The 4th round draw for the US Open Cup took place on May 19th following the conclusion of the 2nd round on May 18th. The winners of the 15 3rd round match ups that will be played on June 1st were drawn against one of 17 MLS clubs entering the competition at this stage, with 2 MLS clubs being drawn against one another. The 4th round will be played on June 15th.
Here are the potential match ups that I find most intriguing for Round 4.
FC Cincinnati’s (USL) at Columbus Crew (MLS)
My first pick for an intriguing potential match up is the new Ohio Derby, otherwise known as the I-71 Derby. The brand new USL franchise, FC Cincinnati, has been drawing massive home crowds of over 20,000 in their first USL season. If they get past the Tampa Bay Rowdies in Round 3, they will play MLS originals, the Columbus Crew. On top of this, they travel to play in the first ever soccer specific stadium built in the US, Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Mapfre has hosted some of the most famous games in recent US soccer history.
With the record setting crowds at home, FC Cincinnati has quickly become one of the teams on the MLS expansion radar. The Cup match is the first meeting of these two clubs, and is just the beginning of a potential top US soccer rivalry. This is one you’ll want to say you watched when the rivalry grows in the years to come.
Orlando City (MLS) at Jacksonville (NASL)
A Florida Derby is the next best potential match up. The Jacksonville Armada is in their second season and has had quite a successful start. Jacksonville averaged 8,000 in their first season playing in the NASL. Because they are too close to Orlando to move up to MLS and their owner has a lot of say in the NASL, the Armada is seen as part of what will be an important staple in the NASL’s fight for Division One status. In addition, they are one of the best-attended franchises in their league.
However, Jacksonville can only hope to have Orlando’s success with the current structure of US Soccer. Orlando City grew from a USL Club drawing about 8,000 fans, and winning two USL titles to become the club that returned MLS to Florida.
The potential match up of these two very successful clubs in their respective leagues should be exciting for fans of either league. As well, it is a potential match up of two major cities from the same state, each with just one other major league team, albeit in different sports (the NBA Magic and the NFL Jaguars). Thus, these two cities never get to play against one another, except in soccer in the US Open Cup. Jacksonville beat Orlando in a pre-season friendly match, but this is their first match in official competition.
Richmond Kickers (USL) at DC United (MLS)
The Richmond Kickers and DC United have both been playing professional soccer in the Virginia/DC area for more than 20 years. The Kickers are even older than MLS originals, DC United, having been founded in 1993. They are one of the most successful lower league clubs in the USSF pyramid having won the regular season 2nd division A-League title in 2001, as well as 3 regular season 3rd division USL tittles in 2006, 2007 and 2013. Plus they’ve won 2 USL playoff championships in 2006 and 2009. And even better, they’ve won the US Open Cup before, doing so in 1995, the year before MLS began.
Not only are these two teams only about 100 miles apart, but both have won the Cup before! DC United is not only the second most successful MLS side with 4 MLS Cups, but they have won the US Open Cup on 3 occasions, in 1996, 2008 and 2013. Richmond has also had its share of Cup upsets outside of their 1995 triumph. They beat the LA Galaxy in 2007 and in 2011, and even reached the semis by upsetting multiple MLS sides in that Cup run.
The Kickers are the official USL affiliate of DC United and have 3 DC United players currently on loan and on their roster. This minor league affiliate relationship adds a twist to the story. The two have met before in the Cup, with the last time in 2013 when DC United won on penalties.
Sporting KC (MLS) at Saint Louis FC (USL)
My next pick is the defending Cup champ, Sporting KC, kicking off their title defense against Saint Louis FC. Sporting KC will travel to St Louis, a city that some consider the soccer capital of the US. Six different St Louis clubs have won the Cup in the history of the great soccer city.
While currently in Kansas City, Kansas, Sporting KC won the first of their 3 US Open Cups as the Wizards while playing in Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas City and St Louis are big rivals in other sports and could be in MLS soon too, with the recent rumors of St Louis as a potential expansion city. This will also be a rematch of the 1-0 Sporting KC win last year on the way to their title. This new rivalry is another exciting one to watch.
LA Wolves (USASA) or La Máquina FC (USASA) vs. LA Galaxy (MLS)
My final pick is a true amateur side (LA Wolves or La Maquina FC) traveling to arguably the biggest club in the United States, the LA Galaxy. While the big name players on the Galaxy likely won’t play, it’s still a chance for one of these two amateur sides to play against true professionals. The treat of playing at Stub-Hub Center, one of MLS’s top stadiums, is a dream come true for any amateur player. For the Galaxy, this match up is a chance for potential embarrassment; if they were to lose, it would be one of the biggest upsets in the Cup’s history.
Best of the Rest
Lansdowne Boys (USASA) at NY Red Bulls (MLS)
True amateur side and Cinderella fan favorite Lansdowne Boys traveling to face an MLS club would be very exciting.
Harrisburg City Islanders (USL) at Philadelphia Union (MLS)
The potential for a Pennsylvania Derby between the Islanders and the Union.
Sacramento Republic (USL) at Seattle Sounders (MLS)
MLS hopefuls head to the benchmark club of the MLS.