US Soccer hosted the round of 32 draw of this year’s US Open Cup today. The third round of the tournament ended last night with 24 ascending teams joined by the final eight MLS teams, all of whom received byes for their 2021 placement. The 32 teams were geographically divided into eight groups of four, with teams that were geographically mismatched being randomly drawn.
Many Sporting Kansas City fans were intrigued by the idea of teaming with USL-1 champion Union Omaha after beating the Chicago Fire on penalties Tuesday night. Unfortunately, when the pods came out last night, Kansas City was not grouped with the team closest to them geographically, but was sent to the South Central Pod to join the three Texas teams that were advancing, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo and San Antonio F.C.
In the draw, which was conducted on US Soccer’s website and YouTube page, two Inter Miami fans first drew envelopes to see who would host the two games in each pod, and then to see , against whom each host would play. All four teams in the Kansas City pod have applied to host games. Dynamo was drawn first into the first host slot, while Kansas City was drawn into the second home slot. The next opened envelope decided Dynamo’s opponents for the round, who showed up with USL championship team San Antonio and left Kansas City to welcome fellow MLS team Dallas.
The game will be held at Children’s Mercy Park on Tuesday May 10th. It’s the second time Kansas City has hosted Dallas in a matter of weeks as the two teams will play in the league in Kansas City on April 30th. The game falls between trips to the Kansas City coast as Sporting will travel to Citi Field to take on defending MLS Cup champions New York City FC the weekend before the game. The weekend following this round of the Open Cup, Sporting will travel to Providence Park to take on the Portland Timbers. Followed by a midweek game against the Colorado Rapids in KC.
It’s a frustrating tie for Kansas City in the sense that it’s another game against a team that Sporting and their fans regularly see in league games. Part of the “magic” of the US Open Cup is that any team in the US can enter the tournament to potentially qualify, and your team has a chance to play against teams they don’t normally play against.
Unfortunately, the tournament hasn’t really worked for Kansas City in recent years. This is Kansas City’s 17th game in the tournament since the 2015 US Open Cup (six actual tournaments after the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 tournaments). In those 17 games, only two of them were against teams outside of MLS. The draw against FC Dallas in the Round of 32 this year marks the eleventh straight game Kansas City will face their MLS rivals in the tournament. The last time KC played a non-MLS team in the tournament was on June 15, 2016 in a fourth round game against Minnesota United in their final season in the NASL before their jump to MLS. Before that it was St. Louis FC on June 16, 2015.
Obviously the stats will trend towards more MLS teams as Kansas City has won the tournament twice in this series of games and as you get further into the tournament the chances of teams coming from lower leagues become less likely but for so long without a “new” opponent is frustrating.
The other frustrating thing about the draw is its regional nature, with Kansas City having only three teams in over 50 percent of their Open Cup games during that time. Today’s draw sees Kansas City meet FC Dallas for the fourth time in that 17-game streak, four times against Houston Dynamo and three times against Minnesota United (both MLS and NASL). Ten of Kansas City’s 17 games have been played against just three opponents. In the last 16 games of the tournament, half of them played only two teams, Dallas and Houston.
It just takes away some of the magic of the cup when your team ends up not only playing the same teams every year, but the same teams they already see in league games 2-3 times a year. If Kansas City and Omaha both advance, maybe they’ll be regrouped, and maybe then we’ll see the two regionally tight teams go head-to-head. Or more likely, if KC advances, they’ll just be reunited with Houston Dynamo or Minnesota United.