2018 US Open Cup Round 4 preview: MLS teams join the competition (video links)

Posted by | June 5, 2018
The 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup features 97 teams from a Modern Era record 33 different states. Graphic by: Gilberto Hernandez | @GilbertoHdz200

The 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup features 97 teams from a Modern Era record 33 different states. Graphic by: Gilberto Hernandez | @GilbertoHdz200

Outside of the Final, one could argue that the highest-profile round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is the Fourth Round. The round when Major League Soccer’s 20 US-based teams joining the competition creates several “David vs. Goliath” matchups, which have been at the heart of this competition since it first launched in 1913.

Most of the matchups are United Soccer League teams against MLS teams, but the three highlights of Round 4 are the three open division teams that have reached this level. NTX Rayados, an amateur team from the North Texas Premier Soccer Association will travel south to take on the Houston Dynamo (MLS), while another amateur side FC Golden State Force (PDL) will play at the Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS). Miami United FC are the first National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) team to reach the Fourth Round, they will host Orlando City SC (MLS). While Miami United are a pro team, the fact that they are the first NPSL team to reach Round 4 makes the achievement all the more impressive.

The Fourth Round kicks off with three games on Tuesday, June 5, followed by 13 games on Wednesday, June 6. The winners will advance to the Round of 16. The matchups for that round will be announced on June 7.

Click below for links of our coverage and scroll down for a preview and live video links for each game.

Preview contributors include: Joshua Taylor, Craig Tower, Sean Maslin, Tom Arnison, Sydney Hunte, Ian Foster, Thomas Hodul and Michael Stewart Allen.

#USOC2018 coverage:
2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup schedule, results
2018 US Open Cup statistical leaders
2018 US Open Cup qualifying Round 1 review
2018 US Open Cup qualifying Round 2 review
2018 US Open Cup qualifying Round 3 review

USSF allows NY Cosmos B, Miami FC 2, Jacksonville Armada into 2018 US Open Cup
El Farolito, 1993 US Open Cup champions, disqualified from 2018 tournament
Why is it against the rules to change leagues during the US Open Cup?
FC Cincinnati at Gettler Stadium: “Like Metallica playing a small venue”

2018 Meet the Underdogs series
Christos FC
FC Denver
FC Kendall
Kendall Wanderers
La Maquina FC
Los Angeles Wolves FC
NTX Rayados
Red Force FC
Rochester River Dogz
Santa Ana Winds
Sporting AZ FC

2018 US Open Cup qualifying results
2018 US Open Cup qualifying Win & You’re In review
2018 US Open Cup qualifying Round 1 review
2018 US Open Cup qualifying Round 2 review

Things you should know about the Fourth Round of the US Open Cup (Modern Era)

Support TheCup.us: Special “TheCup.us” Del Rey City jerseys available for purchase
Appreciate what we do at TheCup.us? Donate here
* TheCup.us is looking for writers/editors, graphics, WordPress gurus & people who can handle digital ad sales (paid position). Email us here

Twitter (#USOC2018) | Facebook | Instagram | Flickr | Reddit

Tuesday, June 5

The 1995 US Open Cup champion Richmond Kickers are coming into this match against the Union on a two-game win streak in the 2018 US Open Cup by defeating Reading United AC in penalties on the road in the Second Round. They followed that performance up by defeating league rivals Penn FC in the third round of the US Open Cup with a 3-2 win in Richmond.

The Kickers’ league form in the USL is near the bottom of the Eastern Conference sitting in 14th place (3-6-1) on 10 points but a player to watch for is Forward Luiz Fernando, who had two goals in their last cup match. He also came off the bench and scored a goal in their league match this past weekend in a 2-1 defeat to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.Forward Brian Shriver is the team’s leading goal scorer with three goals during the 2018 USL season. Shriver is one of the top lower division scorers in the Modern Era of the US Open Cup with eight career goals.In 2012, during his time with North Carolina FC, he lead the tournament with five goals.

The Philadelphia Union are coming into this match (5-6-3) with 18 points in MLS play this season and are battling for a playoff spot in the MLS Eastern Conference and currently sit in seventh place. Midfielders Boreck Dockal and IIlsinho are tied as the Union’s top goal scorers in MLS with three goals each. The Union will look to bounce back from a 3-1 defeat to Atlanta United this past weekend. This is the first time these two teams will meet in the US Open Cup. For the Union, they hope to get back to the US Open Cup Final where they haven’t been since reaching in back-to-back seasons in 2014 and 2015.If you are a fan of penalty kicks, history would tell you the odds are pretty good. In the last four years, the Union have had nine of their 15 Open Cup matches go to extra time and six of them went to penalty kicks.

