MLS NEXT Pro Week 21 Preview

There are six weeks left of the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro regular season and for many clubs it is make-or-break time with points at a premium in both conferences. Only three points separates second through seventh place in the Eastern Conference while five clubs below the red line in the Western Conference remain mathematically eligible for postseason berths. Here is a closer look at where each team stands heading into their Week 21 matchups:

Friday, August 12
RNY FC vs. TFC II (7 p.m. ET)

One of our featured Week 21 Games of the Week, more can be found on this matchup here.

NYCFC II vs. Orlando City B (8 p.m. ET)

NYCFC II might be tied for the Eastern Conference scoring lead this season, but its playoff spot is not secured yet with six weeks to go. A 3-0 road loss to East-leading Columbus Crew 2 has pushed NYCFC II back into the fight for a top-four finish, especially with RNY FC and TFC II right behind them in the standings. 

Luckily for Matt Pilkington’s squad, they possess one of the top offensive weapons in John Denis, who is second in MLS NEXT Pro with 13 goals in 17 appearances. Denis has been a one-man wrecking crew of late, but will need help from Stephen Turnbull, Jonathan Jimenez, and others if NYCFC II truly wants to lock up its playoff status sooner rather than later.

Orlando City B has lost four of its last five matches and will need more than Jack Lynn’s heroics to claim three points at Belson Stadium. Lynn has played exceptionally well this season, totaling 12 goals, but the Lions will need a strong defensive showing to keep NYCFC II’s attack off the scoreboard.

North Texas SC vs. Real Monarchs (9 p.m. ET)

Friday’s final matchup pits one of the league’s best home records against one of two MLS NEXT Pro sides still seeking its first road victory. 

North Texas SC currently is fourth in the stacked top-four race in the Western Conference and has posted a 6-2-2 record at home so far. Despite winning only one of its last six matches in regulation, Pa Modou-Kah’s squad has one of the most dynamic attacking units with Bernard Kamungo, Hope Avayevu, and Jose Mulato combining for 23 goals and 13 assists this season. 

Real Monarchs have impressed in recent weeks, winning three of its last five matches and posting two shutouts during that span. Things haven’t gone as planned for Jamison Olave’s squad overall, but the youthful exuberance within the locker room has definitely led to better overall performances. Pedro Fonseca and Tyrone Mondi are the go-to attackers for the Monarchs once again as the visitors aim to pull a major upset.

Sunday, August 14
Whitecaps FC II vs. St Louis CITY2 (5 p.m. ET)

The second of two meetings between Whitecaps FC II and St Louis CITY2 takes place on Sunday and a regular season sweep of the visitors would propel the Canadian club closer to a top-four spot. 

Whitecaps FC II defeated St Louis CITY2 by a 2-1 scoreline back in May and will aim for similar success at Swangard Stadium this weekend. Nick Dasovic’s side has not won in regulation in their last three matches, but did earn points in shootout results against Colorado Rapids 2 and Houston Dynamo 2. Simon Becher (six goals) and Cristian Campagna (1,619 minutes played) have been two stalwarts in the squad. 

St Louis CITY2 is 3-3-0 in its last six matches, most recently defeating Chicago Fire FC II 2-1 at home. Leading-scorer Josh Dolling netted his eighth goal of the season in the victory while Josh Yaro also contributed one goal to add to his stellar season defensively in John Hackworth’s squad. CITY2 are ranked in the top five in MLS NEXT Pro in most goals scored and fewest goals conceded, making them a tough side to beat on either side of the field.

FC Cincinnati 2 vs. Columbus Crew 2 (6 p.m. ET)

One of our featured Week 21 Games of the Week, more can be found on this matchup here.

New England Revolution II vs. Chicago Fire II (6 p.m. ET)

Two of the Eastern Conference teams on the outside of the red line will face off in Foxborough aiming to boost their playoff chances. 

New England Revolution II is three points out of the final playoff spot in the East, but will have to play its remaining games without No. 1 goalkeeper Jacob Jackson due to a season-ending knee injury. Goals have been hard to come by as well for Revs II, with Marcos Dias leading the way with six goals this season. Ryan Lima and Michel Costa are two players that will be relied on to step up if Revs II want to snap a seven-match winless run.

