U.S. Soccer

U.S. Soccer Announces Round of 16 Draw for 2016 U.S. Open Cup

CHICAGO (June 16, 2016) – U.S. Soccer unveiled the Round of 16 as well as the potential Quarterfinal matchups and hosts for the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Thursday. With the Round of 16 Bracket set, all remaining participant teams will know their potential path to the tournament Final. The Round of 16 will be played on Tuesday, June 28 and Wednesday, June 29.

Fourteen Fourth Round winners from Major League Soccer (Division I) were joined by the NASL’s (Division II) Fort Lauderdale Strikers and New York Cosmos in the Round of 16 pool and broken into four geographic regions ahead of the Draw: Central, East, South, and West. Clubs were then randomly selected via closed envelope and placed into brackets according to the order they were drawn in their region.

The winners that advance from the upper bracket in each region will host the Quarterfinals on Tuesday, July 19 or Wednesday, July 20. Following the Quarterfinals, a concluding Draw will take place on Thursday, July 21 to determine the hosting scenarios for the tournament Semifinals and Final.

Thursday’s draw was conducted at Copa America Centenario Headquarters in Chicago, with the tournament’s Competition Advisor Farrukh Quaraishi serving as the official draw witness.

Round of 16 Schedule:

Date

Game

Time

Venue

June       28

 Columbus Crew SC at Chicago Fire

7:30 p.m. CT

 Toyota Park; Bridgeview, Ill.

June 28

Seattle Sounders FC at Real Salt Lake

8:00 p.m. MT

Rio Tinto Stadium; Sandy, Utah

June 29

New York Red Bulls at Philadelphia Union

7:00 p.m. ET

Talen Energy Stadium; Chester, Pa.

June 29

New England Revolution at New York Cosmos

7:30 p.m. ET

Belson Stadium; Jamaica, N.Y.

June 29

Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Orlando City SC

7:30 p.m. ET

Camping World Stadium; Orlando, Fla.

June 29*

Sporting Kansas City at Houston Dynamo

6 p.m. CT

BBVA Compass Stadium; Houston, Texas

June 29

Colorado Rapids at FC Dallas

7:30 p.m. CT

Toyota Stadium; Frisco, Texas

June 29

LA Galaxy at Portland Timbers

7:30 p.m. PT

Providence Park; Portland, Ore.

* Time changed 6/17
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USOC Jun 16, 2016

Despite Stiff Competition, MLS Clubs Continue to Roll on Second Night of U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round

CHICAGO (June 15, 2016) – The final 12 teams needed to fill in the 2016 U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 Bracket were decided Wednesday night with the NASL’s New York Cosmos and Ft. Lauderdale Strikers the only two non-Division I clubs to join the host of MLS sides that make up the rest of the field for the business end of the competition.

Although Kitsap Pumas bowed out of the tournament with a 2-0 loss to Seattle Sounders FC, the PDL club was awarded $15,000 as the furthest advancing Open Division team in the competition, pending the result of a protest by Open Division qualifier La Maquina, who are challenging their 4-1 extra time defeat to the LA Galaxy on the opening night of the Fourth Round. Additionally, the Wilmington Hammerheads earned the $15,000 prize awarded to the Division III team to advance the furthest in the competition, winning the ninth tiebreaker wit overall wins in the tournament over Oklahoma City Energy’s single victory.

Just as there were on the first night of Fourth Round play, there were a handful of close matches that ultimately saw MLS teams prevail. The Philadelphia Union needed a last-second free-kick to escape Harrisburg City Islanders 3-2, New York Red Bulls and Orlando City SC made single goals count in narrow 1-0 wins against Rochester Rhinos and Jacksonville Armada, respectively, while Sporting Kansas City and the New England Revolution both needed extra time to pull out one-goal wins against Minnesota United 2-1 and the Carolina RailHawks 1-0, respectively. The Chicago fire came closest to a “Cupset” as they needed a goal in the second extra time period to secure a 1-1 draw to reach penalty kicks where they eventually outlasted Indy Eleven 4-3.