The Kickers are aiming for a third win in a single US Open Cup tournament for the first time since they reached the Semifinals in 2011.

Tuesday, June 5

The defending USL Cup champions, Louisville City FC, comes into the Fourth Round of the 2018 US Open Cup for the second time after back-to-back wins. The Boys in Purple had two shutout performances so far with a 1-0 win over St. Louis FC in the Third Round and a 5-0 win over the Long Island Rough Riders in the Second Round respectively.

Louisville City FC comes into this match in great shape having won three out of five games in USL play. Forward Cameron Lancaster, is leading the team in the USL with six goals this season. In the tournament, they’ve had six different goal scorers with Lancaster getting one of them. Louisville City FC is currently in second place in the USL Eastern Conference (7-2-1) with 22 points and will be well-rested as the team had no games this past weekend.

The New England Revolution is coming in the US Open Cup after a huge 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls this past weekend in MLS with Teal Bunbury getting the winning goal. The Revs are currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference in MLS with a record of (6-4-4) with 22 points holding a playoff spot. Teal Bunbury is the team’s leading goal scorer with eight goals for the Revs this season.

Louisville City FC is looking at finally getting its first win against an MLS opponent in their brief Open Cup history while the Revs want to get back to the Final like they did in their 2016 run when they finished runners up losing to FC Dallas. The 2007 US Open Cup champions got to the Quarterfinals last year, falling to the New York Red Bulls, 1-0 at Harvard University after finishing with 10 men.This is the first meeting between these two teams.

Tuesday, June 5

North Carolina FC is coming into Round 4 of the 2018 US Open Cup after a dominating 4-1 win in the previous round over the Ocean City Nor’easters (PDL). NCFC also shutout Lansdowne Bhoys FC 3-0 in the Second Round of the tournament. Since Ocean City pulled off an upset over the Charlotte Independence (USL) in Round 2, NCFC has yet to play a pro team in the tournament so their first professional test will be against the three-time Open Cup champion D.C. United.

North Carolina FC’s league form has been in the middle of the pack with a 3-5-2 record. Their last time out they suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat at home against the Bethlehem Steel FC who scored a pair of goals in the final two minutes of the game to get the win over NCFC this past weekend. North Carolina FC is in 12th place in the USL Eastern Conference. Forward Daniel Rios is NCFC’s leading goal scorer in league play with five goals. Forward Mario Lomis also has two  goals in the US Open Cup for NCFC as the team has outscored their opponents 7-1 in the US Open Cup. He is also second on the team in goals for NCFC with three tallies so far in the USL this season.

D.C. United is currently dead last in the MLS Eastern Conference (2-5-3) with nine points as they enter the tournament. They will be well-rested as United had no league games this past weekend and hope to bring some grit in this game like they did in their last match in a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Los Angeles FC. Their leading goal scorer is forward Darren Mattocks with five goals in MLS this season with Midfielder Yamil Assad right behind him with three goals in league play.Making a deep run in the US Open Cup despite their poor league form is not a foreign concept for United. In 2013, they won their third US Open Cup title despite finishing as the worst team in MLS, upsetting a very talented Real Salt Lake team on the road. According to TheCup.us research, they are the worst team to lift the trophy in the 105-year history of the tournament. So, there’s always a chance.

This will be the first time North Carolina FC goes on the road in the tournament after playing their first two Open Cup games at home looking to advance in three straight games for the first time since reaching the Quarterfinals in 2014. NCFC (under the name Carolina RailHawks) are one of the more accomplished lower division teams in the tournament. They have reached the Quarterfinals three times, and they advanced to the Semifinals in their inaugural season in 2007. They have also eliminated six different MLS teams in their club history, with their last win coming in the 2014 Fifth Round against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

This is the battle of two teams that have played most of their Open Cup games at home. Out of the 31 tournament games they have played, North Carolina FC have only played four road games. They are 1-3-0 in those games. D.C. United have played 50 games in the US Open Cup and 30 of them have been played at home and they are 23-5-2 (2-0 in PKs) all-time in front of their home fans.

LIVE VIDEO (USSoccer.com)
Based on league standings and recent form, hosts Columbus Crew would seem likely to best the Chicago Fire in their Fourth Round US Open Cup matchup on Wednesday night. While the two teams traded wins in Columbus in 2018 MLS action, the Fire’s win came in an early April game 1-0, which the Crew avenged in May with a comprehensive 3-0 scoreline. Columbus is healthy and has momentum, while the Fire are struggling to recover from offseason moves and injuries that have made mincemeat of general manager Nelson Rodriguez’s three-year plan for the club’s reconstruction.

