The coins have been flipped and the envelopes torn open. Now it's just a matter of actually playing the games.
The draw for the third round of the 2013 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is official, with play kicking off on May 28 and concluding on May 29 with a number of MLS teams competing each night. Second-round matchups will take place on May 21, determining who – and, in some cases, where – each MLS team will play its first knockout game.
Some MLS teams were fortunate enough to receive a home draw, no matter their third round opponent. We're looking at you Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake, Columbus, New York and Portland. Others were only slightly less fortunate and the home or away designation of their third-round matchup will be dependent upon their second-round competitors. New England, Philadelphia, D.C., Colorado, Chicago and Houston all must wait.
And then there are the extremely unfortunate clubs – San Jose and Seattle – with potential cross-country trips for a Tuesday or Wednesday game. That leads us to the unluckiest of them all: the LA Galaxy.
The two-time defending MLS Cup champions are heading to the great state of North Carolina for the third round for the second straight year no matter who comes out on top in a second-round clash between the Carolina RailHawks (NASL) and Carolina Dynamo (PDL). The handy map above, along with the pairings for the third round, gives you hint as to the mid-week travel some MLS teams will face in less than two weeks' time.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has already come out and lambasted his team's draw, going so for as to call it "ridiculous" and "stupid." While this is simply par for the course from Arena – who has no qualms publicly criticizing anything detrimental to his team – perhaps there is a bit of credibility surrounding one particular point.
What if, say, third-round US Open Cup draws were strictly local matchups between the 16 MLS sides and the 16 remaining lower-division teams? Never mind the travel advantage for all teams involved, but think of the potential to grow real, local rivalries between MLS and lower division teams in a competitive environment.
Sure, U.S. Soccer does it's best to ensure most teams stay reasonably close to home in the early stages of the tournament, and MLS teams often schedule local teams from their area for closed-door friendlies during an off week or the end of preseason. That's the minimum we can do.
But 16 guaranteed local derby matches played with a spot in the USOC fourth round on the line? Imagine the impact that would have in each community and the opportunities it would offer for both favorite and underdog. Perhaps as the American soccer footprint grows, we'll see a day Arena when has no reason to gritch.
Tell us in the comments section below what you think of Arena's comments and their credibility. What are some of the best local rivalries today between clubs on different rungs of the ladder? Which have potential to grow with more on-field meetings?