MLS NEXT Pro Week 25 Preview

Four playoff spots are still up for grabs ahead of the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs with eight teams still in the mix to keep their seasons alive. Eight points separate second place through seventh in the Eastern Conference, with Columbus Crew 2 sitting as the only team to clinch a playoff berth after claiming the Central Division title. North Texas SC is in the driver’s seat for the final playoff berth in the West while Earthquakes II needs to win both of its final matches for any chance of reaching the postseason. 

Here is a closer look at what’s to come in Week 25:

Friday, September 9
Earthquakes II vs. Real Monarchs (9 p.m. ET)

It’s simple for Earthquakes II heading into Friday’s showdown with Real Monarchs - anything less than a victory will end their playoff hopes. 

Back-to-back wins over Sporting KC II and Whitecaps FC 2 have confidence high within Quakes II’s squad, especially with Rudi Castro and Maximilian Arfsten combining for five of the club’s seven goals in those victories. The duo will lead the way for Quakes II at PayPal Park, especially with their backs against the wall.

Real Monarchs have won three of their last five matches and won’t be an easy opponent for Quakes II to defeat. However, Jamison Olave’s squad have not won yet on the road in 2022, posting a 0-9-2 record away from Zions Bank Stadium. Tyrone Mondi leads the squad with seven goals.

Whitecaps FC 2 vs. Tacoma Defiance (10 p.m. ET)

Tacoma Defiance are still in the running for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, but will need victories from their final two matches for any chance to achieve that goal. 

Wade Webber’s squad sits two points back of West-leaders St Louis CITY2, and should be well rested after enjoying a bye week during Labor Day Weekend. The Defiance have been lights out at home (9-1-1) but have struggled for similar consistency away from Starfire Sports Complex, winning four of 10 away matches this season. 

Their +33 goal differential makes them dangerous on both sides of the field though with Marlon Vargas leading the way with 12 goals.

Whitecaps FC 2 are winless in their last four matches, a key reason why the Canadian-based club were eliminated from playoff contention in recent weeks. Defensively, they have struggled, conceding two goals or more in each of their last six matches, while also only scoring four goals in the past 360 minutes overall.

Vasco Fry (1,737 minutes played, two goals) and Simon Becher (seven goals) will be the ones to watch for Whitecaps FC 2 this weekend.

Saturday, September 10
NYCFC II vs. New England Revolution II (5 p.m. ET)

For several weeks NYCFC II was among the hunted in the Eastern Conference, but now it's them doing the hunting with playoff position slipping away.

Matt Pilkington’s squad has struggled in recent weeks, falling to seventh in the East and two points behind Saturday’s opponents New England Revolution II. Four-consecutive losses and only one goal scored in 360 minutes have damaged NYCFC II’s playoff hopes, but have not fully ended them yet. With John Denis’ status undetermined, Jonathan Jimenez and Stephen Turnbull might be relied on even heavier to carry the load in a must-win match. 

Revs II are only four points back of the final playoff spot despite earning only two wins from their past seven matches. A 2-0 shutout victory over Orlando City B kept Revs II alive in the tight Eastern Conference race, but for their playoff hopes to earn a major boost, Clint Peay’s squad will need to earn a first regulation win over NYCFC II this Saturday.

Pierre Cayet has been a leader for Revs II this season and will be the voice of the backline once again.

Sunday, September 11
North Texas SC vs. St Louis CITY2 (1 p.m. ET)

Fourth meets first in Western Conference action as North Texas SC hosts St Louis CITY2 on Sunday. 

North Texas SC will certainly be watching Earthquakes II in action on Friday, knowing anything less than a victory for the fifth place side would clinch them a playoff spot ahead of their match in Texas. NTX is unbeaten in five-straight, continuing to ride a strong home record into the final matches of the season. Pa-Modou Kah’s squad is 7-2-2 at home this season and will look once again to Bernard Kamungo and his 14 goals to lead the way. 

Kamungo is also one goal away from tying Ronaldo Damus for the NTX career goal record.

St Louis CITY2 is closing in on the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, but will need to avoid a late slip up in the standings to officially lock up that honor. John Hackworth’s bunch are 8-2-1 away from home this season, posting the best road record this season. CITY2’s four-match winning run was ended by Houston Dynamo 2 last week, but will be keen to complete the season-sweep over NTX with a victory on Sunday.

Philadelphia Union II vs. Orlando City B (1 p.m. ET)

Philadelphia Union II sits fourth in the East ahead of Sunday’s match vs. Orlando City B, but the Florida-based visitors will be playing the spoiler role at Subaru Park. 

Union II sits two points ahead of both Inter Miami II and New England Revolution II heading into the final two weeks of the season. Despite having a -4 goal differential, Union II possess an exciting young group of players in their squad. Paxten Aaronson and Quinn Sullivan have continued to feature for Union II while Chris Donovan and Anton Sorenson have been two of the better players in 2022 for Marlon LeBlanc’s squad.

