There are only three weeks remaining in the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro season and for many teams it is gut-check time if they want to make the inaugural playoffs. Five combined playoff spots remain up for grabs with Columbus Crew 2, Tacoma Defiance, and St Louis CITY2 sitting as the only clubs to already clinch a playoff berth. Inter Miami II’s showdown with TFC II and St Louis CITY2’s trip to Houston Dynamo are two of the key matchups to watch this week with playoff berths and seeds up for grabs in both conferences. 

Here is a closer look at what’s to come in Week 24:

Friday, September 2

This game has been chosen as the MLS NEXT Pro Game of the Week, and an extended preview can be found on MLSNEXTPro.com once available.

Saturday, September 3

Inter Miami II vs. TFC II (7 p.m. ET)

A huge three points will be at stake when fifth-place Inter Miami II hosts second-place TFC II in Florida this Saturday.

Darren Powell’s men can boost themselves into the top four with a home victory over TFC II, while also drawing level with the Canadian club on 35 points. Inter Miami II is riding an eight-match unbeaten run and has been one of the top home teams this season, posting a 7-2-1 record at DRV PNK Stadium.

TFC II will face off with Inter Miami II twice in the next two weeks, knowing a lot can change between the two clubs’ rankings over that span. Gianni Cimini’s squad saw their 10-match unbeaten run snapped by Chicago Fire II over the weekend, a first regulation defeat since May 27. 

Paul Rothrock and Julian Altobelli will be the deadly duo to watch for TFC II, with the pair combining for 11 goals and seven assists so far. 

MNUFC2 vs. North Texas SC (7 p.m. ET)

MNUFC2’s playoff hopes come down to Saturday’s showdown with North Texas SC, a team they have yet to beat in 2022.

North Texas SC has defeated MNUFC2 twice in regulation this season, outscoring them 7-1 in 180 minutes of action. Luckily for MNUFC2, its form has improved over recent weeks, only losing one of its last five matches in regulation. Aziel Jackson has been MNUFC2’s MVP this season, totaling eight goals and seven assists while Tommy Williamson leads the team with nine tallies of his own. 

North Texas SC is currently holding onto the last playoff spot and is unbeaten over its past four matches. Pa Modou-Kah possesses one of the league’s dynamic attacking units led by Bernard Kamungo, who remains in the Golden Boot race with 13 goals. Juan Mulato (eight goals) and Hope Avayevu (five goals, seven assists) are also key to North Texas SC’s attack and will be eager to deliver in a playoff-clinching match for the visitors.

Houston Dynamo 2 vs. St Louis CITY2 (8 p.m. ET)

Saturday’s headliner comes from AVEVA Stadium with third-place Houston Dynamo 2 hosting Western Conference leaders St Louis CITY2. 

Kenny Bundy’s side can wrap up a playoff spot with three points at home but will need to exact revenge on St Louis CITY2 to do so. John Hackworth’s squad downed Dynamo Dos by a 2-0 scoreline back in June and could further pad their No. 1 seed status with a victory on the road. 

Dynamo Dos have yet to suffer a regulation loss in 2022, posting an 8-0-1 record and going unbeaten in their last nine matches overall. Marcelo Palomino and Kyle Edwards have both scored goals in recent weeks for Dynamo Dos and will be two of the key offensive weapons with 11 combined goals between them this season. 

St Louis CITY2 is 8-1-1 on the road this season and among the best in goal differential (+20) and most goals scored (49). Similar to Dynamo Dos, CITY2 does not have a double-digit goalscorer so far, but relies on several players to contribute, including Josh Dolling (eight goals) and Vitor Dias (six goals).

Columbus Crew 2 vs. Chicago Fire II (8:30 p.m. ET)

Chicago Fire II will be playing for its playoff dreams on Saturday as Ludovic Talliander’s squad visits East-leading Columbus Crew 2. 

Fire II are eight points back of the top-four following an upset win over TFC II on Saturday and have also defeated NYCFC II in recent weeks. The third meeting with Crew 2 though remains a tough test for Fire II, especially since Columbus has won the prior two matches this season. 

Victor Bezerra (eight goals) has scored or assisted in three of his last four appearances for Fire II and will be tough for Crew 2 to stop.

Crew 2 has already clinched the Central Division and leads the Eastern Conference in goals scored (49), fewest goals conceded (20), and goal differential (+29). Golden Boot leader Jacen Russell-Rowe has contributed 16 goals so far while Noah Fuson and Marco Micaletto have combined for 15 between themselves.

Goalkeeper Patrick Schulte remains in the hunt for the league’s clean sheet honors after posting seven shutouts so far.