While the specter of a move to Austin under the leadership of owner Anthony Precourt looms over the Crew’s 2018 season, the team’s performance has been positive during the first half of 2018. Columbus recently saw the return of talismanic Argentinian central defender Gaston Sauro, whose support of the team never wavered during his 18-month absence even as his posterior knee ligament recovery floundered. While the team has been anticipating his return which finally happened against Kansas City on May 27, they sit third in the Eastern Conference as of June 3 with a 15-7-3 record overall. Columbus also boasts a 5-1-2 home record and enters their Open Cup matchup with Chicago unbeaten since a mid-April away loss to D.C. United. The Crew are 4-0-4 since then, with ties away against Western Conference powerhouse Sporting Kansas City and at home against last year’s MLS Cup winner Toronto FC during the past two weeks. While Gyasi Zardes sits third in the Golden Boot standings on nine goals and Fernando Higuain is 3rd place in assists (tied with 6 others players) with six helpers on the season, Columbus’ strength is in the back. Before the Toronto game Columbus led the league in goals conceded with 9. At that time goalie Zach Steffen had a .69% goals against average, which at the time was tied for first in the league among keepers with 900 or more minutes in the net in 2018 MLS action.

Columbus has had success in the US Open Cup since their first entry in 1998, winning the tourney in 2002 and reaching the final in 1998 and 2010. Overall the Crew have a 22-15-2 (0-2 PKs) record in US Open Cup play and a home record of 14-6-1. Since their runner-up finish in 2010, however, they are 4-7 in USOC play, with three losses in the Fourth Round, all to lower-division opponents. During that time they have accumulated a 3-3 home record. They have never played an MLS team before the Round of 16 prior to this year’s matchup with the Fire.

While Crew fans curse owner Precourt for threatening to move the Crew from Columbus after 22 years in MLS, Fire fans have had plenty to complain about under owner Andrew Hauptmann since he took over in 2008. Signing 2014 German Word Cup captain Bastian Schweinsteiger in 2017 seemed to indicate a slight loosening of Hauptmann’s purse strings, but the team under Rodriguez failed to make any signature signings heading into the 2018 season in spite of injuries to offensive midfielder Michael DeLeeuw, defender Matt Polster, and local prodigy Djordje Mihailovic, a budding midfield creator. The Fire sit on a record of 5-7-2 (2-3-1 away), with a minus-5 goal differential and a 3-4 record since the beginning of May.

Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic has seen his production ebb as a result of flagging midfield service, though offseason acquisition Alan Gordon has netted three times in three games prior to the Fire’s Open Cup opener. At 36 years old, Gordon is best as a supersub, but given the seven injuries to Chicago’s lineup, including midfield engine Dax McCarty, he may see his time stretched to cover the holes. Schweinsteiger has a fluid role and has played this season everywhere from central defense to offensive midfield, sometimes within a single game. Defensively the Fire have struggled to establish continuity, switching from ‘keeper Richard Sanchez to Patrick McClain in mid-May, only to see McClain go down against San Jose on June 2nd with no word on his availability vs Columbus.

If Columbus fans are encouraged and Fire fans are discouraged by the teams’ 2018 MLS results, their attitudes will change after considering USOC form.

There’s no question that the Fire are the more successful of the two teams in the Open Cup with a 40-14-5 (3-2 PKs) record overall, having reached the semifinal round 11 out of 17 times and the final six times. The Fire have won the Dewar Cup four times, in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006. The team takes the tournament very seriously and since 2010 has reached the semifinals four times (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016) and were runners up in 2011. The most notable recent blemish in their record was a loss in 2012 to the PDL’s Michigan Bucks.

In head-to-head USOC action, the Fire have a distinct advantage, leading the series 5-0 since the two teams first met in the final of the 1998 edition – a 2-1 Fire win at Soldier Field. In fact, the Crew are the Fire’s most frequent foe in US Open Cup action, and suffer from the greatest goal differential (minus-7 on 15 Fire and 8 Crew goals) among all 36 historic USOC opponents. This is the second most common Open Cup matchup in the Modern Era.

Crew fans can take some cold comfort in knowing that there has never been a shutout in series history, and four of the six games have been decided in extra time (none in penalties). Given that this could be the last meeting of the two teams in Columbus, history suggests that fans of both sides can look forward to a goal, and maybe more, in this classic USOC matchup.

