Crew 2 would supplant the offensive output of one of the league's leading scorers. 

These fears came to fruition when Crew 2, without Russell-Rowe, failed to score in consecutive games for the first time this season, first against RNY FC on June 24 and then again against Toronto FC II on July 10. 

Russell-Rowe returned to the Crew 2 lineup for the first time since June 19 last week and helped take care of business at home against FC Cincinnati 2, scoring two goals and giving the Black & Gold the 4-0 victory.

The big question heading into the game against New England Revolution II is if Russell-Rowe is not available, who will step up for Laurent Courtois' side?

Players to watch:

Noah Fuson, forward - The second-leading scorer for Crew 2, Fuson has seven goals and three assists this season. The team will look to him to carry the scoring load for the rest of the season.

Marco Micaletto, midfielder - The 26-year-old has started 14 out of the 15 games he has played in for Crew 2 this season while also contributing five goals.

Mohamed Farsi, defender - The 22-year-old right-back is known to bomb up and down the wing and get involved in the offense. He leads the team with six assists.

Currently, in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 26 points, New England Revolution II will head to Ohio, with fresh legs after a two-week break.

Revs II last played on July 10, losing 4-0 to NYCFC II. After the game, Head Coach Clint Peay had some positive words but admitted his team needs to improve on the defensive end. 

"I think the encouraging thing was we felt like we did play a pretty good first half in terms of moving the ball and creating chances, putting them under pressure," Peay stated after the game. "We had to get a little better defensively, so I thought we made some changes to the front that I think helped us be a little bit more organized, and that helped."

A victory against Columbus Crew 2 would go a long way in keeping them in contention for a playoff spot, especially since only 3 points separate the second and fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

Players to watch:

Michel Costa da Silva, midfielder - One of only two players on the New England Revolution II roster to have played every game this season, Michel has netted four goals this season along with two assists.

Marcos Dias, forward - The 20-year-old Brazilian has scored four times this season. He'll be relied upon as one of the creative forces in the final third of the pitch.

Jacob Jackson, goalkeeper - The 22-year-old goalkeeper is second in the league in total saves (57) and clean sheets (5). Revs II will need a big performance from him against one of the league's most prolific offenses.