The US Open Cup’s 4th Round is Basically All Derbies

US Soccer’s regionalization of the Cup creates great regional matchups
by Ray Marcham   |   Friday, June 12, 2015

US Soccer Federation (USSF)

If there’s a “best round” in the US Open Cup, then the upcoming 4th Round of the 2015 edition might fit the bill.

And it happens next week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, with numerous matchups that match up some fantastic regional rivalries not usually seen on the American soccer scene. While there has been grumbling about US Soccer trying to regionalize matchups when possible, it has worked out, for the most part, quite well.

Yes, the one all-MLS match is the “geez, that draw seemed to go as hoped” Seattle-Portland game on Tuesday at the Sounders’ smaller home and training headquarters, Starfire Stadium. But outside of the Cascadia Derby, there are numerous games that should make American soccer fans scrambling to find livestreams where they can.

The derby between New York City FC and New York Cosmos on Wednesday is a big one. The Cosmos, who are hosting, are one of only two NASL clubs to survive the 3rd Round, and that’s mainly because they didn’t play a USL side. The other remaining NASL team in the USOC, Atlanta, also didn’t play a USL team in the last round…and they’re also in the Tri-State area for Round 4, as they visit the New York Red Bulls in Red Bull Arena Tuesday night.

Some of the other regional matchups in Round 4 are fascinating. St. Louis FC (USL) and Sporting Kansas City bring that long-standing rivalry to the pitch for the first time in recent memory. After knocking out San Antonio in Round 3, Austin (USL) would love nothing more than to travel to Houston and eliminate the Dynamo. Colorado Springs (USL) gets their first chance at Colorado Rapids in the I-25 derby in Commerce City. Sacramento (USL) gets another chance at northern California rivals San Jose, while Oklahoma City (USL) gets their first shot at FC Dallas in match to be played in Fort Worth in a new variation of the Red River Derby. And the last remaining amateur club in the USOC, PSA Elite (USASA), travels to Carson to play the LA Galaxy in their biggest test yet.

Distance has been limited in most cases, with the two teams traveling the farthest both going from the South to the Northeast (Atlanta at NYRB, Charlotte playing New England in Boston). While Sounders 2 have a bit of travel to play at Real Salt Lake, it’s not anything out of the ordinary for them, as a number likely have made the same trip with the MLS Sounders.

Of course, there are a number of matchups that don’t scream “derby”, but are much anticipated. Louisville City heading to Bridgeview, Illinois to take on Chicago, Pittsburgh hosting DC United, Columbus traveling to Richmond, Charleston getting a home match with Orlando City and Rochester going to Chester to play Philadelphia are all matches worth watching, with a good amount of visiting support to be expected.

So, is the travel aspect really that big of a deal? Some would say not, as they would like to see the USOC go to a blind draw that would be closer to, say, the FA Cup in England. While it sounds romantic, the only way it could work is if US Soccer started paying for travel & lodging for the smaller teams, especially the amateur sides. Otherwise, it isn’t feasible, and there’s nothing that even suggests that US Soccer would even be willing to spare more money for Cup travel.

Some of the amateur clubs that advance in the USOC struggle to pay for their road trips as it is right now. Chula Vista FC started crowdsourcing to fund their trip to Sacramento for their 3rd Round match with the Republic, and other teams had to scramble to make sure they were able to travel to their USOC match in the first two rounds. If it wasn’t for the regionalization of the format, there could be some teams forced to drop out of the USOC because they couldn’t afford it.

That, of course, would be a shame. Some of the runs amateur clubs can make help brighten the allure of the Cup (just don’t ask Timbers’ fan about Hollywood United or Cal FC). Seeing a side like PSA Elite take on an MLS power such as the Galaxy is always fun, even if it feels like LA should win handily. But, one never knows, especially in regional matchups. It was only in 2011 that the Kitsap Pumas from the PDL took a ferry across Puget Sound and gave the two-time defending champion Sounders everything they could handle before coming up just short (a 2-1 final).

Now is the time where the US Open Cup becomes more fascinating. With MLS clubs trying to not slip up and new chapters in regional rivalries being written, it will be a very fascinating Cup round. While the worst nightmare would be that 16 MLS teams end up in the 5th Round (the Round of 16), it likely won’t happen. There will be upsets, there will be matches that are more exciting than expected, and there will be clubs who will wonder if one moment cost them a chance at glory.

Most of all, it’s going to be a fun two days, as the Cup always is at this stage. 

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
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