Union II’s playoff prospects

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union II communications

Only three games remain for Philadelphia Union II in MLS NEXT Pro’s 2023 regular season. With 89% of the season gone, it is time to analyze Union II’s chance to make the 2023 playoffs. Experimentally, this year’s playoffs allow the higher seeds in the conference quarters and semis to choose their opponents from among the rest of the qualified.

2023 MLS NEXT Pro playoffs

Readers should ignore the MLS Next Pro’s Competition Guidelines available on its website.  They still describe last season as they have for the entirety of this one.

Instead refer to the link below  or the multi-paragraph quotation that follows it.

On Tuesday, March 14 in the aftermath of Rochester New York FC’s withdrawal from the season, the league’s website posted a news story describing the league’s 2023 schedule and 2023’s playoffs. Below we quote the article’s entire playoffs section verbatim, approximating its layout as closely as possible. Only quotation marks have been added. We have not corrected the incorrect usage of the superlative degree in place of the comparative degree that exists in the conference finals discussion.

The 2023 season will feature an expanded playoffs format that includes a pick-your-opponent element in the first two rounds.

“Within each conference, the two division champions and the five clubs with the next highest points (seven clubs total) will advance to the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs. The Playoffs will consist of three rounds followed by MLS NEXT Pro Cup, taking place over four consecutive weeks beginning the weekend of September 29.

“The club with the most regular season points in each conference (#1 seed) will earn a first-round bye, automatically advancing to the Conference Semifinals.

“Conference Quarterfinals:

  • The next two teams with the most points in each conference (#2 and #3 seeds) will choose their opponent and host their match (one of two teams must be the other division champion)​
  • The two remaining teams that are not selected will play each other, with the higher seeded team hosting.

“Conference Semifinals:

  • The team with the most overall points in the conference (#1 seed) will choose its opponent from the remaining two lowest seeded teams and host the match.
  • The second highest seed will host the remaining team.

“Conference Finals:

  • The team with the most regular season points (higher seed) will host the team with the lowest points (lower seed).

“MLS NEXT Pro Cup:

The team with the most regular season points (higher seed) will host MLS NEXT Pro Cup.”

Philadelphia Union II

At this writing Union II lie ninth in the Eastern Conference table on 33 points. They are currently outside the playoffs four points below Huntsville and Chicago (in sixth and seventh) who are tied with 37 although Huntsville has more wins as the tie-breaker.

These three Union II games remain. Prior results are given on the right.

Day Date H/a Opponent Previously
Fr 8-Sep H Toronto FC II D   1-1
Su 17-Sep H Huntsville City FC L   5-2
Su 24-Sep @ Red Bull New York II W  2-1 W  2-1


It is a mathematical certainty (see appendix) that Philadelphia can finish no higher than fifth, so they have no chance to host a playoff game.

Chicago’s and Huntsville’s future matches will be the ones Union II fans should monitor, so here are those two remaining schedules.


Day Date Opponent Tap (ET) Watch
Su 10-Sep @ Kansas City 5:00 pm Apple
Fr 15-Sep Orlando 7:00 pm
Su 24-Sep @ Huntsville 2:00 pm TBD



Day Date Opponent Tap (ET) Watch
Su 10-Sep Atlanta 7:00 pm Apple
Su 17-Sep @ Philadelphia 4:00 pm Apple
Su 24-Sep Chicago 2:00 pm TBD



Union II are not yet eliminated. They will directly impact the chances of Huntsville to qualify and also the seeding of Red Bull New York.  For themselves to qualify will be difficult, require outside help, and result only in an away match.

The summer time’s transition from the departed academy seniors of birth year 2005 to the rising ones of  2006 has not helped qualification. The first team’s international break could allow reinforcements against Toronto this Friday. But such options will be subject to the usual limitations when hosting Huntsville and visiting Red Bull.


Below are the current maximum possible points calculations for the eastern conference.

Because the conference has an odd number of teams, only when the schedule is completely played will all teams have played an equal number of games. New England Revolution II completes its season early on Sunday, September 17 at Crown Legacy and does not play on Decision Day Sunday, September 24.

