The Regional Battles of the USOC's 5th Round

After a wild Round 4, 16 teams know the path to the Cup final
by Ray Marcham   |   Friday, June 19, 2015

US Soccer Federation (USSF)

Sixteen remain in the US Open Cup, and after Thursday’s coin flips, each club now knows what it’ll take to reach the final.

US Soccer kept the regional format for the 5th Round and beyond for the USOC. Unlike the previous rounds, these regions are actually defined, with an East, South, Central and West, making the Round of 16 look like an NCAA tournament.

Also determined were the path teams will take to reach the Cup final. The two winners in each regional meet in the USOC quarterfinals. After that, the winner of the East hosts the winner of the South, and the Central winner hosts the West winner. The quarterfinals will be on July 21-22, the semis on August 11-12 and the final on either September 29 or September 30.

(See, it does look like an NCAA set-up.)

One thing we do know is that there will be a new Cup champion, with Seattle losing to Portland 3-1 in a wild 4th Round match in Tukwila, Wash. The Sounders ended up with 7 men left on the field, thanks to an injury to Oba Martins and three red cards (including the now-legendary meltdown by Clint Dempsey, ripping up the ref’s notebook after being carded).

A big difference this time is that the draw was actually shown live on YouTube, likely a first for US Soccer. Whether this was because of some of the reaction to how a few matchups in the 4th Round came out (Seattle-Portland, again?), who knows. But that it was finally shown live is a major step forward.

So, what does the 5th Round look like? The one match many will be looking forward to is in the East, as the Red Bulls host the Cosmos in an MLS/NASL New York derby on July 1. The Cosmos are the last club standing in the USOC from the NASL, thanks to an amazing comeback from 2-0 down late on Wednesday night to defeat New York City FC on penalties. The other East matchup has 2014 finalists Philadelphia hosting 3-time champions DC United on June 30, with the winner traveling to face the winner of the all-New York match in the quarterfinals.

The South has the last remaining club left in the USOC from the USL, Charlotte. The Independence (a USL expansion team, having taken the place of the old Charlotte Eagles when that side dropped to the PDL) will travel to face the 4-time champs, the Chicago Fire, in one matchup. The other has Orlando City hosting 2002 winners Columbus at the Citrus Bowl. The Chicago-Charlotte winner will host the Orlando-Columbus winner in the quarterfinals (or is it the South Regional Final?), so there’s a big opportunity for Charlotte to host an MLS team if they can get past the Fire. The winner of this region will travel to face the winner of the East in the USOC semis.

In the Central, 2012 champions Sporting Kansas City will be hosting 1997 champs FC Dallas on July 1, while Colorado will travel to Houston for a June 30 match. The SKC/FCD winner will host the quarterfinal match against the Houston-Colorado winner, and then the winner of the Central will host the winner of the West in the semis.

Meanwhile, over in the West, one quarterfinal will be a rematch of the 2013 semifinal as Real Salt Lake hosts Portland. The other is another chapter in the California Clásico, with San Jose hosting the champions of 2001 and 2005, the LA Galaxy. The RSL-Portland winner will host the Quakes-Galaxy winner in the quarterfinal.

That is quite a final 16, and each matchup has the possibility to be fantastic. Yes, there are 14 MLS clubs, but the Cosmos and Charlotte both could easily advance and host a quarterfinal in July. The two remaining non-MLS sides also have earned a bonus from US Soccer, winning $15,000 for being the last side from their division (Cosmos, Division 2/NASL; Charlotte, Division 3/USL) remaining in the USOC.

But it will take a lot to get close to the wildness that the 4th Round gave us, even if most of the results were somewhat expected. Beyond the chaos that was Seattle-Portland and the amazing comeback in the Cosmos-NYCFC match, there were six matches that went to extra time and four that ended in penalties. Those included Orlando City losing a 4-2 lead late at Charleston, but winning after 10 rounds of penalties (8-7); San Jose defeating Sacramento in the NorCal derby after 8 rounds of penalties; DC United surviving in extra time in front of a big crowd in Pittsburgh; and Chicago having to go to extra time to get past Louisville.

There have been a number of storylines already with the USOC that have made this interesting. The total domination of the USL over the NASL in the 3rd Round, a “pub club” (Harpo’s FC) making it to the 2nd Round, the regional formatting of the tourney, new rivalries (or new soccer versions of old city rivalries) being created, MLS teams struggling, but surviving, for most of Round 4…all have been a big part of this version of the Cup. The team that hoists the trophy at the end of September will have truly earned it.

Is there much to improve with the USOC? Of course. But if this is the year that US Soccer finally realizes how important the tourney is, and how much more it need to invest in it in both publicity and in dollars, then we’ll look back and say 2015 was the turning point.

In the meantime, we can enjoy what has been a fun US Open Cup so far, and hope that Round 5 gives us as much excitement as Round 4 did.

Then again, the 4th round set a pretty high bar for excitement. 


Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
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.