1. No Ties
This is a single-elimination tournament. If it’s all tied up after 90 minutes, we get 30 minutes of extra time. If that doesn’t break the deadlock, we’ll witness the second penalty shootout in the team’s history!
2. It’s the Most Democratic Tournament
99 teams will play 67 matches to determine who gets the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Trophy. 28 of those clubs weren’t even professional clubs — I used past tense because they’ve already been eliminated at this point in the competition, but 8 pro minor league teams are still alive in the 4th round.
Though this is Austin FC’s first game in the 2023 edition, we’re already in the Round of 32 because the best 8 MLS teams in 2022 get to skip the opening rounds.
3. Money Buys Power
Besides what I wrote in point two, there’s another key bit of evidence showing that this wholly democratic affair is also hugely impacted by economics — the last time a minor league team won the US Open Cup was in 1999. That year the Rochester Raging Rhinos became the first (and last) non-MLS team to win it all since the league began in 1996.
This competition has all the potential to produce Cinderella stories like the NCAA Basketball Tournament or the FA Cup, but the last 27 years have shown that the economic disparities are tough to overcome. Good old-fashioned American capitalism at its finest!
4. SALE SALE SALE!!!
What’s more American than getting a great deal?!
Well, if you’re like any other red-blooded American who loves getting 50% discounts, this is the soccer match for you. As of this writing, it’s still possible to find 66 listings on SeatGeek for tickets under $25. That’s a steal for an Austin FC home match! If you’re a first-timer, you could use the code below and almost get into to Q2 Stadium for free!
Save money on single match tickets through Austin FC’s official ticketing partner SeatGeek by using code CAPCITYSOCCER for $20 off your first purchase.
Austin FC Specific Notes
Wednesday night’s contest will be historic. It’s the first US Open Cup match ever played at Q2 Stadium. But it’s not our first time in the tournament… As much as most fans would like to forget about our 2022 loss to our neighbors to the south, San Antonio FC. Hopefully, that bitter defeat will make Austin mindful and respectful when facing this year’s minor league squad from neighboring New Mexico.
Historically, most MLS squads have felt it wise to rest their starters in these midweek games, hoping their talent disparity will win the day. However, this year, three MLS sides have already been ousted from the Open Cup — San Jose, Atlanta, and New England have already experienced the same shame that Austin FC did last year.
Austin FC should have no reason to underestimate New Mexico United. After listening to Brad Stuver in yesterday’s pregame presser, it doesn’t sound like they will:
“New Mexico, they’re a good USL team. They’re a team that are coming here hungry. I’ve played in Open Cup games before, they’re always spirited. They’re always difficult because it is a quick tournament. Like Josh said, you win 3 or 4 games and you’re in the final… Every team that comes into this puts in a lot of effort. It’s going to be a difficult game for us.”
Tricky Roster Decisions Ahead
Even though the Verde will be taking this tournament seriously, predicting the lineup will be near impossible.
There’s going to be a shuffled lineup no matter what due to the fact that we’re missing four starters. Thankfully, defender Julio Cascante is back after being injured for two months; but Owen Wolff’s out repping the U.S. in Argentina for the U-20 World Cup, and Driussi, Fagúndez, and Kolmanic will be out due to injury.
On top of that, this game is sandwiched between the road draw to Portland 4 days ago and a home match against our bitter rivals FC Frisco in three days (a must-win game in any other season, but this year it doesn’t count for the Copa Tejas).
It poses a great opportunity for some of our younger players to get first team action. But, it sounds like Coach Josh Wolff wants to use this game to help our beleaguered strikers get off the schneid. Yesterday Wolff said this when asked if we should expect to see any ATXFC II forwards:
“I think our 3 forwards have about 200 goals between them. I expect them to start scoring goals.”
Hopefully, he’s right, and this encounter with a minor league team will turn into the kind of goal-fest we’ve all remembered fondly from 2022, which we’ve also sorely missed so far this year.