Sunday, September 4

Real Monarchs vs. Timbers 2 (9 p.m. ET)

Pride will be on the line between Real Monarchs and Timbers2 this Saturday with both teams aiming to end their respective schedules strong. 

Real Monarchs are 1-1-0 against Timbers2 this season, most recently earning a 4-0 home win back in July. A 1-0 victory over Tacoma Defiance last weekend was the result of the season for Jamison Olave’s squad, showing they will go down fighting to the final match.

Pedro Fonseca and Tyrone Mondi have 12 goals between them this season while 14-year-old Axel Kei remains one of the league’s rising talents.

Timbers2 have fought valiantly in recent weeks, edging North Texas SC in a shootout before falling 5-3 to St Louis CITY2 last weekend. Shannon Murray’s side has yet to savor a road win this season, but a promising opportunity comes on Saturday at Zions Bank Stadium. 

Dawson McCartney (three goals) and Julian Bravo have been two of Timbers2’s best players this season, with both totaling over 1,500 minutes of game time.

Sunday, September 4

Philadelphia Union II vs. RNY FC (3:30 p.m. ET)

Only one point separates Philadelphia Union II and RNY FC in the Eastern Conference playoff race with Union II playing host in Sunday’s showdown at Subaru Park.

Marlon LeBlanc’s squad saw their six-match unbeaten run snapped by Columbus Crew 2 over the weekend, but overall will be confident on home soil. Jesus Bueno remains in fine form with six goals overall this season while defender Anton Sorenson is another promising homegrown player in the pipeline. 

RNY FC ended its five-match winless run over the weekend by downing New England Revolution II by a 2-0 scoreline. Gibran Rayo scored his 12th goal of the season, remaining a key threat in Bruno Baltazar’s squad. RNY FC has struggled on the road in 2022, going 3-5-2 so far, but will need to turn that around for a shot at the postseason.

FC Cincinnati 2 vs. NYCFC II (4 p.m. ET)

FC Cincinnati 2 is out of the Eastern Conference playoff race, but Tyrone Marshall’s squad can still play the spoiler role this weekend.

FCC2 hosts NYCFC II knowing a win or draw against their visitors would play a big part in the constant shuffling for playoff spots. FC Cincinnati 2 outlasted Orlando City B 7-6 on penalty kicks Monday night, picking up a second result out of the past four matches in spot kicks. Nick Markanich has flown under the radar for FCC2, totaling four goals and four assists to date.

NYCFC II thumped FCC2 5-1 in the first meeting between the two teams and will aim for a season sweep to get back into the top four of the Eastern Conference. Matt Pilkington’s squad has lost four in a row though coming into Sunday’s showdown, scoring only one goal in the past 360 minutes of action. John Denis will look to spark NYCFC II’s attack while he also aims to stay in the Golden Boot race.

Monday, September 5

Sporting KC II vs. Colorado Rapids 2 (8 p.m. ET)

Both Sporting KC II and Colorado Rapids 2 are eliminated from playoff contention but still can aim to finish ahead of one another in the Western Conference. 

Sporting KC II has lost four of its last five matches, scoring only two goals in the last 450 minutes of game time. Benny Feilhaber’s squad has split the regular season series with Rapids 2 so far, most recently claiming a 2-0 road win over Colorado back in July. Bakary Bagayoko and Jack Coan are among the more recent goalscorers while Rauf Salifu leads the team with six tallies. 

Rapids 2 are unbeaten in their last six matches with four of those heading to penalty kicks. Dantouma Toure is ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a torn ACL, ending the attacking midfielder’s goal tally at eight. Darren Yapi, Philip Mayaka, and Yosuke Hanya are all players to watch in Toure’s absence as all of them are multi-goal scorers in 2022.

Earthquakes II vs. Whitecaps FC 2 (9 p.m. ET)

Earthquakes II remains alive for a Western Conference playoff spot but will need to defeat Whitecaps FC 2 for any chance of staying in the hunt. Daniel de Geer’s squad has won three of their last five matches, including a 4-1 thumping of Sporting KC II on Sunday. Rudi Castro became the ninth player in MLS NEXT Pro to reach double-digit goals this season and Castro will be on the hunt to propel his team to a needed three points at PayPal Park.

Whitecaps FC 2 have split the first two meetings with Quakes II this season and could spoil San Jose’s party with three points on the road this Monday. Nick Dasovic’s squad has lost three in a row, being outscored 9-3 over that span. Simon Becher has seven goals this season and will be pushing to end the campaign in double-digits.