There’s intrigue aplenty as the US Open Cup enters its Round of 16 on Wednesday night, with 13 MLS teams left standing.
There are derby showdowns, potential Cupsets, rematches and more across the eight games.
El Trafico. Full stop.
That’s almost all you need to know about this Round of 16 showdown. It's the 15th edition of the Los Angeles derby and the first to unfold in the US Open Cup.
The Galaxy defeated LAFC, 2-1, on April 9 at Dignity Health Sports Park with Chicharito and Sega Coulibaly giving the hosts an early 2-0 lead before Cristian Arango pulled LAFC back a goal late. Then Latif Blessing's potential equalizer deep into second-half stoppage time was overturned by Video Review for an offside call on Mamadou Fall in the build-up.
The last time these rivals met in a win-or-go-home game? LAFC secured a memorable 5-3 win in the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Cupsets are the lifeblood of the US Open Cup – heck of any cup competition around the world. Everyone loves to see the lower-league minnows knock off their top-tier opponents, all except for the supporters of said top-tier team.
Since MLS teams entered the US Open Cup in the Third Round, there have been four Cupsets with three more possibly in the Round of 16. The biggest Cupset would be at Allianz Field where Minnesota United FC host USL League One side Union Omaha (8 pm ET | ESPN+), which knocked off Chicago Fire FC on penalty kicks in the Third Round.
Those three teams are the last non-MLS clubs remaining in the competition.
The last knockout match between New York City FC and the New England Revolution was epic, with the Cityzens upsetting the Supporters' Shield winners in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, advancing from the Eastern Conference Semifinals on penalty kicks. The teams exchanged goals early and late, as Tajon Buchanan leveled for the Revs in the 118th minute – all five minutes after Taty Castellanos, who had given NYCFC a 2-1 lead in the 109th minute, was sent off.
This go-around, they'll meet at Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John's University in Queens, New York.
Orlando, which defeated the Philadelphia Union in the Round of 32, are coming off a wild 2-2 draw against Austin FC. The Lions blew a two-goal lead and were reduced to nine men before conceding the late equalizer.
When Sporting Kansas City host Houston Dynamo FC, it will be a chance for Paulo Nagamura to coach against his former club. Nagamura closed out his stellar MLS career with Sporting before his retirement in 2016. He then began his coaching career, first as an assistant and then as head coach of Swope Park Rangers/Sporting Kansas City II. He held that title until being named Dynamo head coach in January.
Under Nagamura's direction, Houston are enjoying a solid start to the MLS campaign and sit above the Western Conference's playoff line following an impressive 3-0 road win over the LA Galaxy on Sunday. SKC have been hampered by injuries to star attacking players Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda, but the club's pushing for a fifth US Open Cup title and a berth into the Concacaf Champions League that comes with it.
Charlotte FC marched into the Round of 16 through back-to-back victories against USL League One clubs, needing extra time to knock off Greenville Triumph SC, 2-1, before thumping Richmond Kickers, 5-1, in the Round of 32. Now the MLS expansion side takes a step up in competition when they meet the New York Red Bulls in Montclair, New Jersey.
The Red Bulls have forged a reputation as road warriors, both in MLS play and in the USOC, beating USL Championship side Hartford Athletic and rival D.C. United away from Red Bull Arena.
While the Red Bulls are hosts, this match won't be played at Red Bull Arena. It's instead at MSU Soccer Park, home of Red Bulls II.