Who makes the US Open Cup final? Red Bulls, Orlando City & Sporting KC left standing

Three MLS teams remain in the 2022 US Open Cup, and now they’re one match away from the national competition’s championship bout.

New York Red Bulls, Orlando City SC and Sporting Kansas City will compete Wednesday evening, with the victors reaching the final in September (date to be announced). That winner will get a 2023 Concacaf Champions League ticket, most notably, so plenty is on the line.

Here’s what awaits each club as their 2022 MLS season pauses in pursuit of a trophy. All games can be watched on ESPN+.

  • Opponent: Sacramento Republic FC (USL Championship)
  • Location: Heart Health Park | Sacramento, California
  • Time: 10:30 pm ET
  • How to watch: ESPN+

It’s been a challenging 2022 MLS campaign for Sporting Kansas City, to say the least, as they're currently last in the Western Conference table with 20 points from 23 matches – unfamiliar territory for a perennial contender.

But this year’s run to the Open Cup semifinals offers a chance for respite from those struggles in league play, in a similar vein to the 2013 D.C. United side that won the tournament despite a bottom-of-the-table finish.

To manage that feat, SKC will have to vanquish a lower-division foe in USL Championship side Sacramento Republic FC, who will be looking to beat a third MLS opponent after previously topping the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy upon reaching the semifinals.

“It’s a team that aspires to be in Major League Soccer,” said manager and sporting director Peter Vermes. “They’ve built themselves that way, and so we know what we’re up against. We’re playing at their place, so that’s another difficulty.”

Sporting KC have excelled in Open Cup play throughout their history, winning the competition in 2004, 2012, 2015 and 2017. They can become the only active club to lift the USOC trophy five times.

“It’s massive; it’s another opportunity to go and win a title,” said captain Johnny Russell. “I’ve always enjoyed my whole career playing in cup competitions, I think there’s something a little bit special about the cup. Here it’s no different."

Vermes' group is coming off a 6-0 quarterfinal thumping of USL Leauge One outfit Union Omaha in late June, plus they knocked off fellow MLS sides FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo FC in earlier rounds. Now, they're looking to deny an upset bid from the last lower-league side in the mix.

“Sacramento probably weren't given much of a chance and they’ve made a great run," Russell said. "They’re in the semifinals by merit. They deserve to be there. The cup is good for stories like that as well. Hopefully this is where the story comes to an end."

  • Opponent: New York Red Bulls
  • Location: Exploria Stadium | Orlando, Florida
  • Time: 7:30 pm ET
  • How to watch: ESPN+

It’s an all-MLS matchup on the other side of the bracket, as Orlando City SC will play host to the New York Red Bulls in a clash between two clubs also jostling for Eastern Conference positioning in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

The Lions have experienced erratic form in league play, as evidenced by their negative-5 goal differential, but their 8W-8L-6D record is still good for the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference table. They're trending toward a third-straight postseason trip under head coach Oscar Pareja.

With a USOC final appearance within reach after a pair of one-goal victories over USL Championship side Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Philadelphia Union, followed by penalty-kick triumphs over Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC, the Lions have a chance at bagging silverware.

“This is a great opportunity for the club to advance to another final,” said Pareja, who won the Open Cup in 2016 during his tenure at FC Dallas. “The players are excited as well and they have been working hard and trying to focus on this one competition and this responsibility.”

Orlando have one final appearance since their 2015 entry into MLS, falling against the Portland Timbers in the MLS is Back Tournament Final in 2020. They also made the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2020, where they fell to the New England Revolution, but garnered some valuable big-game experience that midfielder Mauricio Pereyra said they can lean on come Wednesday.

“A semifinal is a competition this team already [has] done twice, one in the MLS is Back and we played a semifinal against New England in the playoffs two years ago,” Pereyra said. “We know how to play these kinds of games and we are expecting a good result.”

  • Opponent: Orlando City SC
  • Location: Exploria Stadium | Orlando, Florida
  • Time: 7:30 pm ET
  • How to watch: ESPN+

Head coach Gerhard Struber’s group might well be Open Cup favorites based on league form, sitting third in the Eastern Conference standings behind the Philadelphia Union and New York City FC.

After sneaking by USL Championship side Hartford Athletic in the Third Round, RBNY dispatched D.C. United, Charlotte FC and NYCFC by a combined score of 9-1 to power a strong run to the USOC semis.

“The dynamic is very good in the team, and we are looking forward for a big game tomorrow,” Struber said. “We know what is coming with Orlando, it’s one of the best teams in our conference and we know what we have to do against a team like that to have a big chance to win. We have big respect for the opponent tomorrow and the whole team is looking forward with a very good feeling and with a very good confidence.”

Exploria Stadium is always a challenging venue for visitors, but RBNY can lean on some fantastic road form this season that has helped power their challenge for the top spot on the East table. The club is 7W-3L-2D away from Red Bull Arena, tied with Austin FC for the best road record in MLS.

They also can win the USOC for the first time in club history, which could serve as a statement of intent for a young side. RBNY have twice finished as the USOC runner-ups in 2003 and 2017.

“That’s a big goal for everybody,” said defender Sean Nealis. “We have a lot of determination to win this game and move on to the championship round. Back in the Hartford game, we kind of sat down and set a lot of goals on why we want to achieve this and it’s becoming a stronger possibility game-by-game.”