The U.S. Open Cup always stokes discussion among MLS fans: Should their respective teams go for broke and make a serious push toward the title at the risk of burning out its established players too early, or not place a heavy emphasis on it and simply take things a game at a time with a younger, less experienced lineup?
That discussion is renewed this week as the 19 U.S. based MLS teams (Toronto FC, the Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps don’t participate) enter the competition as fourth round action takes place. While four matches are MLS vs. MLS, the rest see lower-division sides look to advance past their first-division foes into the round of 16. And this year, there’s sure to be a couple upsets in store and the possibility for a lower-division team to make a dream run mirroring the one FC Cincinnati made a year ago.
Here’s a look at all of the fourth round games, save Atlanta United’s contest against the Charleston Battery; keep it here as we’ll be all over it before, during and after the showdown in Kennesaw.
How To Watch
You’ll be able to watch online as USSoccer.com will have links to every match on its website. Each team’s site will also have a link to watch.
The MLS vs. MLS matches
New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC - Wednesday, 7:30pm
The Red Bulls had been humming along, going on a five-match unbeaten streak before a loss at the Revs. NYC had a terrific start to its season but has been rather up and down over its last few matches. Still, NYC will be thinking of the 4-0 loss they absorbed on May 5 at Red Bull Arena - and this would be a great chance for them to exact some revenge. Clearly the most appealing of the four intra-MLS matches.
Columbus Crew SC vs. Chicago Fire - Wednesday, 7pm
A Crew SC side that’s captured a result in its last eight matches squares off up against a Fire team that already holds a 1-0 win against it in league play. I’m interested in seeing the teams that Gregg Berhalter and Veljko Paunovic put out for this one, but Columbus will be flying high after erasing a 3-0 deficit against Toronto FC on Saturday in the game’s final 23 minutes.
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City - Wednesday, 10pm
Sporting KC’s shot at a repeat USOC title starts at Rio Tinto Stadium, and if history has taught us a thing or two, Peter Vermes will have his team ready regardless of who he sends out on the field on Wednesday. It’ll have a little bit of a stiffer challenge in this year’s fourth round than it did last year against Minnesota United, but I’d count on SKC getting to the round of 16.
Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes - Wednesday, 10pm
Portland haven’t lost a match since April 8 at Orlando City. San Jose have two wins this season, both against Minnesota United. It’s tough to see this not going the Timbers’ way: former New York Cosmos boss Giovanni Savarese - who had a brief spell with the Quakes in 2000 - has done a great job in his first year with the Timbers and it should continue on Wednesday.
Major #Cupset potential: The MLS teams that could be in big trouble
FC Cincinnati vs. Minnesota United - Wednesday, 7:30pm
FC Cincinnati, who has punched above its weight in the USOC and looks to do the same this year, should have a fairly large crowd on hand at Nippert Stadium when the Loons come to town. FCC’s exploits from last year are fairly well known, and with a steep home-field advantage behind them, would anyone be surprised if MLS’s future Team 23 can punch a ticket to the round of 16?
Nashville SC vs. Colorado Rapids - Wednesday, 8:30pm
Colorado just aren’t a good team right now. And with the club traveling to Nashville to face a USL team that has enjoyed some success in its first year - and should have a good swell of support at Vandy - it’s the perfect ingredients for a one-and-done for the Rapids, who haven’t won since a 2-0 victory over Toronto FC on April 14 that is losing its luster by the week. Some extra spice: NSC top man Gary Smith used to lead the Rapids and won MLS Cup with them in 2010, along with vets Matt Pickens and Kosuke Kimura.
Sacramento Republic FC vs. Seattle Sounders - Wednesday, 10:30pm
The Republic have been here before: they’ve been able to go toe to toe with MLS teams and push them to the limit - beating RSL 4-1 last year before falling to the LA Galaxy in the round of 16. Things seem ripe for an upset this year as they’re hosting a Sounders team that, like Colorado, just plain haven’t been able to put anything together this season. I’m really not confident in the visitors’ chances on Wednesday, to be honest.
Not big-time #Cupset potential, but don’t be surprised
Louisville City FC vs. New England Revolution - Tuesday, 7pm
Lou City’s a group that hasn’t scored all that much, but the defending USL champs are still winning games - it’s let in just seven all season in league play. Across all competitions, it hasn’t conceded since Laurent Kissedou’s 31st-minute tally for ATL UTD 2 at Slugger Field on May 19, a streak that’s lasted around 210 minutes. That should certainly give Brad Friedel’s group some heartburn - and I doubt many people will be surprised if it’s a one-and-done spell for the Revs this year unless they can solve a stingy Lou City defense.
DC United vs. North Carolina FC - Wednesday, 7pm
Like Richmond, NCFC’s in kind of a rut: while it’s been able to hold teams off the scoreboard (although not to the extent of Louisville City), it’s struggled to score at times this year. It has netted 16 goals in its last five games across all competitions, but that’s been against some lesser opponents. That said, DC, who are once more at the bottom of the MLS standings, can’t afford to take its USL opponent lightly.
The other matches
Philadelphia Union vs. Richmond Kickers - Tuesday, 7pm
Up until a loss to Atlanta on Saturday that saw both Haris Medunjanin and Ale Bedoya sent off around the 20-minute mark (both are eligible to play on Tuesday since it’s a separate competition, but probably won’t), the Union had been trending pretty well in league play, previously taking 10 of a possible 12 points to gain ground on the rest of the East. They may not have much trouble against a Kickers side that is tied with ATL UTD 2 for second-last in the USL East table and needed penalties to get past Christos FC in the second round.
Miami United FC vs. Orlando City SC - Wednesday, 7:30pm
Miami United FC (from the NPSL) has nothing to do with Miami FC, the team that beat both Orlando City and Atlanta United in the USOC last year. (Ironically, Stefano Pinho, who scored a hat trick against Orlando last year in the fourth round, plays for Orlando now) Nor does it have anything to do with David Beckham’s future MLS team in the city. All that said, Orlando should win this one.
Houston Dynamo vs. NTX Rayados - Wednesday, 8:30pm
Local qualifier NTX Rayados has knocked out several teams during its Cup run, including the NPSL’s Fort Worth Vaqueros, USL side OKC Energy (in a wild 5-2 win that was tied at 2 after 90 minutes) and another NPSL team in FC Wichita. It’s fun to root for the underdog, but this story is likely to end in Houston against the Dynamo, despite the hosts not having played their best over the past couple of matches and the likelihood of its big guns seeing the field being quite low.
San Antonio FC vs. FC Dallas - Wednesday, 8:30pm
Somehow, FC Dallas has found its way into the Supporters’ Shield discussion after six straight unbeaten in MLS play. However, with Dallas playing with something resembling a second team lineup with a few exceptions, along with San Antonio hosting, this might be a match to keep an eye on, though Dallas should be able to grab the win here.
LAFC vs. Fresno FC - Wednesday, 10pm
Bob Bradley knows a thing or two about the U.S. Open Cup: he led the expansion Chicago Fire to both the national and MLS title in 1998. I’m interested to see what he does with LAFC as it participates in its first Cup competition; at least to start, it has a pretty good draw against a mid-table Fresno FC team from the USL.
LA Galaxy vs. FC Golden State Force - Wednesday, 10pm
Another underdog story: FC Golden State Force (who started play in 2016) are actually one of the better PDL sides out there, advancing to the national semifinals in 2017 and currently winners of six of its first seven matches this season. It likely won’t be able to match wits with the LA Galaxy, but if it can play the hosts even for the first portion of the game, who knows what can happen for a group with nothing to lose?