LIVE VIDEO (USSoccer.com)
The Cup has not been kind to New York City FC in the club’s brief history with the team crashing out in the first game in each of its first three years. They lost to the New York Cosmos in the first two years and then last year to the New York Red Bulls. Patrick Vieira will try to turn that streak around with a new revamped team this year. Red Bulls have faired better in past seasons making the Final of the tournament on two occasions (2000, 2017) but never winning the whole thing. They have the motivation to move forward again this year and try to improve on last years successes.Both teams are in excellent form in MLS. NYCFC sit second in the Eastern conference and can jump into first this weekend with a win over top place Atlanta.

Red Bulls are currently in fourth place but have several games in hand against the other teams because of the CONCACAF Champions run earlier this season.This should be a very entertaining match up with both sides having players to watch. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi has been red hot this season for NYCFC scoring a brace against Orlando this last weekend. Look for Vieira to play youngster Jonathan Lewis as part of the rotation for the Open Cup as well. Lewis has not seen much playing time this season but looked hungry and very talented off the bench this last weekend. If you throw David Villa into the mix then NYCFC will be quite formidable indeed.Don’t look for Marsch to pull his line up for this game either. Bradley Wright Phillips is one of the most prolific strikers in the league and the new addition of Kaku has paid off in spades for the club. Both are dangerous and very talented on the attack and have been combining well in recent weeks.

Make no mistake this game is a rivalry match. The last meeting at Red Bull Arena was all red. Marsch’s squad put up four goals against an NYCFC team that looked out of sorts and surprised from the first minute. Alexander Ring said “After the result in the last game, we don’t need any motivation.”

NYCFC have something to prove with this game to themselves and to fans. Don’t look for them to back off or not come ready to play. Both teams see this match as another derby game.

There is no love lost between these two teams or their fans. This is a battle for NYC and bragging rights. It is a chance for NYCFC to regain some dignity after the last lopsided loss. Both teams may rest some players, but make no mistake the people coming off the bench will be ready to play and prove themselves. Both teams want to win not just to advance in the Cup but also to be able to gloat to rival New Yorkers. It will be a battle from start to finish.

LIVE VIDEO (USSoccer.com)
Of the three open division sides to advance to Round 4 of the 2018 Open Cup, only Miami United FC of the NPSL will have the honor to host an MLS team in Orlando City SC.

This will be the first meeting between the two sides. Orlando will travel to Miami looking to turn around a four-match losing streak in MLS, while Miami currently sit atop the NPSL Sunshine Conference Division. Miami are on their best Open Cup run in their short history, having ousted local side FC Kendall and pro sides from the NPSL (and former NASL teams) Jacksonville Armada and Miami FC 2 on their journey to the MLS round.

Orlando have been entering this tournament since their Austin Aztex days in 2009 and have reached the Quarterfinals twice (2013, 2015). History is on the side of Orlando as they have never lost to an open division team in team history (8-0-0).Leading the way for Miami will be their No. 10 David Ochoa, currently the leading scorer in the 2018 tournament with five goals, including this beauty from Round 1.

MLS rookie Chris Mueller will likely feature for Orlando. The winger has quickly become a fan favorite, having netted three goals and three assists in league play.Also of note, Orlando players PC and Stefano Pinho were both acquired by the club from Miami FC after having scored game-winning goals against the Lions in the 2016 and 2017 tournaments, respectively. Miami United FC will be hoping for a sellout crowd of 10,000 at Ted Hendricks Stadium.

LIVE VIDEO (USSoccer.com)
The Charleston Battery will be out to punch their ticket to the US Open Cup’s Round of 16 on Wednesday. They’ll need to knock off one of MLS’ top sides to make that happen. Charleston will visit Atlanta United for the second straight year in a US Open Cup Fourth Round matchup in Kennesaw, Ga. Atlanta will open their portion of the competition this week, along with the 19 other US-based MLS teams.

The Battery – a former USL affiliate of Atlanta United – kicked off their USOC run with a 1-0 victory over PDL side South Georgia Tormenta FC on May 16 before another 1-0 result against the NPSL’s Elm City Express a week later. They currently sit at 20 points, three points clear of USL Eastern Conference leader Louisville City FC, and are unbeaten in its last 11 matches across all competitions. Ataullah Guerra is tied for second in the USL in scoring with seven goals, while Atlanta loanee Gordon Wild (three league goals) should feature in the attack.Charleston are one of the top lower division teams in the US Open Cup’s Modern Era. No lower division team has more appearances in the Quarterfinals (six), and they, along with the Rochester Rhinos, have three Semifinal appearances. The Battery are the only lower division team not named “Rhinos” to reach an Open Cup Final. They lost 2-1 to D.C. United at RFK Stadium back in 2008.