There were a few Division I teams that found the going a bit easier with the likes of Columbus Crew SC and Houston Dynamo dispatching Tampa Bay Rowdies and San Antonio FC to the tune of 4-0, respectively.

The Draw to determine the Round of 16 Bracket and potential hosting scenarios for the Quarterfinals will be held Thursday morning at 11 a.m. CT and can be followed live @OpenCup on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 15 Recaps:
Philadelphia Union (MLS) 3, Harrisburg City Islanders (USL) 2
Just three minutes in, the Philadelphia Union took control of the match as Walter Restrepo followed up on a failed clearance before slot into the back of the net. Just before halftime, the Union upped the score line after Roland Alberg beat Nick Noble. The City Islanders didn’t leave without a fight as Craig Foster narrowed the score line in the 79th minute to make it 2-1. Harrisburg was then forced to play a man down as Leo Fernandes received a straight red card in the 88th minute. With seconds to go in regular time, the City Islanders’ Bobby Warshaw captured the equalizer to take the score to 2-2 in second half stoppage time. Just as extra time seemed a certainty, Alberg place a free kick past Noble and into the upper 90, to give the back-to-back U.S. Open Cup finalists a 3-2 victory.

Columbus Crew (MLS) 4, Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) 0
With possession going back and forth between the Columbus Crew and the Tampa Bay Rowdies, neither team was able to find the back of the net before a weather delay was issued in the 26th minute. The game resumed and Columbus quickly took control as Justin Meram found the back of the net in the 41st minute. Minutes out of halftime, second half sub Ethan Finlay picked out Christian Martinez to take the lead to 2-0 in the 48th minute. Four minutes later, Finlay converted a penalty kick after a foul was issued inside the box, before Marshall Hollingsworth rounded out the scoring scored in the 65th as Columbus eased into the Round of 16.

Jacksonville Armada FC (NASL) 0, Orlando City SC (MLS) 1
Orlando City SC headed up Highway 95 to snag a 1-0 win against Jacksonville Armada at Southern Oak Stadium on the campus of Jacksonville University. After a scoreless first half, Orlando City struck from an Antonio Nocerino corner kick that was headed on to the back post by Julio Baptista and bundled over the line by David Mateos in the 62nd minute. While the Armada created its share of chances throughout the game, they were unable to find the cutting edge. Orlando City SC now moves on to the Round of 16, which will be played on June 29, for the second year in a row.

Rochester Rhinos (USL) 0, New York Red Bulls (MLS) 1
The New York Red Bulls earned a tight 1-0 win away to the Rochester Rhinos on Wednesday night. The game’s lone goal was setup when Gonzalo Veron was pulled down in the Rochester penalty area in the 19th minute, forcing the referee to point to the spot. Midfielder Sacha Kljestan stepped up and buried his effort past Tomas Gomez in the 20th minute. Rochester threatened to find the equalizer, but the Red Bulls kept the USL side honest, as they ran out 1-0 winners and advanced to the Round of 16 for the second straight season.

New York City FC (MLS) 0, New York Cosmos (NASL) 1
New York Cosmos advanced to the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 at the expense of New York City FC for the second consecutive year thanks to a 1-0 victory Wednesday night. Cosmos prevailed in a matchup of few chances and neither team created much during a tense derby that failed to come to life in the first 45 minutes. The game quickened in the second stanza but looked destined for extra time until the Cosmos struck late on. Midfielder Danny Szetela got on the end of a cross and headed home the decisive goal to send Cosmos through to the Round of 16 and NYCFC out of the competition.

D.C. United (MLS) 0, Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) 0 (3-4 PKs)
D.C. United controlled most of the match, but they could not capitalize on the chances presented by Fort Lauderdale, with the NASL side forcing extra time. Moving past 90 minutes saw United goalkeeper Travis Worra make a number of important stops to keep things level and take things into the shootout. In the penalty kick decider, Diego Restrepo saved Luciano Acosta’s take, before Matheus Carvalho converted the final kick to give Fort Lauderdale its second straight shootout win and its first-ever appearance in the tournament’s Round of 16.