Orlando City B failed to defeat Union II in its two prior meetings this season, but could eclipse the 30-point mark with back-to-back wins to end its schedule. Moises Tablante (five goals, four assists) and Jack Lynn (15 goals) headline the attack, but Lynn’s status remains unknown with Orlando City pushing for an MLS Cup Playoffs berth.

TFC II vs. RNY FC (3 p.m. ET)

Only two points separate TFC II and RNY FC in the frantic Eastern Conference playoff race and nothing surely will be left on the field in Sunday’s contest from BMO Field. 

TFC II is second in the East and could lock up a playoff spot with three points at home this weekend. Gianni Cimini’s squad are 6-2-2 at home and overall have won four of their last five matches, including a 4-1 thumping of Inter Miami II last weekend. ReShaun Walkes is in fine form for TFC II, scoring in four-straight matches and becoming the new go-to attacker for the club. 

RNY FC has only earned two points out of a possible six so far against TFC II this season, but overall will be riding good form heading into their final head-to-head matchup. RNY FC have won back-to-back matches with a 2-1 dramatic victory over Philadelphia Union II keeping them in the top-four. Gibran Rayo continues to be RNY FC’s MVP this season with 12 goals while Edward Williams, Pedro Dolabella, and Wilterlynd Inalien all tallying four goals apiece.

FC Cincinnati 2 vs. Chicago Fire II (5 p.m. ET)

Pride will be on the line between these two rivals with both FC Cincinnati 2 and Chicago Fire II out of playoff contention. 

FC Cincinnati II is winless in their last five matches and has not defeated Chicago Fire II in two prior meetings this season. Tyrone Marshall’s squad has scored two goals or more in three of their last four matches, which is a positive sign though coming into Sunday’s showdown. Defender Kai Thomas has been FCC2’s unsung hero, closing in on 2,000 minutes played this season. 

Chicago Fire II will be pushing to eclipse 30 points this season after failing to make the playoffs in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro campaign. Ludovic Talliander’s squad have won two of their last four matches, knocking off strong competition in the form of TFC II and NYCFC II. Omari Glasgow has been one of the exciting young players to watch this season and will look to add to his four goals scored in 2022.

Inter Miami II vs. Columbus Crew 2 (7 p.m. ET)

Inter Miami II is on the outside of the top four in the Eastern Conference and will need a heroic performance against East leaders Columbus Crew 2 to get back into the picture. 

Darren Powell’s men were thumped 4-1 by TFC II last weekend and have little time to recover ahead of a showdown with Crew 2. Luckily for Inter Miami II though, they possess one of the top 1-2 combinations in the form of Romeo Beckham and Shanyder Borgelin. Beckham and Borgelin have combined for 14 goals and 12 assists this season and will be key to whether or not Inter Miami II can get over the line. 

Columbus Crew 2 is flying high after already clinching the Central Division and No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Crew 2 are unbeaten in five-consecutive matches, defeating Philadelphia Union II and Chicago Fire II in back-to-back weeks. Jacen Russell-Rowe is pushing towards the Golden Boot with 17 goals scored this season, but could be given a break ahead of playoff time.

Colorado Rapids 2 vs. Houston Dynamo 2 (8 p.m. ET)

Houston Dynamo 2’s quest for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference continues Sunday with a trip to already-eliminated Colorado Rapids 2. 

Kenny Bundy has been promoted to the Dynamo first team on an interim basis, but will likely still have both eyes on Dynamo 2 after a terrific campaign to date. Dynamo 2 have been stellar at home this season, but are only 4-3-4 away from AVEVA Stadium, making Sunday’s trip to Colorado a tough one to call. Marcelo Palomino and Kyle Edwards have combined for 11 goals and will be the duo to watch in this contest.

Colorado Rapids 2 come into the match off a 5-0 loss to Sporting KC II on Monday, their second-largest margin of defeat this season. Dantouma Toure’s season-ending injury hasn’t helped Rapids 2 this summer, but Darren Yapi and Yosuke Hanya (nine combined goals) are pushing to keep spirits up within the squad. Hanya also leads the team with 1,778 minutes played, over 400 more than the next highest player on the roster.

Timbers2 vs. MNUFC 2 (9 p.m. ET)

The final match of the weekend comes from Oregon as Timbers2 aim to pull a shock against MNUFC2. 

Timbers2 have scored two goals or more in each of their last two matches, showing that Shannon Murray’s squad will go down swinging this season. Dawson McCartney has been one of the leading players for Timbers2 with three goals and four assists while Julian Bravo and Victor Griffith have also played key roles in the growth of the squad. 

MNUFC2’s playoff quest is over, but fighting to end their season on a high note remains very much alive. Cam Knowles’ squad have struggled away from home this season, only earning three victories in 11 road matches so far. Aziel Jackson has been MNUFC2’s MVP this season, totaling nine goals and five assists, while also leading the team in minutes played (1,770), shots (66), and key passes (63).