Fresh off a 4-0 demolition of FC Cincinnati 2 this past Sunday in the Heck is Plausible Derby, the Capybaras return home to the Ohio capital this Sunday for MLS NEXT Pro’s Decision Day as they take on Atlanta United 2. The final game for Crew 2 of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Regular Season will be played at 2:00 p.m. at Historic Crew Stadium.
To get you up to speed on all things Crew 2, here’s a rundown of how the club’s Second Team has looked and performed in 2023 – plus how to access postseason tickets.
Crew 2 pipeline continues to impress
Of course, everyone throughout the Columbus Crew organization wants to win each match – as proven by the Crew 2 winning last season’s inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Cup. But the main objective for the Club is offering a pathway from the Crew Academy and to the First Team.
Here are some crazy achievements – and players that Black & Gold supporters should keep an eye on:
Alex Zochowski is the player of the hour. On Sunday night, Zochowski made his Crew 2 debut in the club’s 4-0 win over FC Cincinnati 2, and the Crew Academy goalkeeper became the youngest-ever Crew 2 player to feature in a match. He turned 15 last month!
Another Academy teenager, Taha Habroune is 17 and is on the cusp of logging 1,000 minutes after signing his first professional contract with Crew 2 this season. Habroune has featured 17 times and has four goals and three assists. He’s also made several appearances for the Under-17 U.S. National Team and helped the side finish runners-up at the CONCACAF U-17 Championships.
Gibran Rayo leads the Crew 2 attack with 10 goals and four assists through 20 league appearances. The 21-year-old is in his first season with the club.
Noah Fuson leads the club with 25 league appearances. During his displays, he has eight goals and a team-leading five assists.
Cole Mrowka is another to keep an eye on. The midfielder signed a professional contract with Crew 2 at just 17 years old and has played 24 games this season, recording two goals and five assists.
Twelve players under the age of 18 have earned minutes at the professional level with Crew 2 in 2023, while eight Academy players logged their first starts with the Capybaras. Crew 2 also signed three Academy players in 2023, officially acquiring Habroune, Stas Lapkes and Mrowka.
Quest for a second MLS NEXT Pro Cup
For the second straight year, the Capybaras led the MLS NEXT Pro Central Division, clinching the division title. Through 27 games, Crew 2 has 51 points, while Orlando is a distant second place in the Central Division with 43 points.
Overall, Columbus currently sits third in the Eastern Conference standings ahead of Decision Day. This means the side is in a good position for having a chance at a two-peat as the MLS NEXT Pro Cup champions.
It’s worth noting that last year’s attack was led by Jacen Russell-Rowe, who’s now signed and made an impact for the First Team. Patrick Schulte, Mohamed Farsi, and Philip Quinton are a few other names you may recognize from last year’s Capybara championship group who have also signed First Team contracts and made an impression at the first team level this season. It’ll be interesting to see which players on Crew 2 will impress in this year’s addition of the MLS NEXT Pro Cup Playoffs.
MLS NEXT Pro Cup Playoffs 101
Thanks to winning the Central Division title and staying in a comfortable position in the Eastern Conference well above the eighth seed cut off mark, Crew 2 has qualified for the postseason. That’s the only certainty…
MLS NEXT Pro is trying a unique spin on the postseason in 2023 with the addition of a “pick your opponent” structure in the first two rounds of the playoffs. (Finally, we have a recess-picking style postseason!)
The first round is the Conference Quarterfinals, slated for September 29th through October 1st. The first seed will receive a bye, while the second and third seeds get to choose their opponent from the group of teams in the 4th, 5th,6th, and 7th seed. The second seed chooses first, then the third seed, and then the teams that are left over as not selected will face each other with the higher seed hosting.
This structure continues to the Conference Semifinals which will take place on October 6th-8th. In this round, the highest seeded team (who received a first-round bye) will select their opponent from the remaining two lowest seeded teams and will host the match. The second highest remaining seed will then host the team not selected by the first seed.
As for the conference finals and the MLS NEXT Pro Cup, clubs with the most regular season points will host the matches.
If the regular season ended today, Crew 2 would have the No. 3 seed and would choose its first opponent and host the match at Historic Crew Stadium. Right now, the No. 2 seed is New England Revolution II with 56 points and the No. 4 is New York Red Bulls II, who also have accumulated 51 points, but have less wins than the Capybaras. Either the No. 2 or 3 seed has to play a division champion, so the Crew would have to IF the No. 2 side opted for another opponent.
Because we don’t know who the opponent will be, but if the standings were to be held, the one certainty is the Capybaras will begin their playoff run at home. If the Crew advances as the No. 3 and the No. 2 side was eliminated, Columbus would host a second postseason match in the conference semifinals.
If all this sounds a little confusing … you’re not alone! But once we get through Decision Day, things will get a little easier for postseason planning.
MLS NEXT Pro Cup Playoffs ticketing format
First things first, don’t miss out on a chance to cheer on the Capybaras this Sunday. Tickets are still available to see Crew 2 host Atlanta United 2 in the final match of the 2023 regular season.
As for the playoffs, both individual and pay-as-we-play options will be available. Single-game tickets for playoff matches played at home start at $7 for Season Ticket Members, while general fans will pay $10. Single match tickets will go on sale once match dates and opponents are set. If Crew 2 continues to advance, prices are subject to increase as matches increase in magnitude.
As for the opt-in strip purchase (pay-as-we-play), packages will begin at $5 for Season Ticket Members and $8 for non-STMs. This strip allows you to secure your spot at all Capybara Playoff matches, but you will only be charged if/when Crew 2 plays at home.