Did everyone recover from the breathless, bananas results of last week’s international competition? Great – it’s time to turn our attention towards some stateside pageantry, and the magic of the US Open Cup.
Sandwiched as this stretch finds itself, between World Cup qualifying and big-time upcoming league matches, the country’s oldest tournament has gotten a little bit of short hype shrift.
Let’s ratchet it up a bit. With three US Open Cup matches tonight – and a whopping 13 on Wednesday – there’s plenty of heartbreak and triumph to go around.
Here are few of the MLS teams who could benefit most from an Open Cup win during this round:
Sure, some of us have been beating this drum for a couple of years – but last year’s winners can basically taste the domestic treble. At this point, with los Toros Tejanos grabbing two of the needed three US trophies last year, nothing less will suffice. FCD's path back to the trophy starts on Wednesday, when they'll take on the USL's Tulsa Roughnecks (8 pm ET, YouTube).
New York City FC have tallied their own impressive wins in the truly bitter rivalry with their foes from across the Hudson, but they’ll have to face the Red Bulls in their own fortress on Wednesday – and there’s no way the fans will let the Blue team live down the infamous 7-0 match from last year. A win for NYCFC at Red Bull Arena would prove another legendary chapter in the matchup (8 pm ET, YouTube).
New York Red Bulls
See above. A win at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night would prove equal stuff of legend. And with New York finishing 2016 without silverware, advancing closer to the Open Cup would provide bragging rights and a welcome morale boost (8 pm ET, YouTube).
Orlando City’s home atmosphere and fan support has proved among the best in the league. What’s eluded the actual team, though, so far is a deep playoff run or a serious shot at a trophy. But this year’s going better than ever for the Lions, and a real chance at the Cup could add some momentum through the second half of the year.
Also, Wednesday will be their first time meeting a team from Miami – and a win will surely add some fuel to a Floridian rivalry fire (7:30 pm ET, YouTube).
San Jose Earthquakes
This is the first year for a derby between San Jose and the NASL’s new San Francisco Deltas. A win at Avaya on Wednesday night means the Quakes can say they’ll continue to own the Bay Area (10:30 pm ET, YouTube).
Real Salt Lake
There’s a squad here that can win games – they just need to regain some confidence. Sacramento won’t make it easy on Wednesday night, but a win in the California capital could help right the RSL ship (10:30 pm ET, YouTube).
...Then, of course, there are a couple matchups in which no MLS sides stand to benefit.
Seattle vs. Portland
Sure, this is a major matchup in league play. But Tuesday night (10:30 pm ET, YouTube) will mark the fifth time the Sounders and Timbers will meet in US Open Cup play since 2009. Yet another rematch in the early rounds of the tournament has fans mostly irritated online – and, apparently, at least one coach digging so deep into his reserves, he’s put the kit man to work.
It’s likely that whatever the result, both teams might walk away with a shrug and immediately look forward to their next MLS match.
D.C. United vs. Christos FC
If D.C. come out victorious in this match on Tuesday night (7:30 pm ET, YouTube), sure, they’ll bag a much-needed win to boost team morale. But, then again, they’d also be the team that ended a Cinderella story. Flip side? Lose, and they’ve lost to the team headquartered in a liquor store that admittedly rarely practices. (But seriously, read this great story about Christos FC from The Washington Post.)