We are down to the final three weeks of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro regular season and several playoff spots are still up for grabs.
Matchday 26’s schedule gets underway on Thursday with New England Revolution II hosting Orlando City B in Foxborough. Revs II are already guaranteed a spot in the postseason but Orlando City B remains in the fight with several Eastern Conference clubs to finish above the red line.
Friday’s two-match schedule features a pair of Eastern Conference matchups. Columbus Crew 2 hosts NYCFC II and TFC II visits Philadelphia Union II.
Saturday and Sunday’s slate is headlined by New York Red Bulls II’s trip to Crown Legacy FC and MNUFC2’s hosting of Austin FC II.
Here is a closer look at the Matchday 26 schedule:
Thursday - 9/7
New England Revolution II vs. Orlando City B (6 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
New England Revolution II’s 11-match regulation unbeaten streak will be put to the test on Thursday against Orlando City B.
Revs II breezed past Huntsville City FC 3-0 on Friday, giving them their fourth regulation victory out of the past five matches overall. Clint Peay’s squad remains four points back of East-leading Crown Legacy FC, but could claim the No. 1 seed if they continue to keep the pressure on. Revs II have won each of their last three head-to-head matches against OCB including a thrilling 5-4 affair back in August.
Orlando City B conceded six goals on Sunday for the first time in 2023, putting much importance on Thursday’s trip to Foxborough. Martin Perelman’s squad lost 6-3 at home to Crown Legacy FC, conceding five goals in the opening 45 minutes alone. OCB are now in fifth place and could desperately use a statement result to seal a playoff berth.
Jack Lynn scored twice on Sunday night, continuing a positive second season in MLS NEXT Pro.
Friday - 9/8
Columbus Crew 2 vs. NYCFC II (7 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
Columbus Crew 2 rebounded nicely from a Matchday 24 hammering and will be seeking back-to-back wins for the third time this summer.
Crew 2 used a hat trick from Gibran Rayo to breeze past already-eliminated Inter Miami II by a 5-0 scoreline. Mataeo Bunbury and Noah Fuson also added goals of their own, giving Laurent Courtois’ squad a major confidence boost. With three matches left to play this regular season, Crew 2 will be seeking a strong conclusion before defending their championship.
NYCFC II’s playoff hopes remain alive after capturing a 2-0 home win over Philadelphia Union II on Sunday. Matthew Myers and Jonathan Jimenez both scored at Belson Stadium as NYCFC II earned their second shutout victory in the past five matches. Myers and Jimenez will need to be just as impactful if NYCFC II wants to stay alive in the East playoff race by weekend’s end.
Philadelphia Union II vs. TFC II (7 p.m. ET, MLSNextPro.com)
Philadelphia Union II will also be seeking to stay alive in playoff contention as they welcome TFC II to Subaru Park.
Four-straight defeats for Marlon LeBlanc’s squad adds pressure on Friday’s contest with several Eastern Conference teams fighting alongside Union II to get into the playoffs. Union II will need their once-dynamic attack to return to form after being shutout in losses to Revs II and NYCFC II in recent weeks. Stefan Stojanovic remains one of those talented attacking pieces to watch for Union II.
TFC II’s playoff hopes could be over by weekend’s end unless they claim three points on the road in Chester. Gianni Cimini’s men lost 3-0 at home to New York Red Bulls II, which snapped a three-match regulation unbeaten streak. Jesus Batiz continues to lead the team with eight goals and will be needed to lead the way in a must-win matchup.
Saturday - 9/9
Colorado Rapids 2 vs. Real Monarchs (9:30 p.m. ET, MLSNextPro.com)
Real Monarchs will need three points on Saturday to stay in the playoff race and a trip to Colorado won’t be an easy feat for Jamison Olave’s men.
