This week on the blog, Tulsa Roustabouts member Roger Graham shares his thoughts on the upcoming pairings for the fourth round of the 2015 US Open Cup. Follow Roger on Twitter at @rogman99.
The Fourth Round brings a lot of excitement as the lower division teams pair up with the U.S.-based MLS teams. It’s a David vs Goliath March Madness type match-up, except Goliath may have to travel to a cubbyhole PDL pitch with rabid supporters, in lieu of a sterile, natural-site location! This also gives a chance for divisions such as the USL and NASL a litmus test to compare themselves to the highest level of teams in the U.S.
How draws for the Fourth Round work? According to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Page, the Fourth Round draw is determined by the following:
Participants: Winners from 15 Third Round games are joined by 17 MLS clubs.
Description: After each Third Round matchup has been determined, 15 of 17 MLS teams will be paired geographically to a specific Third Round matchup and be scheduled to play these winners, while two MLS teams will face each other to complete the bracket.
In addition to geographically-paired match-ups, the MLS teams with affiliates (or II teams) will not be competing against each other. This means, no Portland vs. Timbers II,
or Sporting KC vs. OKC Energy as an example. The selection committee seems to favor putting teams close (geographically) together to make as many teams travel as little as possible, but leaving a few teams to make long distance travel. I used this same philosophy for my determination of possible match-ups. I have also made caveats as we do not know the second round winners (matches on Wednesday, May 20th) at the time of this article and the Committee will have that information at the time of the draw (which is on Thursday, May 21st). This is my best guess, based on my research, and I will make comments on “other possibilities” on each potential match up.
UPDATE: The rules state that teams with a shared-ownership affiliation would not be paired together (ex, Seattle Sounders / Sounders II). The rule does not mention averting regular affiliation parent club match ups (ex. Sporting Kansas City and Oklahoma City). I’ve modified my original post to allow those possible Fourth Round draws.
Something else that makes this difficult to nail down, is the fact that there is a large population of lower-league teams in the Southeast part of the US, and only one MLS team in that part of the country (Orlando City). This will create uncertainty as the Committee may make teams for the west coast play teams in the region, which would create a domino effect as teams get shifted around. It only makes sense, to me that the east coast teams will pick up the slack and travel inside their own time zone. If a couple of upsets happen in the Second round, this could set off a chain of events where west coast (or Midwest) teams would travel east.
Now that I’m finished with all that, let’s get this (theoretical) draw started!
I’ll start off with my more confident picks and work my way down.
1) Houston vs. Laredo / Austin or San Antonio winner
All three teams are geographically close to Houston. I suspected the Committee will keep all these teams in south Texas. FC Dallas could come into play, but I have them locked-up on another potential match-up. A nice weekday road trip is doable for Austin or San Antonio (right at 3 hours on the road) supporters.
2) NYCFC vs. NYRB II / New Jersey Express or NY Cosmos
New York Derby for days! A potential matchup between NYCFC and the Cosmos (not if RBNY 2 and the Express have anything to say about it) would create a buzz around the Boroughs! If RBNY II gets bounced in the Second Round, then maybe the parent club (RBNY) comes into play in a coin-flip situation.
3) Colorado Rapids vs. Harpos / Colorado Springs Switchback or Real Monarchs / Long Island Rough Riders
There will be a Colorado representative at the time of the Fourth Round draw, so I feel the Rapids (and Pablo’s beautiful mustache) will be waiting on the winner of this group. If Long Island pulls the upset over the Monarchs, than maybe an east coast team (New England or RBNY) could be an option, but the Committee seems to keep the groups and match-ups in the original region (see Seacoast / Tulsa / Midland / OKC).
4) Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota or Des Moines / St. Louis FC
St. Louis makes Chicago a viable option in this match up (if victorious over the Menace). Historically, SKC is the team awaiting the winner of the Des Moines / Minnesota group winner, and is a repeat of last year’s USOC match with Minnesota locking horns with Sporting in 2014. If the St. Looligans have their day(s) in the sun, this could set up a nice I-70 Derby!
5) FC Dallas vs. Seacoast United Phantoms / Tulsa Roughnecks or Oklahoma City Energy / Midland/Odessa Sockers
The Texoma region with either Oklahoma and/or Texas representation at the time of the Third Round draw would pull FC Dallas into this group. A road weary Seacoast and/or Midland/Odessa could throw a wrench into a possible Red River show-down (maybe a Friday Night Lights Derby?).