Atlanta United are coming off a 3-1 victory against the Philadelphia Union in a match that saw a pair of Philadelphia players sent off in the opening 20 minutes. Thanks to a Josef Martinez hat trick, his record-tying fifth of his career, Atlanta maintained its spot atop of the MLS’ Supporter Shield standings with 29 points despite a relatively uneven performance considering the circumstances. Martinez currently leads MLS with 12 goals – three clear of the New York Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips – while Miguel Almiron is tied with five other players for third in the league with six assists.

Last season, Atlanta topped Charleston 3-2 in a comeback win during the Fourth Round of the US Open Cup. Atlanta would fall in their Round of 16 match that followed, as they were upset 3-2 in extra time by Miami FC of the NASL. The two sides also met in the Battery’s annual preseason Carolinas Challenge Cup in February and played to a scoreless draw.

LIVE VIDEO (USSoccer.com)
The Clerical Error Clasico will help kick off the second night of US Open Cup Fourth Round action as Minnesota United FC travels to Nippert Stadium to take on the newest members of the Major League Soccer family, FC Cincinnati.

While having the match-up in Cincinnati a week after MLS announced that they would be joining in 2019 seems like fantastic planning, it almost never came to be. Due to a clerical error on the part of US Soccer, Minnesota was originally supposed to host to match. There’s only one issue with that: The Loons management never asked to host a Fourth Round match but instead had asked to host a Fifth or a Quarterfinal match at TCF Bank Stadium. US Soccer reviewed the original application and made the adjustment, giving the hosting rights to FC Cincinnati.

This will be the first meeting between the two sides and really the first time that many of these players have ever played with or against one another. Cincinnati winger Lance Laing played for Minnesota in their final season in the NASL in 2016. Other than that it is very much a blank slate which should make for an interesting Cup match. Historically speaking, Cincinnati may feel like they have the edge, with their well-documented Cup run to the Semifinals last season. Minnesota have never advanced beyond the Fourth Round dating back to their time as the Minnesota Stars in the D2 Pro league.Current results also tend to favor Cincinnati. Head coach Alan Koch currently has the USL side in first place in the Eastern Conference (7-2-3, 24 points) and coming off of a 2-1 win on Saturday over New York Red Bulls II. While they lead the Conference in goals (22) it is not one particular player that is scoring more than any other. Their leading goalscorers are Danni Konig and Emmanuel Ledesma, each with five. Ledesma and fellow midfielder Richie Ryan like to hold possession for long stretches and to use a variety of teammates when creating attacking chances. That gave the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC immense problems in their 3-1 loss in the last round of the Cup. Look for Koch to employ a similar strategy against a Minnesota side that will be without Francisco Calvo who is currently in training with Costa Rica for the 2018 World Cup.

Minnesota, meanwhile, are currently in ninth place in MLS’ Western Conference standings (5-7-1, 16 points) coming off of a two game stretch in which they have secured four points in their last three matches. Although they did lose to Sporting Kansas City 3-1 on Sunday they did hold their own against After an incredibly challenging 2017 season, head coach Adrian Heath has The Loons playing at least more with consistency this season. The addition of Darwin Quintero has helped as well. Since joining the club in March from America of Mexico the Ecuadorean international has scored three goals and helped give Christian Ramirez and Miguel Ibarra the chance to rekindle their famous partnership that saw them win silverware in the NASL. Cincinnati has struggled a bit on the defensive front, allowing 16 goals. If Ibarra can find space to create chances for Quintero and Ramirez deep inside Cincy territory they might just get their first Open Cup win.

One other small note: Minnesota midfielder Maximiano was sent off in Sunday’s match. Barring a quick appeal process from the MLS Disciplinary Committee he will likely be out for Saturday’s match. However he is available for Wednesday’s match against Cincinnati.

LIVE VIDEO (USSoccer.com)
In two years, these teams will meet each other in the depths of the MLS regular season. But first, they meet for the first time ever in their Fourth Round tilt on Wednesday in Tennessee. Nashville has taken care of business in their maiden Open Cup voyage, dispatching amateur sides Inter Nashville FC and Mississippi Brilla 2-0 and 3-1, respectively. They’ll be hosting a Rapids side looking for their first Open Cup quarterfinal berth since 2006.