Carolina RailHawks FC (NASL) 0, New England Revolution (MLS) 1
After a lengthy two-hour weather delay midway through the first half, the New England Revolution needed extra time to dispatch a game Carolina RailHawks side, 1-0 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. Lightening appeared in the 16th minute and was followed by a torrential downpour forcing the teams to the locker rooms. When play resumed, both teams carved out their chances in the course of regulation but it wasn’t until the 103rd minute when Revolution homegrown player Zachary Herivaux got on the end of a Lee Nguyen pass and rifled a shot into the roof of the net from 20 yards out. The extra time strike and subsequent win pushes New England to the 2016 U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on June 29.

Minnesota United FC (NASL) 1, Sporting Kansas City (MLS) 2
Sporting Kansas City began their defense of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on the road against Minnesota United. One hundred and twenty minutes later, the champs were still standing - bruised but heading back to Kansas with a 2-1 win. Christian Ramirez’ penalty kick for the hosts canceled out Benny Feilhaber’s opener from the spot and the teams traded chances without finding a winner in regulation. In the second period of extra time Feilhaber set up Diego Rubio for the latter’s first goal in the competition and it was enough to ensure Vermes’ side were able to see out the victory and head back to the Round of 16.

Chicago Fire (MLS) 1, Indy Eleven (NASL) 1 (4-3 PKs)

A battle of two teams created by soccer executive Peter Wilt didn’t disappoint Tuesday at Toyota Park. The Fire’s David Accam had the best chance of regular time, smashing an effort off the cross bar in the 22nd minute, but neither team could find the required goal before extra time was needed. In the additional frame, Indy Eleven went up first when Sinisa Ubiparipovich picked out Justin Braun, who turned on a dime before finishing past Matt Lampson in the 105th minute. The Fire responded on the other side of the extra time break, with Accam finishing to send the game to PKs. In the shootout decider, Lampson made two saves and Accam converted the final spot kick to push the Fire past Indy Eleven 4-3 on penalties.

FC Dallas (MLS) 2, OKC Energy FC (USL) 2 (6-5 PKs)

FC Dallas ultimately prevailed 6-5 on penalty kicks despite coughing up a lead late in regulation to the visiting Oklahoma City Energy. The Energy struck first through Jordan Rideout in the 26th minute, but a brace from Carlos Lizarazo before the break gave FC Dallas what looked like the winning edge. However, in the 90th minute, Michael Thomas equalized for the Energy to send the match to extra time and eventually PKs after neither side could find the breakthrough. After trading penalties and a few misses and saves along the way, Colin Bonner finally sent FC Dallas to the Round of 16 by converting in the seventh round of sudden death penalty kicks.

Houston Dynamo (MLS) 4, San Antonio FC (USL) 0
Houston Dynamo earned a comprehensive 4-0 victory against San Antonio FC at BBVA Compass Stadium. Recently installed interim head coach Wade Barrett oversaw a straightforward victory for his team, though it took them more than a half hour to get on the board. Mauro Montas opened the scoring near the end of the first half and Alex doubled the lead just before the break. Raul Rodriguez and Leonel Miranda added goals early in the second half and the result was never in doubt for the Dynamo as they marched on to the next round.

Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) 2, Kitsap Pumas (PDL) 0
Seattle Sounders FC took on the Kitsap Pumas and the last remaining amateur side in the tournament gave the four-time champions a tough run of things for over an hour. Seattle only broke through in the 71st minute when Aaron Kovar’s deflected cross from the right was flicked to the back post by Christian Roldan, to give Seattle a 1-0 lead. With Kitsap pressing for equalizer, Seattle caught the PDL side out again, as a ball was slotted through to the top of the area for Joevin Jones, who coolly finished in second half stoppage time to push Seattle back into the tournament’s Round of 16, after missing out for the first time in 2015.

Tuesday, June 14 Recaps:
Colorado Springs Switchbacks (USL) 0, Colorado Rapids (MLS) 1
In the first match of the Fourth Round, the Colorado Rapids hosted the Colorado Springs Switchbacks in a match that began with opportunities created at both ends of the pitch although neither team was able to find the back of the net. The second half continued to prove scoreless until mere minutes before the final whistle when the Rapids’ Dillon Serna fired in a shot from outside the box in the 84th minute to secure the 1-0 win. With the late goal, the Colorado Rapids advanced to the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on June 29.