  Team Pts W L D SW Left Max pts  
1st Crown Legacy 58 17 4 4 3 3 58+9=67
2nd N England II 54 14 5 7 5 2 54+6=60
3rd Red Bull II 50 14 7 5 3 2 50+6=56
4th Columbus 2 48 14 8 3 3 3 48+9=57
5th Orlando B 40 12 10 3 1 3 40+9=49
6th Huntsville 37 9 10 6 4 3 37+9=46
7th Chicago II 37 8 8 9 4 3 37+9=46
8th NYC FC II 33 10 12 3 0 3 33+9=42
9th Philadelphia II 33 9 12 4 2 3 33+9=42
10th Atlanta 2 30 8 12 5 1 3 30+9=39
11th Toronto II 28 6 12 7 3 3 28+9=37
12th Cincinnati 2 27 7 13 4 2 3 27+9=36
13th Miami II 18 4 16 4 1 3 18+9=27


As of Monday, 4-Sep-23, at 2:35 pm, these are some of the mathematical certainties.

  • Miami and Cincinnati are eliminated.
  • Crown Legacy, New England, New York Red Bull, and Columbus have clinched.
  • Only New England can still overtake Crown Legacy for first place, but only by combining a complete win-out with a complete “lose-out.” They could tie C L on two wins and a tie and a complete C L lose-out. First place would then be decided by goal difference, currently four. Mathematically no one else in the east can catch Crown Legacy.
  • Toronto and Atlanta can only catch Huntsville and Chicago, and only with total win out & total lose out combinations.
  • Philadelphia can catch only NYC, Chicago, Huntsville or Orlando all of whom lie below fourth in the table, so mathematically Union II cannot host a playoff game.
  • NYC can only catch Chicago, Huntsville, or Orlando, so mathematically they cannot host a playoff game either.


  1. Hey Tim, thanks for the info. Sure is a convoluted mess.

    My feelings about MLSNext is it’s just another ‘money grab’ (* explain later) by MLS who pulled all their resources from USL leagues… and I feel another salvo in the war between Garber and US Soccer… similar to Leagues Cup and US Open Cup this year. “Grabmoremoney” could not buy US Open Cup so he started a new one, only for MLS & Liga MX squads, further diluting the US Open Cup… and I predict US Soccer securing #1 level status in the US and compete directly with MLS in this country.

    The challenge for the Union is that MLSNext is almost expected by Garber, to have a 30 team minor league directly owned by MLS.

    * a ‘money grab’ this time for transfer rights $$$$, promoting the marketing of those players by MLS ONLY, a biased opinion, video and stats crafted to transfer more and more players from MLSNext for the owners.

    • Please explain how running a reserve league that draws 10’s of fans is “Grabbing more money.”
      MLS didn’t pull out of USL either. USL chose to end their partnership with MLS. USL is a VERY long way off from competing with MLS directly, IF they ever get close to that point.
      The US Open Cup is owned and operated by US Soccer. MLS Players don’t even like playing in it. US Soccer does a poor job of promoting their “flagship club tournament.”
      Leagues Cup was LigaMX’s idea as well…..

      • Transfer money explained above…

        MLS did pull out…

        … and USS would not sell USOC to MLS as Garber wanted management, or to own… so he organized Leagues Cup.

        LIGA MX made that deal? Nope…. it was all Garber. The war between Garber and US Soccer is well documented…. all the above is just more battlegrounds.

      • Garber is on the F’n board of US Soccer…..
        Leagues Cup was LigaMX’s idea….
        MLS did NOT pull out of USL. USL ended the partnership because they didn’t want MLS2 teams in their competitions. MLS wanted more flexibility in regards to rosters, in order to foster more player development. USL wasn’t willing to accomodate, plus didn’t like empty stadiums for MLS reserve teams.
        There’s NO war with US Soccer. MLS needs USSF sanctioning to exist after all….
        Warner Brothers-Discovery didn’t want the USOC broadcast rights, so they sublet them to CBS.
        While some of us fans like/love the USOC, the reality is that it is a poorly funded, promoted, and run tournament and always has been. That falls squarely at the feet of US Soccer, and them alone.

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