While the Rapids were recently good enough to qualify for CONCACAF Champions’ League (in which they lost a two-leg series to Toronto FC this past February), they’ve fallen on some hard times in MLS, finishing second-to-last in the Western Conference in 2017 and managing a mere eight points from 12 games so far in 2018.As far as the Open Cup goes, the Rapids have struggled since their best finish in 1999. Colorado advanced to the championship game in 1999, famously falling to the Rochester Raging Rhinos of the A-League as they became the first non-MLS team to win the tournament since 1996. Since that loss in the 1999 Final, the Rapids have not won multiple games in a single tournament and they have been eliminated six times by lower division competition. Their streak of 14 consecutive tournaments without multiple wins is an unfortunate Modern Era record. They actually have a losing record against Division 2 pro teams (6-7-0).They have defeated USL teams in their opening match in each of the last three years, only to be eliminated by a Texas-based MLS team in the following round (Houston Dynamo in 2015, FC Dallas in 2016, 2017).

With MLS on the horizon, Nashville has assembled a team largely composed of hopefuls for the next level and it has showed. They are fifth in the league in points per game in the 16-team USL Eastern Conference. Powered by Red Bulls Academy product Brandon Allen and backstopped by MLS veteran Matt Pickens, Nashville arguably already has a similar level of talent as the Rapids without taking into account if the latter will bring a reserve squad.

Colorado last won a major trophy in 2010, when they beat FC Dallas in extra time to win the last neutral-site MLS Cup. Pickens and midfielder Kosuke Kimura, both now starters for Nashville, played 120 minutes in that MLS Cup, with Pickens making a crucial first-minute save.

Another fun fact about this match is that this is the first time a MLS team has played a game in Tennessee since 1998 when the Nashville Metros upset the Kansas City Wizards (Sporting KC) in the Third Round.

LIVE VIDEO (USSoccer.com)
Before this year, the Rayados were first-round mainstays, having qualified for seven straight tournament but only once playing more than one game (2014, where they took out the Austin Aztex in penalties before falling to the San Antonio Scorpions). Needless to say, 2018 has been different. After dispatching DFW neighbors Fort Worth Vaqueros, the Rayados took the OKC Energy to extra time before pouring it on and winning 5-2. NTX then took out FC Wichita (NPSL), who had just upset a USL team of their own in the previous round.

Now the Rayados face their biggest challenge: A road game against the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer.

The Rayados are just the seventh local open division team (non-PDL, non-NPSL) to reach the Fourth Round and they have gotten there largely with the help of their super sub Christian Okeke. Okeke has scored the game-winning goal in every win by NTX Rayados during this Open Cup run. He scored the game-winning goal in the 115th minute against the Vaqueros in Round 1 and earned TheCup.us Player of the Round honors for scoring the 90th minute equalizer and the game-winning goal in extra time against OKC Energy. Okeke scored his fourth goal of the tournament in the 86th minute in the win over FC Wichita.

Though they’ve been to MLS Cup four times and won it twice, the Dynamo have never made it to the US Open Cup Final. With CONCACAF Champions League qualification limited to just MLS Cup and the Open Cup this year and Houston on a relative upswing, the Dynamo will hope to break that streak behind their electric Honduran attacking duo of Alberth Elis and Mauro Manotas. The Dynamo are sitting middle of the table in the MLS Western Conference with a 5-5-3 record. They have lost their last two games — both on the road — against Real Salt Lake and last weekend against the Montreal Impact, 1-0.The Dynamo reached the Round of 16 last year, but lost to the eventual champions Sporting Kansas City 2-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium.

The Dynamo have reached the Semifinals twice (2006, 2009) but haven’t reached beyond the Quarterfinals since 2009. A more regional draw hasn’t helped with the variety of Houston’s opponents in recent years. Over the last five years, they have been eliminated by FC Dallas three times, and Sporting Kansas City twice. This will be the first meeting against an amateur team for the Dynamo since they defeated the Laredo Heat (PDL) in the 2014 Fourth Round. They have never lost to an amateur team (3-0-0).

LIVE VIDEO (USSoccer.com)
Wednesday night will see the first-ever meeting between Texas neighbors (a very relative term in this case) San Antonio FC and FC Dallas. San Antonio’s path to the Fourth Round started even deeper in the heart of Texas, where they routed the Midland-Odessa Sockers 4-0. They then returned home to take out fellow USL Western Conferencer Colorado Springs in penalties. On Wednesday night, SAFC will hope to advance further in the Open Cup than they have in their first three years of existence.

Meanwhile, San Antonio is off to a relatively middling start to the USL season. They’re straddling the playoff line through 12 games (4-3-5) after earning the No. 2 seed in last year’s USL Western Conference playoffs. In their last game, they defeated the Portland Timbers 2 by the score of 2-1 to snap a three-game winless streak (0-1-2).