Wilmington Hammerheads (USL) 2, Real Salt Lake (MLS) 2 (1-3 PKs)
Although Real Salt Lake held much of the possession in the first half, the Wilmington Hammerheads carved out the first chance to grab a goal after a defensive steal near the top of the 18-yard box. Mael Corboz sent a rocket to the back of the net from the top of the box in the 34th minute and the Hammerheads took their 1-0 into the half. The visitors extended their lead in the 58th minute as Justin Moose took a shot from distance that deflected off a RSL defender into the net. But a pair of goals in the final 25 minutes from Real Salt Lake’s Joao Plata and Burrito Martinez gave the home side life. Although both teams had their chances in the extra time periods, it took PKs to separate the clubs with Wilmington seeing two misses and one PK saved, while Real Salt Lake made three of their four attempts to advance to the Round of 16 on June 29.

San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) 0, Portland Timbers (MLS) 2
The Portland Timbers advanced to the 2016 U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on the back of two first half goals against the San Jose Earthquakes at Providence Park. Dairon Asprilla’s shot through traffic in the 34th minute and Jack McInerney’s well-taken free kick in the 39th was all the Timbers needed as they limited San Jose offensively in both halves.

La Maquina (Calif.) 1, LA Galaxy (MLS) 4 (a.e.t.)
A valiant effort from Open Division qualifier La Maquina ran out of gas in extra time of their 4-1 defeat to MLS giants LA Galaxy at the StubHub Center. The Galaxy took an early lead through Jose Villarreal inside the opening 15 minutes, but a subsequent red card to Rafael Garcia only moments later made the MLS club’s night trickier than it otherwise might have been. La Maquina made their man advantage count as Edwin Borboa equalized 10 minutes before the break. The amateur team then went on to stifle the Galaxy in the second half while also getting a huge performance from their goalkeeper and riding the luck of some poor finishing from the hosts to take the match to extra time. Over the course of the extra 30 minutes, the Galaxy’s fitness and professional acumen told the tale as Dave Romney bagged the game winner before a Sebastian Lletget brace sealed the 4-1 score line and sent the Galaxy to the Round of 16 on June 29.

Fourth Round Schedule: Match Center

Date

Game

Time/Results

Venue

June 14

Colorado Springs Switchbacks (USL) at Colorado Rapids (MLS)

0-1

Dicks Sporting Goods Park; Commerce City, Colo.

June 14

Wilmington Hammerheads (USL) at Real Salt Lake (MLS)

2-2 (1-3 PKs)

Rio Tinto Stadium; Sandy, Utah

June 14

San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) at Portland Timbers (MLS)

0-2

Providence Park; Portland, Ore.

June 14*

La Máquina (Calif.) at LA Galaxy (MLS)

1-4 (a.e.t.)

StubHub Center; Carson, Calif.

June 15

Harrisburg City Islanders (USL) at Philadelphia Union (MLS)

2-3

Talen Energy Stadium; Chester, Pa.

June 15

Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) at Columbus Crew (MLS)

0-4

Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium; Columbus, Ohio

June 15

Orlando City SC (MLS) at Jacksonville Armada FC (NASL)

1-0

Southern Oak Stadium (Jacksonville Univ.); Jacksonville, Fla.

June 15

New York Red Bulls (MLS) at Rochester Rhinos (USL)

1-0

Rhinos Stadium; Rochester, N.Y.

June 15

New York Cosmos (NASL) at New York City FC (MLS)

1-0

Fordham University; Bronx, N.Y.

June 15

Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) at DC United (MLS)

0-0 (4-3 PKs)

Maryland Soccerplex; Boyds, Md.

June 15

New England Revolution (MLS) at Carolina RailHawks FC (NASL)

1-0 (a.e.t.)

WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, N.C.

June 15

Sporting Kansas City (MLS) at Minnesota United FC (NASL)

2-1 (a.e.t.)

National Sports Center; Blaine, Minn.

June 15

Indy Eleven (NASL) at Chicago Fire (MLS)

1-1 (3-4 PKs)

Toyota Park; Bridgeview, Ill.

