The MLS NEXT Pro Conference Semifinals are all but set, after the Pick-Your-Opponent selections are made.
New England Revolution II triumphed in an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, fending off Philadelphia Union II. Columbus Crew 2 also advanced in stunning fashion against Orlando City B and New York Red Bulls II turned in a dominant match to beat Chicago Fire FC II.
In the West, Tacoma Defiance celebrated advancing past Houston Dynamo 2 and Austin FC II's outstanding defensive performance this season continued with a victory over Sporting KC II.
New York Red Bulls II (4) - Chicago Fire FC II (1)
Ibrahim Kasule led New York Red Bulls II to an excellent standing in the regular season, and he continued to lead his side by scoring two goals and adding one assist in a rousing win to begin the playoffs.
Red Bulls II led 3-0 by halftime with a header from Frank Ssebufu in the 13th minute, a smooth breakaway finish from O'Vonte Mullings in the 25th minute, and Kasule smashing home a rebounded save in the 45th minute. Luka Prpa pulled a goal back for Fire II in the 56th minute, but Kasule put a bow on the win with a goal in second-half stoppage time.
Columbus Crew 2 (2) - Orlando City B (1)
Marco Micaletto's stoppage-time penalty kick won the match for Crew 2 in a hotly contested first-round match. Micaletto buried his spot kick into the bottom right corner to break the deadlock.
Crew 2's Noah Fuson opened scoring in the 33rd minute, scoring from the rebound of a saved penalty kick taken by Gibran Rayo. Orlando City B's Franco Perez equalized just four minutes later with a sweet strike with the outside of his left foot.
St Louis CITY2 (0) - Earthquakes II (2)
Two second-half strikes from Earthquakes II ensured survival in the first round of the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs. Ousseni Bouda scored and assisted as one of the top road teams in the league continued to perform away from home.
Will Richmond redirected a low driven Bouda cross to put Quakes II ahead in the 63rd minute. Bouda dribbled past a defender and launched a shot into the top right corner to double the lead in the 87th minute.
St Louis CITY2 took 17 shots as the Quakes II defense excelled to earn the shutout. Goalkeeper Emmanuel Ochoa made four saves.
New England Revolution II (3) - Philadelphia Union II (2)
New England Revolution II defended a three-goal lead from a comeback attempt by Philadelphia Union II. Esmir Bajraktarevic scored twice to lead Revs II to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Marcos Dias opened scoring for Revs II by converting a penalty kick in the 26th minute. Bajraktarevic found space on the right side in the 55th minute and sent an impressive shot into the opposite side netting. Bajraktarevic scored again from a free kick in the 64th minute to make it 3-0.
Union II, showing the resolve that helped them narrowly make the playoffs in 2023, made things interesting late. Juan Castillo pulled one goal back in the 78th minute and Boubacar Diallo made it 3-2 in the 82nd minute.
Tacoma Defiance (4) - Houston Dynamo 2 (3)
Tacoma Defiance held off a comeback attempt by Houston Dynamo 2 to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals. Blake Bowen and Braudilio Rodrigues starred for Defiance, with Bowen scoring one goal and adding two assists and Rodrigues scoring twice.
Defiance got off to a flying start with a third-minute goal from Blake Bowen. Bowen assisted a goal from Rodrigues in the 13th minute, and Rodrigues added another six minutes later. Jacob Evans got Dynamo Dos on the board in the 31st minute.
Diego Gonzalez won the ball far upfield in the 79th minute and scored to make it 4-2. Isaiah LeFlore put even more pressure on Defiance, finishing emphatically from the middle of the box to make it 4-3. A furious flurry of late chances for Dynamo Dos failed to complete the comeback as Defiance held on. Defiance goalkeeper Jacob Castro made five saves.
Sporting Kansas City II (0) - Austin FC II (2)
Austin FC II went on the road to start the playoffs, and passed the test with a strong defensive performance in a 2-0 win.
Austin FC II found a breakthrough in the 52nd minute, when David Rodriguez dribbled toward the 18-yard box and launched a low-driven shot past the goalkeeper. Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez was taken down on the edge of the box for a penalty kick in the 85th minute, and Alonso Ramirez converted spot kick sealed the win.
The win for Austin FC II came with some added attention after SKC II picked Austin FC II, a higher seed, to play against in the first round of the playoffs.