6) LA Galaxy vs. Chula Vista FC / Arizona United or Sacramento / Sonoma Sol winner
The other Golden State(ish) match-up group involves Los Dos, which, since there’s no longer Chivas USA (RIP), LA Galaxy will fit nicely into this group. San Jose played Sacramento in 2014’s USOC, so history favors San Jose, but Arizona and Chula Vista will bring LA Galaxy to this group. I would expect a coin flip between San Jose and Los Angeles. If Los Dos loses in the Second Round, see San Jose waiting for the winner of this group.
7) Philadelphia Union vs. Tampa Bay or West Virginia / Pittsburgh Riverhounds winner
There are several viable options for this group as there are several MLS teams in this region (sorry Tampa, you’re stuck playing north). I could see DC United, Columbus, and RBNY fitting nicely here too. I settled on Philly as DCU have a more favorable regional match-up and possible Pennsylvania representation in the Fourth Round draw.
8) Orlando City vs. Ft. Lauderdale Strikers or Charleston Battery / Miami United
There are three NASL Florida teams (and supporters) who would LOVE to play the Kaka-led Citizens in the Fourth Round. I went with this group for Orlando since there will be Florida representation at the time of the draw and this, geographically, looks right. I feel the Committee will keep the south Florida teams in Florida for the Fourth Round. Honestly, there’s not a “better option” here (unless a coin flip determines which NASL Florida team will see Orlando in Round 3). If that’s the case, the whole east coast could be thrown into a random-generator whirlwind of “this makes no sense, where’s my beer?!” match-ups.
9) New England Revolution vs. Binghamton Thunder / Rochester Rhinos or Harrisburg / Reading United winner
This is another group, which could pull one of several MLS sides. I originally went with RBNY here, until a reread of the affiliate match-up rules. I changed my answer to the Revolution since it’s a regional opponent and omitting New England from this match-up would put them on a longer road trip.
10) Real Salt Lake vs. Orange County Blues / PSA Elite or Ventura County or LA Galaxy II
Until LAFC decides to show up, Real Salt Lake can punch their ticket to play in the SoCal group. If Los Dos should happen to drop one against VC, than the parent club could be called into action.
11) Chicago vs. Indy Eleven or Louisville City / Lansing United
I could see Columbus in this region too. I went with Chicago because there’s nothing else near-by, not already accounted (unless they get shipped to the Cascadia region or to the Southeast) for the Fire. Last year, Columbus was involved in this region, but so were the Dayton Dutch Lions. We don’t have an Ohio representative prior to the Fourth Round and Indy is only a 4 hour drive from Chicago. I’ll give a weighted-coin flip to Chicago in this group.
12) San Jose vs. Timbers II / Michigan Buck or Sounders II / Kitsap Pumas
Due to the II-representation, San Jose makes the most sense. An upset-minded Kitsap or Bucks could draw in the parent club in this region. This is where I’ll be interested to see how the Committee handles pairing the parent club, if the affiliated club loses in a geographically-convenient region. Otherwise, there are not a lot of places for Seattle and Portland originals to go.
13) DC United vs. Jacksonville Armada or Richmond Kickers / Virginia Beach
DC united seems to be a shoe in for this group. United is familiar with Kickers (also an affiliate) as they have had to match skills in past Open Cups. Even if Virginia Beach pulls the upset, I still see DCU awaiting the group winner.
14) Columbus Crew vs. Atlanta or Chattanooga / Wilmington Hammerheads winner
If Chatty pulls off the upset (again), I would feel better about this pick. Atlanta will be a great addition to the MLS as they will bring the Southeast an MLS opponent in the area. Atlanta and Chatty are both non-coastal teams, which makes me think Columbus would be the team in this group.
15) RBNY vs. Carolina Railhawks or Upward Star / Charlotte Independence
Last season, Chivas USA was awaiting the winner of this regional group. I don’t think that’s happening this year, so I’m going with the only eastern conference team without a group. Carolina made a nice run last year, can it be repeated? There could be an outside shot of a Cascadia team showing up, but I’ll have that covered next!
16) Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers
Unless an upset in the Cascadia region group should happen, I think the Committee would love to see this match-up in the Fourth Round (I know I would!). Due to the lack of northwest teams and the over-representation of southeast teams, this makes sense.
Let’s see how right (probably wrong) I’m going to be come early Thursday morning. Until then, I’d love to hear your comments or disagreements.