Cup Of Cheer

The Third Round of the US Open Cup was played on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, with more excitement and shocks the order of the day.

It’s a tournament I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of years. Throwing up some of the best matches of the season, it is truly an FA Cup of America as it allows any team that is a member of the US Soccer Federation to take part. That means professional sides and amateurs and that in itself means that old romance of the Cup that we all love to see.

The US Open Cup dates back to 1914 and, for me, is more fun to watch than the MLS.

For those readers unfamiliar with the US football league set up, the best way to try and explain it is that you have the MLS as the top tier, then USL1, USL2, the devlopment PDL and other professional, amateur and pub league type teams. The leagues aren’t connected. There’s no promotions or relegations or movement pyramid system in place. But with the Open Cup, they all come together and it shows time and time again that there is no real gap between MLS and the top USL1 sides, at least on an occasional game to game basis!

Last season’s tournament garnered interest when Hollywood United, who have featured well known actors and musicians in the past, put out USL1 side Portland in the first round. A number of other shocks followed, resulting in only two MLS sides in the semis and two USL1 teams. DC United of the MLS eventually triumphed 2-1 in the final against the USL side Charleston Battery.

This season has seen the shocks continue, with a number of the lower ranked sides really raising their game against their supposed higher quality opponents, many of whom do admittedly field understrength sides.

For me, the highlight of the second round was when PDL side Ocean City Barons, who included a high school student in their line up, put out USL2 side Real Maryland Monarchs to earn themselves a crack at MLS side and defending champs, DC United. DC won 2-0 on Tuesday night but what an occasion for the young Ocean City players.

The third round matches saw four MLS sides crash out to lower opposition, two of them to USL2 sides.

These two big results of Tuesday night saw Harrisburg City Islanders beat New England Revolution 2-1 and the wonderfully named Wilmington Hammerheads defeat Chicago Fire 1-0.

With 2 of the remaining MLS sides meeting in the quarters, there’s certainly scope for another big run for a lower league team and who knows, possibly lifting the trophy this time.

It’s a shame that these games don’t get national TV coverage but at least the guys at USL Live let you watch them online. Something which is highly recommended viewing.

As I’ve said before, the romance of the cup. Whatever country, whatever tournament. You just can’t beat it.

Authored by: Michael McColl

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