The hunt for the prestigious – and century-old – Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is on.
The first round (qualifying, fourth round, and prelims have already passed us by) is completed and fans of (mainly) PDL and NASL-side teams are looking forward to Tuesday, 21 May. Here’s the 2013 bracket you’ve been clamoring to see.
The one-and-done (aka win and advance) style tournament of the US Open Cup appeals to people of all ages – and hopefully will take in some other sporting fans, like NCAA basketball fans because of the tournament ‘seeding’ format. Major League Soccer teams join in the Cup games in the third round on 28 May, as the field continues to narrow as clubs advance to the fourth round (expect a handful of NASL and USL-PRO clubs to keep moving forward against MLS teams) on 12 June, then onto the Quarterfinals on 26 June, the Semifinals on 7 and 21 August, and ultimately the Final on 1 or 2 October.
The 2012 tournament had a few surprises – Harrisburg City, Dayton Dutch, and Charlotte Eagles being three of them. After starting in the second round, each of the aforementioned teams muscled their way through until their demise in the Quarterfinals where MLS teams Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Chivas USA, respectively, were too strong for the USL-PRO sides. Eventually Sporting KC and Seattle Sounders (the consecutive US Open Cup champions for three years running from 2009-2011) played in the Final, where – on a stormy-turned-glorious night at Sporting Park – the match ended with Sporting Kansas City hoisting the trophy from a penalty shoot-out.
Some matches to look out for in the third round (pending the second round- 21 May wins for certain teams): local derby time for the Virginia/DC area for Richmond Kickers vs. DC United, a Pennsylvania showdown between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia Union, an Ohio matchup of Dayton Dutch and Columbus Crew, a Midwest heartland game for Minnesota United FC vs. Sporting KC, a Texas throw-down of San Antonio Scorpions vs. Houston Dynamo, and lastly, a tanned and glittered affair (I’m sure of it) of either the LA Blues and Ventura County vs. Chivas USA.
The MLS sides are looking strong this year, however, there are injury problems with multiple teams, so that may be indicative of who plays, for how long, and if a person who normally plays as a starter during League play would actually be on the 18-man game-day roster. My non-professional predictions of which MLS teams will not continue past the third round: New England, DC United, and Colorado. Take that with a grain of salt, won’t you? Seeing where each of those three teams is within the MLS standings – how many games won, key players injured, and strength of schedule in the coming weeks – all play in to how I believe each team will respond to their competition in the US Open Cup. Strong contenders in past years will, I believe, in their winning ways in the Open Cup: Seattle, Sporting KC, Columbus, and Houston.
The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, although hasn’t been as popular previously – it has been seen as more of a stumbling block rather than stepping stone for teams focusing on the regular season (i.e. LA Galaxy’s cross-country road trip) – has the prestige coming back. Let’s hope for more nail-biting games to keep history – and excitement – alive.