June 15

OKC Energy FC (USL) at FC Dallas (MLS)

2-2 (5-6 PKs)

Westcott Field (Southern Methodist Univ.); Dallas, Texas

June 15

San Antonio FC (USL) at Houston Dynamo (MLS)

0-4

BBVA Compass Stadium; Houston, Texas

June 15

Kitsap Pumas (PDL) at Seattle Sounders FC (MLS)

0-2

Starfire Sports Complex; Tukwila, Wash.

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USOC Jun 16, 2016

Lower Division Sides Run MLS Teams Close, but No Cupsets on First Night of U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round

CHICAGO (June 14, 2016) Although there were some nervy moments for three out of the four MLS sides that faced lower division competition on the first night of the Fourth Round, all survived as Colorado Rapids, Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy overcame a variety of tests to join fellow MLS club Portland Timbers in the 2016 U.S. Open Cup Round of 16.  

Colorado began the night needing an 84th minute goal to snag a 1-0 win against USL side Colorado Springs Switchbacks at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Real Salt Lake then escaped the biggest challenge of the night presented in the form of the visiting Wilmington Hammerheads, who carved out a 2-0 lead midway through the second half before giving up two goals – the equalizer to RSL’s Burrito Martinez in the 88th minute – and then dropping the penalty kick battle 3-1.

Further west, the LA Galaxy were given a tough go of it by Open Division qualifier La Maquina – one of only two amateur teams left in the competition. Despite being taken to extra time after battling to a 1-1 draw while playing a man down since the 17th minute, the Galaxy tacked on three goals in the extra period to prevail.

Finally, the Portland Timbers had what seemed to be the easiest night of any victor as they dispatched fellow MLS side San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 at Providence Park.  

Fourteen match-ups remain in the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round and the games can be seen on ussoccer.com beginning Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET. Thursday morning the Round of 16 Bracket will be set at U.S. Soccer House in Chicago, providing a clear path for all remaining teams to the 2016 U.S. Open Cup Final.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks (USL) 0, Colorado Rapids (MLS) 1
In the first match of the Fourth Round, the Colorado Rapids hosted the Colorado Springs Switchbacks in a match that began with opportunities created at both ends of the pitch although neither team was able to find the back of the net. The second half continued to prove scoreless until mere minutes before the final whistle when the Rapids’ Dillon Serna fired in a shot from outside the box in the 84th minute to secure the 1-0 win. With the late goal, the Colorado Rapids advanced to the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on June 29.

Wilmington Hammerheads (USL) 2, Real Salt Lake (MLS) 2 (1-3 PKs)
Although Real Salt Lake held much of the possession in the first half, the Wilmington Hammerheads carved out the first chance to grab a goal after a defensive steal near the top of the 18-yard box. Mael Corboz sent a rocket to the back of the net from the top of the box in the 34th minute and the Hammerheads took their 1-0 into the half. The visitors extended their lead in the 58th minute as Justin Moose took a shot from distance that deflected off a RSL defender into the net. But a pair of goals in the final 25 minutes from Real Salt Lake’s Joao Plata and Burrito Martinez gave the home side life. Although both teams had their chances in the extra time periods, it took PKs to separate the clubs with Wilmington seeing two misses and one PK saved, while Real Salt Lake made three of their four attempts to advance to the Round of 16 on June 29.

San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) 0, Portland Timbers (MLS) 2
The Portland Timbers advanced to the 2016 U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on the back of two first half goals against the San Jose Earthquakes at Providence Park. Dairon Asprilla’s shot through traffic in the 34th minute and Jack McInerney’s well-taken free kick in the 39th was all the Timbers needed as they limited San Jose offensively in both halves.

