Following the 4th Round of the US Open Cup, it is now down to the final 16 teams. At this point, the draw has established the rest of the knockout tournament with a 16-team bracket and 4 regions released. MLS joined the competition in Round 4 and went 14-3 in the round. Just two lower league teams advanced to the final 16. Both the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and the New York Cosmos of the NASL beat DC United and New York City FC, respectively, of MLS. As well, the San Jose Earthquakes lost in the lone MLS matchup to the Portland Timbers.
The Round of 16 will take place on Tuesday, June 28th and Wednesday, June 29th. Here are my most intriguing matchups of the Round of 16 and potential quarter final matchups.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) vs. Orlando City FC (MLS)
The most enticing matchup for the round of 16 has to be another Florida Derby. The Strikers are one of the oldest and most classic brands in US soccer history. They were one of the more successful clubs in the old NASL. While not always the most well attended club, the Strikers are a community club, which many of the locals are proud of. In the modern era NASL, they have reached the soccer bowl final twice, losing both times. This however, is their best run in the Open Cup since the club’s re-formation in 2006.
Their opponents are one of the rising star clubs in US Soccer. Orlando City is the lone Florida MLS representative, and has a massive fan base that has grown rapidly since they were founded in the USL in 2010 and won 2 USL tittles.
The proximity of the two clubs will mean that many of the Strikers’ supporters group, known as Flight 19, will be able to make the short drive to central Florida to see if their team can upset a second straight MLS opponent.
New York Cosmos (NASL) vs. New England Revolution (MLS)
My second pick is one that features arguably the most recognizable North American soccer brand. The New York Cosmos are coming off of another MLS upset in the Open Cup that is starting to become standard in the modern era for the club. This is the 3rd consecutive year in which the Cosmos have reached the 5th Round of the US Open Cup. With the home field advantage, they might even go one step further this year.
They will host 5 time MLS Cup runner up and MLS original, the New England Revolution. The Revolution have won the Cup once before in 2007, but have been prone to a Cup upset over the years, having lost to lower league sides on more than one occasion. This matchup is the NASL best hope for a team to reach the final 8 of the tournament.
Potential Quarter Final Matchup:
If both the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers take care of business in the round of 16, they will face each other in Portland in the quarter final. This Cascadia matchup is the best rivalry in the US, and no one will argue that. As well, rivalries only get amplified in Cup games as one team is going to be sent home. We saw this last year when the two faced each other. The rivalry hit a peak when Clint Dempsey tore up the referees’ notebook, and has since been serving a lengthy Open Cup ban. If this matchup happens, there is no doubt it will be the best match of the quarterfinal round.