Union Academy learns MLS NEXT Cup Playoff Opponents


Philadelphia Union Academy discovered on Thursday afternoon both opponents for their opening round contests at the 2023 MLS NEXT Cup with the U17s taking on the Portland Timbers while the U15s face off against Baltimore Armour.

The Union U-17s are already history makers having brought back to Philadelphia the last two major championships at the U17 level. The trophy haul started last summer as the Boys in Blue rallied back in the second half to claim a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Crew to secure the MLS NEXT Cup. The side led by Head Coach Tobias Nubbemeyer then claimed the U17 Generation adidas Championship for the second time in club history as they knocked off FC Dallas by a 1-0 margin in early April.

In MLS NEXT regular season play, the U17s amassed an 18-4-1 record which included their MLS NEXT Cup Playoff clinching result against rivals New York Red Bulls by a 5-1 margin. Overall the squad is 29-6-4 across all competitions with 106 goals scored and 19 clean sheets.

Portland earned its spot into MLS NEXT Cup by winning their group at MLS NEXT Flex. During the tournament they knocked off the Houston Dynamo (1-0), Ventura County Fusion (3-0) and the Columbus Crew (2-2, PK win 3-2). In league play, the Timbers finished fifth in the West Division with a 5-7-2 overall record. 

Henry Apaloo's U15 squad too has has a remarkable 2022-23 season and is looking to cap off their run lifting their first championship. The team was on the cusp of doing so at the 2023 Generation adidas Cup where they made it to the final but fell in a penalty kick shootout to Austin FC. The U15s have navigated a long and testing schedule with numerous matchups against some of Europe's finest. The U15s claimed wins against Red Bull Salzburg, Bayern Munich, F.C. Südtirol, Arsenal and Real Madrid.

During the regular season, the Baby Snakes racked up a 17-3-3 record and secured their playoff berth at MLS NEXT Flex in May with results against Cedar Stars- Bergen, FC Cincinnati and Sacramento Republic. Overall the team is 29-7-7 across competitions dating back to August with an astounding +81 goal differential.

Baltimore Armour secured their spot finishing No. 2 in the Mid-Atlantic Division with an impressive 7-2-0 record. The June 17th contest will be the second time the Union and Baltimore have faced off this season with the Boys in Blue nabbing a 6-0 victory back on October 8th. Cavan Sullivan and Anisse Saidi combined for four goals in the win while Andrei Chirila, Peyton Presson, and Matteo Zambrano put in strong performances to help the team stay in control from start to finish.

MLS NEXT is in its third season of play and features 628 teams competing in nearly 8,000 matches over a ten-month calendar. Over 13,000 players from the country’s leading 137 clubs, including all 29 MLS academies, play in up to six age groups: U13, U14, U15, U16, U17, and U19.

Thirty-two of the top teams from the regular season will compete to be crowned MLS NEXT champion in the four oldest age groups (U15, U16, U17, U19) from June 17-25, 2023 at the Toyota Soccer Center and MoneyGram Soccer Park in Dallas-Fort Worth. Teams who do not qualify for the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs can participate in the MLS NEXT Cup Showcase, which will be held at the same venue.

Sixteen of the 32 teams qualified for MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs based on their standings in their league table. League matches will be played on a regional basis from September 2022 to June 2023, featuring eight regional divisions – Florida, Frontier, Mid-America, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest.

The other sixteen teams earned their spot for MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs based on their group performance at MLS NEXT Flex last month.