The second half of the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season is heating up, with teams jockeying for positioning in the playoff picture while others are fighting to remain in contention. Here is a look at all of the matchups in Week 15.
RNY FC (4-4-4, 20 points) seems to be the thorn in Columbus Crew 2's side this season, earning a 4-0 victory against them in late May and winning a shootout this past weekend against the MLS NEXT Pro leader in points.
With 20 points on the season, RNY FC is currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and will look to continue their superb run of form at home this Friday.
Orlando City B (3-6-3, 14 points) got a much-needed 3-1 victory on the road over FC Cincinnati 2 this weekend, avenging a 5-3 loss that took place in May. Jack Lynn scored his 10th goal of the campaign, becoming the second player in MLS NEXT Pro to achieve double-digit goals this season. If the Lions can earn a victory at Monroe Community College, they'll be back into the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference and in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Real Monarchs (0-11-2, 2 points) could not earn their first-ever MLS NEXT Pro victory this past Saturday, falling 2-0 on the road to St. Louis CITY2. They'll have an excellent opportunity for a win when they host Timbers2, a team that just earned their first-ever MLS NEXT Pro victory a couple of weeks prior.
After a massive victory over Western Conference powerhouse Houston Dynamo 2 a couple of weeks ago, Timbers2 (1-9-2, 7 points) could not earn back-to-back wins falling at home to Colorado Rapids 2 by 4-2. If their defense can stop leaking goals, Timbers2 could be in line for another 3 points on Friday.
Our featured Week 15 Game of the Week, more can be found on this matchup here.
Columbus Crew 2 (10-2-1, 31 points) kept a clean sheet last weekend but fell in the subsequent shootout against RNY FC. Despite only earning one point, the Black and Gold remain atop the MLS NEXT Pro standings with 31 points. With news coming out Wednesday that Jacen Russell-Rowe has signed to the Columbus Crew first team, how well will the Crew 2 offense adjust to the departure of the MLS NEXT Pro leading scorer?
Union II (4-5-3, 17 points) has hit a rough patch in June, only being able to earn two points in their last four games. Their latest outing resulted in a 5-0 loss at home at the hands of NYCFC II, the fifth time they've been held scoreless this season. Can they bounce back on the road this Saturday?
Inter Miami II (5-7-1, 16 points) bounced back from a 5-0 loss to Crew 2 on June 9 and earned a 4-0 victory at home against FC Cincinnati. Inter Miami II's defense, which can be porous at times, will determine how well they do in the latter half of the season.
Chicago Fire II (3-6-4, 14 points) ended June on a high note earning a 4-3 victory against New England Revolution II at home last weekend. The month of July will have Chicago Fire II facing off against teams currently in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference standings. If they can achieve good results, they'll have an opportunity to move into the playoff hunt heading into the last two months of the season.
NYCFC II (6-4-3, 22 points) loves to score in bunches, and they showed it again this past weekend when they put five goals past Philadelphia Union II. This victory marked the eighth multi-goal match for NYCFC II this season, giving them 31 total goals for the campaign.
Currently on a two-game losing streak, FC Cincinnati (3-9-0. 9 points) can get back into the win column and on their way out of the basement of the Eastern Conference with a result at Belson Stadium this Saturday.
MNUFC2 (5-4-3, 21 points) sit in seventh place in the Western Conference and are coming off tough back-to-back losses to North Texas SC and Earthquakes II. They'll have a chance to gain some ground on some of the Western Conference's top teams if they can earn three points at home this Saturday.
Whitecaps FC 2 (6-3-5, 25 points) are on the cusp of getting into the top four positions in the Western Conference, and if things go their way this weekend, they'll leapfrog Houston Dynamo 2 for fourth place. Forward Simon Becher scored a brace last Friday, and will be looking to replicate his performance this weekend.
Sporting KC II will host the best team in the Western Conference in North Texas SC, at Rock Chalk Park this Saturday. SKCII let an early lead slip by last week against St Louis CITY2 on their way to a 2-1 loss and will be looking to get back on the right track at home.
Following an impressive 4-0 win over Minnesota United FC 2 last weekend, Pa-Modou Kah's men have made a stake for the best team in MLS NEXT Pro with 30 points. If SKCII hopes to have any chance at three points this weekend, they'll have to find a way to stop North Texas SC's (9-2-2, 30 points) forward Bernard Kamungo, the third-leading scorer in MLS NEXT Pro this season with eight goals.
Unbeaten in its last five games, St. Louis CITY2 (9-2-2, 30 points) is currently in a two-way tie for first place in the Western Conference. CITY2's offense, led by Josh Dolling, features seven players with multiple goals this season. A total nightmare for opposing defenses to contain.
Colorado Rapids 2 (3-8-2, 18 points) earned their second victory in their last three games when they took down Timbers2 by 4-2 on the road last weekend. Rapids 2 and CITY 2 have met once before, with Colorado walking away with a point after losing in a shootout in early June.
The last matchup of Week 15 features TFC II (5-6-1, 16 points) hosting New England Revolution II (7-3-3, 25 points) at York Lions Stadium.
TFC II is coming off back-to-back victories against Union II and NYCFC II but has not played a game since June 18. If they can shake off the rust from a two-week layoff, they'll have a chance to climb up to the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.
New England Revolution II currently sits in second place in the Eastern Conference with 25 points. Something to continue to pay attention to with Revs II is the startling difference in goal differential compared to other MLS NEXT Pro contenders. New England Revolution II has a goal difference of +1, good enough for 11th in MLS NEXT Pro. The team will need to start putting goals in the back of the net and shore up its backline if they hope to continue among the elite in their conference.