After a week that saw Tacoma Defiance and St. Louis CITY2 clinch the first playoff spots in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro playoffs, Week 23 is sure to provide more fireworks and thrilling results across the league.
Let's take a look at all the matchups that are in store for us in Week 23:
NYCFC II vs. Philadelphia Union II, 6 p.m. ET
This game has been chosen as the MLS NEXT Pro Game of the Week, and an extended preview can be found here.
Chicago Fire II vs. TFC II, 8 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire II will be trying to keep their playoff hopes alive while also attempting to put out the unbeaten streak of the hottest team in MLS NEXT Pro in Toronto FC II on Thursday. Currently, in ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings, Chicago Fire II kept a clean sheet while also putting five goals past NYCFC to earn valuable points last Saturday.
While the number one seed in the East might be out of reach, TFC II knows that earning three points against Chicago Fire II this Thursday will put them closer to securing home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Whitecaps FC 2 vs. Colorado Rapids 2, 10 p.m. ET
In their second meeting of the season, Whitecaps FC 2 will host Colorado Rapids 2 at Swangard Stadium this Thursday.
Whitecaps FC 2 took a big hit to their playoff chances last weekend when they fell 4-1 against St Louis CITY 2 during their previous outing. To make the playoffs now, WFC2 will need to win all their remaining games and get a lot of help from other teams to have a chance at the West's fourth and final playoff spot.
Colorado Rapids 2 fell in a Shootout against North Texas SC in a valiant effort during last week's Game of the Week. Rapids 2 found a late game equalizer to send the game into a Shootout where they had their streak of three Shootout victories snapped.
Real Monarchs vs. Tacoma Defiance, 9 p.m. ET
Although they're out of the playoff race, Real Monarchs still have a lot of play in building momentum for next season. This week, they'll host one of the first teams to clinch a playoff spot this season in Tacoma Defiance and will look to ruin their chances of obtaining the number one seed in the West.
Defiance has proven they can take care of business against Real Monarchs after defeating them in both of the meetings they've had this season.
With CITY2 in their rearview mirror, Tacoma Defiance will need to defeat Real Monarchs a third time to keep their place as the number one seed in the Western Conference standings.
Columbus Crew 2 vs. Philadelphia Union II, 5:30 p.m. ET
The last time these two teams met, Philadelphia Union II walked away with the win thanks to a sensational last-minute volley from Stefan Stojanovic. Crew 2 will come out guns blazing to win the season series at home when they host Union II at Lower.com Field on Saturday.
Union II will head into this game with only three days' rest after having to play NYCFC II midweek. With NYCFC II, RNY FC, and New England Revolution II only a couple of points behind them, it's imperative that Union II earn some points on Saturday to remain in good standing in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
RNY FC vs. New England Revolution II, 5:30 p.m. ET
On Saturday, the fifth and sixth-placed teams in the Eastern Conference faceoff at Monroe Community College in a battle of serious playoff implications.
RNY FC's playoff chances have been slipping of late after suffering a third straight loss this past Sunday. Worse yet, their last loss came at the hands of Inter Miami FC, a team that is now 2 points ahead of them in the standings and currently holds third place in the East.
Clint Peay's men could not overcome an early red card and allowed five goals in the second period of play, losing 5-1 to Union II on Sunday. With only one victory in their last six games, the time is now for New England Revolution II if they wish to sneak into the playoffs.
MNUFC2 vs. Houston Dynamo 2, 7 p.m. ET
The last time MNUFC2 lost a match was on July 24. The opponent? Houston Dynamo 2.
Since then, MNUFC2 has gone on a four-game unbeaten run to gain fifth place in the Western Conference standings. With seven points separating them from North Texas SC and Houston Dynamo 2, Minnesota United 2 desperately need a win this weekend to remain in the playoff hunt.
After having last weekend off, Dynamo 2 will seek to add another game to their eight-match unbeaten streak when they visit Allianz Field on Saturday. A win this weekend could go a long way in securing Dynamo 2's ticket to the playoffs while denying a chance for MNUFC2 to catch up to them during the last stretch of the season.
Timbers2 vs. St Louis CITY2, 7 p.m. ET
With five games remaining in their season, Shannon Murray's side is looking to build momentum toward next year's campaign. A Timbers2 victory would undoubtedly boost morale and confidence if they can get past one of the better teams in the Western Conference in CITY2 on Saturday.
Sporting KC II vs. Earthquakes II, 6 p.m. ET
Last Friday, the loss against Tacoma Defiance eliminated Sporting KC II from the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro playoffs. SKCII has been able to defeat Quakes II after earning a 2-1 victory on May 20 and could prevent them from entering the postseason if they can beat them again on Sunday.
August has not been kind to a Quakes II side currently in sixth place in the Western Conference. Their 5-2 loss to CITY2 last weekend severely hampered their playoff chances. Only a win against SKCII this Sunday will keep their postseason prospects alive, with only a few games remaining in the regular season.