St Louis CITY2 are the top seed out of the Western Conference in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season.
A 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City II combined with a 2-0 defeat for Tacoma Defiance against Portland Timbers2 gave the expansion side first place in the West standings despite falling 5-4 in a shootout on Sunday evening at Ralph Korte Stadium.
St Louis CITY2 finished in a three-way tie with Tacoma and Houston Dynamo 2 in the Western Conference standings, but CITY2 won the first tie-breaker with the most wins, while Tacoma finished second by virtue of the second tie-breaker (goal difference).
CITY2 opened scoring early when Kyle Hiebert powered in a header off of an Akil Watts corner kick in the 12th minute.
That lead held into the second half when Tijani Fatah finished off a breakaway when Josh Coen forced a turnover in the CITY2 half of the field. With the score knotted at 1-1, CITY2 clinched the top spot in the West, but there was still an extra point to be had in the shootout.
Sporting KC II 16-year-old Carlito Saylon made two saves in the shootout to go with eight saves in regulation as a highlight in the final match of the regular season for SKC II.
Throughout the 2022 season, St Louis CITY2 had a consistency and resilience that saw the expansion club fighting for the top spot in the Western Conference all year.
After opening the season with three consecutive wins, the club went through the month of August without losing consecutive matches. With a 15-4-2 record through that stretch, CITY2 had the opportunity to wrap up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage with three matches left on the slate. But consecutive defeats to Houston Dynamo 2 on September 3 and North Texas SC on September 11 left CITY2 scrambling for points in the regular season finale.
Now facing North Texas in the MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs, CITY2 is battle-tested and ready for postseason soccer. St Louis CITY2 split the season series with all three Western Conference playoff foes, going 1-1-0 against the Defiance, Dynamo Dos and North Texas in the regular season, winning in the first meeting and losing in the second against all three other playoff teams.
The Western Conference Semifinals kickoff on Sunday, September 25, with St Louis CITY2 hosting fourth-seeded North Texas at 7:30 p.m. ET while second-seeded Tacoma Defiance hosts No. 3 Houston Dynamo Dos at 10:30 p.m. ET.