By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON DC (May 25, 2018) US Soccer Players – The Cinderellas are arriving at the US Open Cup ball in full regalia as the venerable, yet underappreciated, the tournament moves on to the Fourth Round. Wednesday night’s third round delivered a handful of upsets and set the stage for the David versus Goliath matchups that can make the competition so compelling. The Fourth Round is when MLS clubs enter the tournament, finishing the process of introducing every eligible club to the Open Cup’s 2018 field.
The Third Round featured dominance by USL clubs and the emergence of a single true Cinderella. The PDL and NPSL still have one team each in the competition, but that title can only go to the NTX Rayados out of Texas. The Rayados, a club based in the Dallas area, knocked of FC Wichita of the NPSL 3-2 in Texas in the third round. The Rayados are a regular in the Open Cup. The club has participated in every edition of the tournament since 2011. 2018 is the first year the Rayados moved past the Third Round, last reaching it back in 2013.
Next up for the Rayados and the potential midnight for their Cinderella run is a match against the Houston Dynamo in Houston. NTX Rayados did not submit a bid to host a game in the Fourth Round. The quirks of the Open Cup make the job of Cinderella just a little harder. The Dynamo are almost certain to pull players from its own USL affiliate, Rio Grande Valley, a team ineligible for the Open Cup, to take on the Rayados.
The arrival of the MLS teams in the tournament is both a blessing and a curse. The top-level clubs making their way into the Open Cup means the full expression of the big versus little dynamic is finally part of the tournament. The story of a club like the Rayados taking down a team from the top league in the United States would be an amazing boon to the competition. It would bring the Open Cup more attention while shining a spotlight on the small community-based teams that dot the map but largely operate in anonymity.
It also shines the first light on the lack of enthusiasm for the tournament in many quarters. In the Fourth Round, most MLS teams will fill out Open Cup rosters with reserves or players from a USL affiliate. They’ll choose to play their games in smaller, barebones venues that make sense for the smaller crowds but also send the clear message that the Open Cup doesn’t really matter. At least not yet.
The Rayados knocking off the Dynamo would make for the best story. There are two other possible upsets on tap that could give the 2018 US Open Cup an alternative Cinderella.
FC Golden State Force, a PDL team from Whittier, California took down a USL team in the Third Round. Sporting a mouthful of a name and a roster full of college players, the club defeated the Las Vegas Lights thanks to a late penalty converted not by a college player, but by a 30-year old Brazilian journeyman named Allison Faramilio. Maybe the only player on any of the three amateur sides remaining in the tournament to have his own Wikipedia page, Faramilio also bagged FC Golden State Force’s first goal on the night. Before arriving in California, Faramilio played in Japan, South Korea, and Albania.
The California team also beat USL opposition in the second round, defeating Orange County SC 4-2. In round four, FC Golden State Force will travel just a few miles down the road to take on the LA Galaxy.
While the Galaxy will be significant favorites no matter how it approaches the game, Sigi Schmid’s history of winning the US Open Cup (he has five, one from his first stint with the Galaxy and four with the Seattle Sounders) will clash with the Galaxy organization’s recent tendency to neglect the tournament. The Galaxy is struggling to put together consistent league results. That makes it unlikely the club would commit any first-choice players to its first Open Cup match of the year. Unfortunately for the Farmilio and the college kids, they probably won’t get a chance to share the field with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
In the east, Miami United FC is carrying the banner for amateur clubs and the NPSL. They’re one of several similarly named teams in Miami. Miami United beat Miami FC 2 in the second round, a team that reached the tournament proper by knocking off FC Miami City. Miami United took out a second NPSL entry born of a former NASL club with a 2-0 victory over the Jacksonville Armada 2 in Jacksonville.
Next up is a match against Orlando City in Miami. Miami United will have the home-field advantage against the Lions and a legitimate shot at springing the big upset. The club’s roster features a handful of players with professional experience and professional talent, meaning Orlando can’t expect to push Miami United around the park for the full 90 minutes.
The hero of the Third Round for Miami United was Tomas Granitto, a midfielder who played for the Swope Park Rangers and Portland Timbers 2 of the USL. Granitto scored a stunner from 25-yards out in the win over Jacksonville.
To be clear, if a USL team defeats an MLS team in the Fourth Round, the result will constitute an upset. It would constitute an interesting story for the Open Cup. We would begin to speak about any USL team that advanced into the Fifth Round as the next contestant to try and break the MLS hold on the tournament. Every year, the ghost of the 1999 Rochester Rhinos reemerges. We wonder if some club playing below MLS could put together enough scrappy play and good luck to go all the way. Will one of them be the first team since the Rhinos to claim the US Open Cup trophy without an MLS pedigree?
Still, it’s the amateur sides that have the most magic. It’s the amateur teams we want to root for the hardest. Only those amateur teams can really merit the title of “Cinderella” and only for the amateur teams does the idea of delaying midnight sound so romantic.
More From Jason Davis:
- Colorado in the latest version of MLS
- Patrick Vieira and the future of NYCFC
- How are the MLS trades working out?
- How do you solve a problem like DC United?
(Photo by John Dorton – ISIPhotos.com)