Monarchs are unbeaten in five-straight matches, most recently defeating LAFC II and Whitecaps FC 2 by respective 1-0 scorelines. Axel Kei and Delentz Pierre have played the hero roles for Monarchs in those matches and will be tasked with delivering once again at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Colorado Rapids 2 picked up a 3-2 road win over North Texas SC on Matchday, which helped them seal the Frontier Division title. Yosuke Hanya and Darren Yapi both scored for Erik Bushey’s men before Remi Cabral delivered a 92nd minute winning goal. Rapids 2 have won two of their previous three matches against Monarchs, including a 4-1 road triumph in July.
Whitecaps FC 2 vs. St. Louis CITY2 (10 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
Two Western Conference teams still fighting for postseason berths are Whitecaps FC 2 and St. Louis CITY2.
Whitecaps FC 2 are five points out of the playoff places and could desperately use a win to snap out of their lengthy funk. Back-to-back losses have extended Whitecaps FC 2’s winless run to 11 matches in league play, which is why they are below the red line at this time. Goals have been hard to come by for Ricardo Clark’s men, as they have failed to score more than two goals in a single match over this span.
St. Louis CITY2 have won three matches in a row and overall are unbeaten in seven matches in total. A 3-1 road win over Houston Dynamo 2 featured a first MLS NEXT Pro hat trick for Faysal Bettache, who scored his goals in a 37-minute span. It marked the first hat trick in CITY2 history.
Bettache has four goals total in his last two appearances for the club.
LA Galaxy II vs. LAFC2 (10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
LA Galaxy II and LAFC2 are out of postseason contention, but will be seeking a strong end to the 2023 season.
LA Galaxy II lost 5-1 on Sunday to Sporting KC II, a result which continued a worrying summer of results for the club. Aaron Bibout has been a major bright spot this season, but overall he hasn’t received a consistent supporting cast around him. Bibout scored once against LAFC II in a 4-3 victory back in mid-July.
LAFC II earned one point in a 5-4 shootout loss to Austin FC II on Friday, rebounding from back-to-back regulation losses. Jeremy Batioja scored his first goal of the season while right back Julian Gaines also impressed in the match. LAFC II rolled past Galaxy II 6-0 back in August with five different players finding the back of the net.
Sunday - 9/10
Crown Legacy FC vs. New York Red Bulls II (5 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
Crown Legacy FC’s showdown with New York Red Bulls II will be an early look at a potential playoff matchup.
Jose Tavares’ squad remains in the No. 1 seed in the East after earning a third win out of their last four matches overall. A 6-3 road triumph over Orlando City B featured a brace from Iuri Tavares, as well as goals from Patrick Agyemang and Nicolas Scardina. Crown Legacy FC has earned five points out of six available in two prior meetings with Red Bulls II this season.
Red Bulls II will be seeking a fifth-consecutive victory despite not having Ibrahim Kasule or Frank Ssebufu due to international duty with the Ugandan National Team. Kasule and Ssebufu have combined for 23 league goals in 2023, but will be unavailable for Matchday 26 action. O’Vonte Mullings and Mohammed Sofo will be tasked with filling the void after scoring in Friday’s 3-0 win over TFC II.
Sporting KC II vs. Chicago Fire II (5 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV))
Sporting KC II has already clinched its playoff berth and now is aiming to make it five-straight league victories this weekend.
A 5-1 beatdown of LA Galaxy II featured a brace from Ethan Bryant, as well as goals from Josh Coan, Pau Vidal, and Luis Flores. Benny Feilhaber’s men are firing on all cylinders, which is why they can still earn the No. 2 seed in the West. It will be their first-ever meeting with Fire II in MLS NEXT Pro action.
Chicago Fire II are still chasing a playoff spot in the East and should be well rested coming into Matchday 26. Fire II were off last weekend and overall have only lost one of their last six matches in regulation. Billy Hency and Alex Monis have 13 combined goals this season and remain a consistent 1-2 punch for the Fire II attack.
Inter Miami II vs. FC Cincinnati 2 (6 p.m. ET, MLSNEXTPro.com)
Two Eastern Conference clubs seeking a positive end to the season will meet in Fort Lauderdale this Sunday.