Chicago Fire FC II has only won two of its last six matches in regulation, with one of those coming against Revs II at SeatGeek Stadium back in late-June. Defeats to Inter Miami II, Orlando City B, and St Louis CITY2 have hampered Ludovic Taillandier’s chances of being in the top-four, but a road victory on Sunday could be a key spark down the stretch. 

Victor Bezerra, Josh Penn and Alex Monis are all top options to score for Fire II after totaling 16 goals among them so far this season. Goalkeeper Chris Brady is a rising talent within the Fire squad, bouncing between the first and second teams in recent weeks.

Philadelphia Union II vs. Inter Miami II (6 p.m. ET)

A battle between two of the top-six Eastern Conference teams is set to take place on the banks of the Delaware River this Sunday with Philadelphia Union II hosting Inter Miami II. 

Inter Miami II hits the road this weekend, holding a two-point advantage over Philadelphia Union II in the East standings. Darren Powell’s squad are riding a six-match unbeaten run which continued following a 4-2 home win over New England Revolution II on Sunday. Shanyder Borgelin’s hat trick propelled him to 11 goals this season while Romeo Beckham’s nine assists have him leading the pack in MLS NEXT Pro.

Union II have won three matches in a row for the second time in 2022, most recently defeating FC Cincinnati 2 by a 3-2 scoreline. Jesus Bueno’s first MLS NEXT Pro brace has tied him with Chris Donovan and Nelson Pierre for the team lead in goals (4), giving Marlon LeBlanc another attacking option to call on going forward. 

Cole Turner and Anton Sorenson have been two of the unsung heroes in the Union II squad, with each player totaling over 1,200 minutes of game time so far.

Sporting KC II vs. Timbers2 (6 p.m. ET)

Sporting KC II’s playoff chances are not over yet, but Benny Feilhaber’s squad needs to get it going and fast to stay alive. 

SKC II has failed to score in the last 390 minutes of league action, suffering losses to Real Monarchs, Tacoma Defiance, North Texas SC, and Houston Dynamo 2 during that span. If SKC II wants to start a winning run to close out the summer, a victory against one of the teams behind them would be a great start. Rauf Salifu has six goals this season for SKC II while Julian Vazquez remains a dangerous offensive option. 

Timbers2 claimed two points in Sunday’s shootout result over North Texas SC, giving the visitors added confidence heading into this week’s trip to Kansas City. 19-year-old Selmir Miscic has scored in back-to-back matches for Timbers2, and will be the attacker to watch at Rock Chalk Park this weekend.

Houston Dynamo 2 vs. Colorado Rapids 2 (9 p.m. ET)

Houston Dynamo 2’s perfect home record will be put to the test once again this weekend as Colorado Rapids 2 aim to pull the upset at AVEVA Stadium. 

Kenny Bundy’s squad sits eight points clear above fifth place Earthquakes II and overall have not suffered defeat since June 19. During their unbeaten run, Dynamo Dos have outscored their opponents 15-7, posting three clean sheets and using goals from several different players. Marcelo Palomino is on fire for Dynamo Dos, scoring in three of his last four appearances and extending his season total to six goals.

Colorado Rapids 2 have only lost one of its last six matches and will be eager to keep their impressive run of form going. Dantouma Toure and Darren Yapi are two of the promising talents within MLS NEXT Pro and have 13 combined goals between them. Both Toure and Yapi will be key if Rapids 2 want to exact revenge on Dynamo Dos for a 2-0 loss suffered back in May.

Monday, August 15
MNUFC2 vs. Tacoma Defiance (8 p.m. ET)

Tacoma Defiance remains top of the Western Conference after posting five straight victories but will need to overcome one of MLS NEXT Pro’s in-form attackers to keep its streak going on Monday. 

Wade Webber’s squad have outscored their opponents 19-4 over the past six weeks, clinging to a four-point lead at the top of the West. Marlon Vargas and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez lead the way with 21 combined goals and 10 assists this season. The red hot duo will be tough for MNUFC2 to stop as the hosts aim to exact revenge from a 3-2 loss to the Defiance in July.

MNUFC2 is seven points out of the final playoff spot in the West and could use a huge three points on Monday to boost its stock.Tommy Williamson scored his first MLS NEXT Pro hat trick in last weekend’s shootout result against Colorado Rapids 2 and will be pushing to eclipse double-digit goals with a similar performance this Monday.