La Maquina (Calif.) 1, LA Galaxy (MLS) 4 (a.e.t.)
A valiant effort from Open Division qualifier La Maquina ran out of gas in extra time of their 4-1 defeat to MLS giants LA Galaxy at the StubHub Center. The Galaxy took an early lead through Jose Villarreal inside the opening 15 minutes, but a subsequent red card to Rafael Garcia only moments later made the MLS club’s night trickier than it otherwise might have been. La Maquina made their man advantage count as Edwin Borboa equalized 10 minutes before the break. The amateur team then went on to stifle the Galaxy in the second half while also getting a huge performance from their goalkeeper and riding the luck of some poor finishing from the hosts to take the match to extra time. Over the course of the extra 30 minutes, the Galaxy’s fitness and professional acumen told the tale as Dave Romney bagged the game winner before a Sebastian Lletget brace sealed the 4-1 score line and sent the Galaxy to the Round of 16 on June 29.

Fourth Round Schedule: Match Center

Date

Game

Time/Results

Venue

June 14

Colorado Springs Switchbacks (USL) at Colorado Rapids (MLS)

0-1

Dicks Sporting Goods Park; Commerce City, Colo.

June 14

Wilmington Hammerheads (USL) at Real Salt Lake (MLS)

2-2 (1-3 PKs)

Rio Tinto Stadium; Sandy, Utah

June 14

San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) at Portland Timbers (MLS)

0-2

Providence Park; Portland, Ore.

June 14*

La Máquina (Calif.) at LA Galaxy (MLS)

1-4 (a.e.t.)

StubHub Center; Carson, Calif.

June 15

Harrisburg City Islanders (USL) at Philadelphia Union (MLS)

7 p.m. ET

Talen Energy Stadium; Chester, Pa.

June 15

Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) at Columbus Crew (MLS)

7 p.m. ET

Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium; Columbus, Ohio

June 15

Orlando City SC (MLS) at Jacksonville Armada FC (NASL)

7 p.m. ET

Southern Oak Stadium (Jacksonville Univ.); Jacksonville, Fla.

June 15

New York Red Bulls (MLS) at Rochester Rhinos (USL)

7:05 p.m. ET

Rhinos Stadium; Rochester, N.Y.

June 15

New York Cosmos (NASL) at New York City FC (MLS)

7:30 p.m. ET

Fordham University; Bronx, N.Y.

June 15

Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) at DC United (MLS)

7:30 p.m. ET

Maryland Soccerplex; Boyds, Md.

June 15

New England Revolution (MLS) at Carolina RailHawks FC (NASL)

7:30 p.m. ET

WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, N.C.

June 15

Sporting Kansas City (MLS) at Minnesota United FC (NASL)

7 p.m. CT

National Sports Center; Blaine, Minn.

June 15

Indy Eleven (NASL) at Chicago Fire (MLS)

7:30 p.m. CT

Toyota Park; Bridgeview, Ill.

June 15

OKC Energy FC (USL) at FC Dallas (MLS)

7:30 p.m. CT

Westcott Field (Southern Methodist Univ.); Dallas, Texas

June 15

San Antonio FC (USL) at Houston Dynamo (MLS)

7:30 p.m. CT

BBVA Compass Stadium; Houston, Texas

June 15

Kitsap Pumas (PDL) at Seattle Sounders FC (MLS)

7:30 p.m. PT

Starfire Sports Complex; Tukwila, Wash.

*Date change 6/2
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USOC Jun 15, 2016

Indy Eleven-Chicago Fire Rivalry Ready for Next Evolution in 2016 U.S. Open Cup

The Fourth Round of the U.S. Open Cup is set for this week, as MLS clubs enter the fray to take on lower division sides in their quest for one of the most coveted trophies in North American soccer.

One of the marquee match-ups of the round is certainly Wednesday’s clash featuring the Chicago Fire of MLS, as they take on NASL’s Indy Eleven at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois. One doesn’t need to look far to find the connection between these two clubs, the most obvious of which is Peter Wilt. Wilt, who founded the Fire in 1997, was also the architect behind re-launching professional soccer in Indianapolis in 2013, as Indy Eleven entered play in the North American Soccer League the following year.

Thanks to Wilt’s love of soccer and connection with both teams, supporters on both sides have dubbed the match-up a Cup game not only in the Open Cup, but something of a local rivalry game between the two clubs. Named for one of Wilt’s favorite beers, the Schlabst Cup even has its own supporters created trophy. The contest has garnered goodwill off the pitch between both sides, as proceeds from t-shirt and scarf sales for the event will be donated in full to the winning team’s supporter charity of choice.