Inter Miami II welcomes FC Cincinnati 2 to town, seeking a first regulation victory since June 8. Not much has gone right for Federico Higuain’s squad this season but positive results in their final three matches could help build morale for 2024. Lucas Meek, Dawson Sunderland, and Bryan Destin all found the back of the net in Inter Miami II’s last victory.
FC Cincinnati 2 have alternated results in each of their last five matches, which last featured a 3-1 road loss to ATL UTD 2. Tyrone Marshall will be hoping to get the best from his players down the stretch after a disappointing summer of results. FC Cincinnati 2 defeated Inter Miami II by a 3-1 scoreline in their last head-to-head matchup in July.
MNUFC2 vs. Austin FC II (6 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
MNUFC2 are sitting just above the red line in the Western Conference and a victory over Austin FC II on Sunday could help solidify their playoff position.
A 9-8 shootout win over Earthquakes II was an important result for Cameron Knowles’ squad after falling down 2-0 on the road. Kameron Lacey and Emmanuel Iwe both found the back of the net to help force a shootout at PayPal Park. The dynamic duo has 16 goals between them in 2023, while Diego Pacheco has eight tallies of his own.
Austin FC II haven’t won any of their last three matches in regulation, which is a worrying sign heading into the playoffs. Brett Uttley’s squad have struggled for consistency this summer, heading to shootouts in five of their last nine matches overall. Valentin Noel and Sebastien Pineau remain talented scoring threats, while Damian Las is a Goalkeeper of the Year candidate.
Huntsville City vs. ATL UTD 2 (7 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
ATL UTD 2’s playoff quest could be over if they do not earn three points in Alabama on Sunday night.
Steve Cooke’s squad sit seven points out of the final playoff spot with three matches remaining on their schedule. A 3-1 win over FC Cincinnati 2 saw Nicolas Firmino, Karim Tmimi, and Ajani Fortune all score goals which helped snap a two-match losing run. ATL UTD 2 lost 4-2 to Huntsville City FC earlier this season and will need a strong performance on the road to avoid elimination from playoff contention.
Huntsville City FC are above the red line in the Eastern Conference, but will need consistency down the stretch to solidify that spot. A 3-0 road loss to New England Revolution II was Huntsville’s second regulation loss over their last four matches in league play. Azaad Liadi and Kemy Amiche have 19 combined goals in 2023, making them a deadly pairing for any opposing defense to deal with.
Timbers2 vs. Houston Dynamo 2 (10 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
Timbers2 will also be seeking a regulation win on Sunday to avoid seeing their playoff hopes come to an end.
Shannon Murray’s squad fell 4-0 at Tacoma Defiance on Monday, which was their third defeat in the past four matches. Timbers2 are 7-4-1 on home soil this season which should help against a Houston Dynamo 2 squad hoping to also stay alive for a playoff berth.
Dynamo Dos have lost three-straight matches in league play, which has them on the outside of the top-seven. A 3-1 loss to St. Louis CITY2 was a painful one for Kenny Bundy’s squad against a fellow playoff chaser in the West. Dynamo Dos have lost their last two matches against Timbers2 including a 2-1 result at home in June.
Tacoma Defiance vs. Earthquakes II (10 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
Sunday’s final match comes from Starfire Sports Complex as Tacoma Defiance welcomes Earthquakes II to town.
Wade Webber’s men enjoyed a 4-0 home victory over Timbers2 on Monday, using goals from Braudilio Rodrigues, Sota Kitahara, and a brace from Paul Rothrock to seal the Pacific Division title. The Defiance are 8-2-2 at Starfire this season, continuing a positive trend of home form in MLS NEXT Pro.
Earthquakes II are two points clear of the red line in the West and will be looking to snap a two-match regulation winless streak. A 9-8 shootout loss to MNUFC2 featured a 2-0 early lead for Quakes II before the visiting fought back to earn two points at PayPal Park. Roberto Hategan and Eduardo Blancas both scored in the loss and will be among the ones to watch this weekend.