After a 2016 that saw them snap a 19-year trophy drought with a US Open Cup title and winning the Supporters’ Shield, FC Dallas was in the hunt for a Supporters’ Shield but went into a massive and inexplicable tailspin in the second half of 2017, and missed out on the playoffs entirely. That seems to be firmly in the rear-view mirror now, as FC Dallas currently sits second in the MLS Western Conference as the league’s lone one-loss team (7-1-5). They are currently in the midst of a six-game unbeaten streak (4-0-2).

The two-time champion FC Dallas are one of the most successful teams in the Modern Era of the US Open Cup. They have reached the Final four times (1997, 2005, 2007, 2016), and no team in the history of the tournament has more Quarterfinal appearances (16) and only three teams have more Semifinal appearances than FC Dallas’ nine.

LIVE VIDEO (USSoccer.com)
Sporting Kansas City’s quest to defend their 2017 Open Cup title starts in Salt Lake. With Real Salt Lake having joined MLS in 2005, the two Western Conference franchises have nearly split in their all-time regular season meetings, with SKC taking one more W at 8-7-5. Their first and only meeting in the Open Cup came in 2015 when Kansas City topped RSL 3-1 in the Semifinal before going on to beat the Philadelphia Union in the Final.

After that 2015 loss, RSL won a penalty kick shootout against the Wilmington Hammerheads (USL) and then lost a PK shootout against the Seattle Sounders before losing 4-1 against the Sacramento Republic in their opening match last year. Since penalty kick shootouts are officially listed as draws, they bring a four-game winless streak into this year’s tournament.Sporting has seen much more success in the historic tournament, having lifted the cup a total of four times (2004, 2012, 2015, 2017). RSL came close during in the 2013 Open Cup (the 100th edition of the tournament), when they lost 1-0 at home to D.C. United.  Two months later, RSL would fall to Sporting KC in the MLS Cup Final after 10 rounds of penalties.

The one to watch for Sporting Kansas City will be 21-year-old striker Daniel Salloi. The Homegrown Hungarian finished the 2017 tournament tied for fourth on goals scored, including the game-winner in the Final. Wednesday’s match could also see brothers Matt Besler, of SKC, and Nick Besler, of RSL, face off against one another.  It would mark the first time the two face each other in a competitive match at any level.

This will be a battle of two of the top teams in the MLS Western Conference as Sporting Kansas City holds the second-best record in the entire league (8-2-4). Real Salt Lake is in third place (7-6-1), six points behind Kansas City. Sporting defeated Minnesota United 4-1 last Sunday to extend the club’s unbeaten streak to five games (3-0-2). RSL is on a hot streak of their own after defeating the Seattle Sounders 2-0 to extend their winning streak to three games.

LIVE VIDEO (USSoccer.com)
This match up pits two expansion sides against each other as the Fresno Foxes from the USL travels to first-year MLS side Los Angeles FC.

Fresno FC survived a scare in Round 3 to earn the right to play a MLS side in the Fourth Round. The Foxes needed extra time to knock off UPSL underdogs Sporting AZ FC by the score of 2-1 after falling behind 1-0 in the 66th minute. They also pushed it to extra time in Round 2 to get past NPSL side Orange County FC. Fresno has been led, to this point, in Open Cup play by Renato Bustamante, who has scored in each overtime for the club.

The Foxes currently sit in 11th place in the 17-team USL Western Conference standings and are coming off a 4-0 thumping of the Seattle Sounders II in league play over the weekend.Their opponents, LAFC, have made a big splash in their inaugural MLS campaign. The club is led by head coach Bob Bradley who is no stranger to the Open Cup. Bradley has twice won this tournament both in 1998 and in 2000 with the Chicago Fire. When he won the Cup with Chicago in 1998 they were an expansion side much like his current LAFC team. He is assisted by Ante Razov, who has lifted the Cup three times as a player, as well as Marc Dos Santos, who has managed his share of lower league sides through the tournament, and knows the USL well.

LAFC is currently riding high in fourth place in the MLS Western Conference standings even though they are coming off a tough 2-1 loss to Dallas at the weekend. The club will also be without a handful of players who have already left for the World Cup.

LIVE VIDEO (USSoccer.com)
FC Golden State Force has been one of the top stories of the 2018 US Open Cup Tournament so far. The PDL side from Whittier, Calif. earned the right to play the Los Angeles Galaxy after upsetting two USL teams in the last two rounds. After getting by the LA Wolves in Round 1, the Force knocked off Orange County Soccer Club in the Second Round by a score of 4-2 before going on to a 2-1 upset of the Las Vegas Lights in Round 3.Allisson Faramillo has led the Force. He was named TheCup.us Player of the Round after scoring two goals in the win over Las Vegas. The Brazilian has scored at least one goal in all three rounds so far and is tied for second in the tournament with four goals.The Force currently sit a top the PDL’s Southwest Conference, dominating most of their league opponents, including a 3-0 win over the Santa Cruz Breakers this past Sunday. This is Golden State’s second trip to the US Open Cup as they reached the Second Round last season where they fell to Orange County SC.The Force will now get to face off against one of the more successful teams in the US Open Cup’s Modern Era.