"I love the Open Cup for its ability to make interesting match-ups that would never occur in league play,” Wilt told ussoccer.com. “The Indy-Fire game is a great example as it allows the Fire to host the closest professional team to them for the first time.”

The connection between Indy and Chicago doesn’t end with Wilt, however. On the pitch, Indy Eleven’s Lovel Palmer, Marco Franco (defenders), and Jon Busch (goalkeeper) spent stretches of their career with the Fire, and in the case of Palmer and Busch, are still considered fan favorites by Section 8 Chicago supporters.


Former Chicago Fire defender Lovell Palmer celebrates a league victory for his current club, Indy Eleven.

“Other than Indy winning the game in Chicago, the next best thing for me is being reunited with fans who showed me love unconditionally for two years,” Palmer told U.S. Soccer this week. “It was two rough years, but they came out, they showed support. I have a great connection with the fans. I would love to win the game, but the bigger picture for me is (to be) reunited with people I respect and love a lot, and I know they have the same amount of respect and admiration for me.”

With the teams in the midst of league play, the match-up is one that both sides have relished since Indy beat Louisville City FC in the Third Round of Open Cup play on June 1. It also has some major “Cupset” potential.

Playing just its third season as a club, Indy Eleven defied the odds by completing an undefeated campaign this past weekend to earn the NASL’s Spring Season title. On the flip side, the Chicago Fire currently sit bottom of Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference with just two wins from its first 12 matches.

“You can't think, if we win this Open Cup it's going to validate our season as a successful one regardless of what happens in the league,” Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. “For us, I think understanding that the Open Cup is another fantastic opportunity to go out there and win something, just like we're playing in league play for a chance to make the playoffs and ultimately lift MLS Cup. They're two separate tasks, you can't mix either of them, no matter what's happening in the regular season.”

While rocky starts to the season have been something the Fire have had to overcome in recent years, they’ve often found an avenue for momentum through the U.S. Open Cup. The four-time tournament winners haven’t lifted the trophy since 2006, but the club has continually made it to the latter rounds of the competition, advancing as far as the Semifinals in four of the last five years, and the Final in 2011.

“The U.S. Open Cup is one of the oldest championships in all of world soccer and one of the most prestigious in the United States,” said first-year Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez. “The Fire is honored to participate in this event and we aim to join Bethlehem Steel and Maccabi Los Angeles as the only five-time winners of the Open Cup.”

For Indy Eleven, goalkeeper Jon Busch acknowledged that they are coming into Wednesday’s match as the underdog, even after picking up its first hardware at the weekend. Despite that, he’s confident in what this group can do. Part of that process has involved instilling the importance of the tournament to the youth on the team, something that has started from the top for Indy.

“Coach Hankinson feels the same way that a lot of the older players do; it's a tournament that has a lot of history and we take it very seriously,” Busch said. “Obviously for me it's very special to have won it with Columbus [in 2002], so I look at it as a very serious game, and one we'd like to advance in and move on so we can hopefully win another trophy.”


Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson in MLS league play against the Portland Timbers.

Johnson, now in his seventh season with the Chicago Fire, will be at the other end of the pitch from his former teammate come Wednesday. With a large turnover at the club during the past few off seasons, Johnson has now taken on the leadership role for Chicago as one of the most tenured players in the tournament for the Fire, and he’s doing his part to pass along the importance and history of the Cup in Chicago to the new guys as they head into Wednesday’s game.

“It's something that's special to me, and special to this club. The tradition of this club winning as many Open Cups as we have is something that we really need to take seriously and make sure that we're all focused and ready to complete the task at hand,” Johnson said. “We understand that this is a fantastic opportunity and what it would mean to win an Open Cup, not only for this season, but for the club itself, would be huge.”

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USOC Jun 14, 2016

2016 Open Cup Sets Stage for First All-OKC Derby

Since the inception of the game, soccer has produced a culture based on rivalries. It is a sport that naturally becomes a part of a local community, setting the stage for epic clashes between two teams that represent so much more.