Their opponent, the five-time MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy, have twice won the US Open Cup, but haven’t lifted the trophy since 2005. Since then, the Galaxy have struggled to find consistency in this tournament, having been knocked off by lower league opponents on more than one occasion. They also received a scare from amateur side La Maquina in 2016 before winning that Fourth Round match in extra time. Last season, the Galaxy reached the Quarterfinals before being knocked out by their rivals from Northern California, the San Jose Earthquakes. The Galaxy have struggled to start this season as they currently sit in eighth place in the MLS Western Conference standings following a 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers this past weekend.

With a tough start to the league season, their biggest headline has been the signing of international sensation Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It’s unlikely that Ibrahimovic will play against the amateur side, but this is Zlatan we’re talking about and he’s very tough to predict.

LIVE VIDEO (USSoccer.com)
The San Jose Earthquakes and the Portland Timbers are two MLS sides that have not had the best success when it comes to Open Cup performance, as neither side has ever been able to reach the Final of the Tournament.The Earthquakes tied their best US Open Cup performance last season as they reached the Semifinals of the US Open Cup before falling on penalty kicks to the eventual champions, Sporting Kansas City. The Quakes have reached the Semifinal on one other occasion back in 2004, but have really struggled for results in the Cup since then. They did not qualify four times (2008-11) and only reached the Quarterfinals twice during that span.

San Jose has gotten off to a really slow start in league play this season under new head coach Mikael Stahre, as they currently sit in 10th place in the MLS Western Conference with just nine points through 13 matches. This includes a 2-1 loss this past weekend to the Chicago Fire.The Timbers boasts one of the best fan bases in the league that would surely like to add a US Open Cup to their trophy cabinet. The Timbers have been competing in the tournament since they made their debut in 2004 as an A-League (USL) team. Their best run in the Cup came in 2013 when they reached the Semifinal before falling on the road to Real Salt Lake, 2-1. Outside of that run to the final four, only three of their 13 Open Cup appearances have seen them win multiple games in a single competition.

Last season, their Cascadia rivals from Seattle bounced the Timbers out of the tournament in the Fourth Round by a score of 2-1. The club has had a decent start to their MLS campaign with new head coach Giovanni Savarese who has some experience in the Open Cup with the New York Cosmos where he upset multiple MLS clubs as coach in New York. The Timbers currently sit in fifth place in the MLS Western Conference after coming off of a 1-1 home draw with the LA Galaxy this past weekend.

LIVE VIDEO (USSoccer.com)
The Seattle Sounders will begin another attempt to tie the all-time record with a fifth US Open Cup title as they travel away to USL West Coast powerhouse, Sacramento Republic.The last time the Republic hosted a MLS side in the Open Cup they knocked off Real Salt Lake in a dominant 4-1 victory last season. In the following round, the LA Galaxy knocked Sacramento out of the competition, causing Sacramento to leave their best Open Cup run in the Fifth Round.The Republic reached the Fourth Round of this year’s competition by first dispatching PDL side San Francisco City FC In Round 2 before traveling to Nevada to knock out Reno 1868 FC in the Third Round, 1-0.Currently, Sacramento is off to a strong start in league play as they sit in third place in the USL’s Western Conference behind Phoenix on goal differential. They have won four of their last five games after defeating Orange County SC, 1-0 last Saturday.

The Sounders have a rich history in the US Open Cup dating back to their USL days. They reached the Semifinals in 2007 and 2008 before joining MLS and winning three straight tournaments from 2009-11. They lost in the 2012 Final to Sporting Kansas City in penalty kicks and after their first one-and-done experience in 2013, they came back to win the 2014 tournament over the Philadelphia Union in extra time. The Sounders always take the Open Cup seriously and with great pride.

The reigning MLS Western Conference champions have had a really slow start to the MLS season however as they currently sit in 11th place in the Western Conference table, only eight points ahead of last place Colorado on goal differential. The team’s problems this season are from their inability to score as they currently have found the back of the net on just seven occasions through 11 games. They most recently were shut out once again by Real Salt Lake this past weekend by a score of 2-0. They could use a good Open Cup run to give them some momentum to help them out of the bottom of the league.