American soccer’s newest rivalry will come to the forefront on Wednesday night as Oklahoma City is split for the very first time.

Following a 10-9 penalty kick shootout victory over Mississippi Brilla on May 18, the USL’s Oklahoma City Energy will take on the NASL’s Rayo OKC in the Third Round of the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (8 p.m. ET on U.S. Soccer YouTube).  The match sees the Energy travel just 13 miles to Miller Stadium for the first edition of a cross-city rivalry that begins with a single-elimination tournament clash.

Naturally, both Energy FC head coach Jimmy Nielsen and Rayo OKC head coach Alen Marcina insist that there is no bad blood between the two sides entering Wednesday’s contest. Just seven competitive games into Rayo OKC’s existence, neither club has had the opportunity to develop any on-field feelings toward the other. However, the U.S. Open Cup clash provides the first chance for a city still forging its soccer identity to create a unique rivalry culture.

“It takes a lot on the field,” Nielsen said. “In this situation here, I think we can bring a lot to the stands as well because the distance between the two teams isn’t that long. Hopefully, we can create a good, funny, happy, intense atmosphere in the stands. That would create a good atmosphere on the field as well. A lot of fun, big games are where the fans really create the atmosphere on the field.”


Oklahoma City Energy head coach Jimmy Nielsen won the 2012 U.S. Open Cup as a player with Sporting KC.

“It’s difficult. It’s two quality teams that are battling,” Marcina added. “Us, and I would imagine them, we take the Open Cup and any official game seriously. A lot of it is generated from fans. This is a big game, but as players and a coaching staff, our focus is on how we perform and how we prepare to get a result.”

For expansion Rayo OKC, the U.S. Open Cup process will be very new. Although Marcina and several of his players have experience in the competition, they have never embarked on a tournament run together as a group.


New Rayo OKC head coach Alen Marcina (pictured) can call upon the likes of former Open Cup campaigners
Richard Menjivar (2012 "Cinderella" run with Cal FC) and Sebastian Velazquez (2013 Finalist with Real Salt Lake).
 

The Energy are a young club as well, but Nielsen’s side has had that tournament experience. Last season’s U.S. Open Cup run saw the Energy advance to the Fourth Round before a 4-1 loss to Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas. Nielsen, who won the tournament with Sporting KC in 2012, says he still remembers the sting of last year’s defeat, one that the club wants to erase with another deep run in 2016.

As someone who has now been a part of the Oklahoma City soccer community for three years, Nielsen has seen the growth of the game in the city. He’s seen players recognized in the community, and he’s seen local kids become as infatuated with the game as he has.

“We should be proud of where soccer is right now in Oklahoma City,” he said. “Where we started three years ago with professional soccer compared to now, we’re taking huge steps in the right direction. You’re seeing the kids playing in all of the baseball parks because they’re outgrowing other places. We see it every day. We feel it everyday that soccer is growing very fast in Oklahoma City. It’s fantastic to be a part of and see how things are growing.

“I can’t believe I’ve been here for three years now,” the Energy head coach added. “The time has been flying. Most of the time, that means you’re having a good time.”


In its maiden season, Rayo OKC has put together a strong roster featuring notable former Greece international Georgios Samaras.

Having coached the San Antonio Scorpions the past three seasons, Marcina is new to the local scene, but also says he has seen the game develop in his short time in OKC.

The latest step in that development comes Wednesday, in a match that Marcina admits is “unique.” Few American cities boast two teams, and with Oklahoma City sides set to clash for the time, the U.S. Open Cup has become the stage for the first act between the two teams.

“We respect the Energy and what they do and the success their club has had,” Marcina said, “but in terms of preparation, we have nothing but the utmost respect for them and the quality they have on their roster and in their organization. Our guys are going to be prepared like we are for any NASL match. Ultimately, it’s about us stepping on that field and executing our game plan.

“We’re treating every game the same. The added pressure, I don’t think that’s the way to go about things,” Marcina added. “Energy is a very good team and I have nothing but the utmost respect for the coaching staff, their players, their organization. We’re going to put the same amount of work as we do for any opponent and leave it all on the line.”

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USOC May 31, 2016
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