Skip to content

$2 Beer Night: The US Open Cup Quarterfinals begin today

Open Cup Digest #6: Atlanta United vs Indy Eleven, Sacramento Republic vs Seattle Sounders, LAFC vs New Mexico United — is there a cupset in here?

Courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

Open Cup Digest #6

The 2024 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is back after spending more than a month away. The last eight teams remaining, which are composed of Major League Soccer and USL Championship squads, are aiming to punch their tickets to the semifinals with wins on Tuesday and Wednesday. After only one cupset in the last round, five MLS teams are still in it, which means at least one will make it to the final four.

For the first time this year, there are no competitors left from the Northeast. New York City FC II bowed out of the tournament last round after losing to New Mexico United in Queens, although the team’s first-ever Open Cup appearance came with a nice prize of $25,000 as the farthest-reaching Division III team.

Despite that lack of local interest, there are some underdogs left in this tournament. Let’s take a look at the three USLC teams left standing, and what fans can expect to see from them. If you can’t go to a game yourself, the contests will be broadcast live, for free, on Apple TV.

Atlanta United FC (MLS) vs Indy Eleven (USLC)
Tue, July 9, 7 pm ET at Fifth Third Stadium in Kennesaw, GA

If you’ve ever seen the meme of the three-headed dragon where two heads are serious and one is derpy, that is Indy Eleven. Nothing against the current team in the year of our lord 2024, but historically this run is out of left field.

This is a team that took 11 seasons to win a US Open Cup match on the road. A team that can beat a lower-league side, but struggle against members of their own league regularly in the competition, let alone higher-division ones. But 2024 has seen the squad exercise demons — while also going through hell.

In a year where Indy Eleven are having tremendous success on the field, everyone is talking about the other Indianapolis soccer team, the one that doesn’t exist yet but that might be destined to play in Major League Soccer if you listen to state and local politicians. That has put Indy Eleven’s mere existence into doubt. Follow that up with the organization’s long-planned stadium project being canceled by the city government and things are looking bad for the club.

But Indy are producing on the field. English midfielder Jack Blake leads the team with eight goals this season, and the club is averaging nearly two goals per game. The problem is the defense, which allows 1.5 goals per game. But they’re performing well in the Open Cup, where Indy’s three straight USOC clean sheets have come as a shock.

Since Indy’s last USOC win against Detroit City, the team accumulated a 4-1-1 record. Those four straight wins include performances against defending USLC Final winners Phoenix Rising FC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. However, the team’s last two games have seen a loss to Orange County and, most recently, a wild 3-3 draw against expansion side Rhode Island FC.

Prediction: Atlanta United is not having a great season. However, even a middling Rob Valentino squad can and should beat Indy. Of all the years, this is the one where I want the Eleven to get their first-ever MLS cupset. But I don’t think it will be. United win, 3-0.

All in for Eleven: Indy Ask ‘Why Not Us?’ in Landmark Open Cup Run
Division II Indy Eleven are in the midst of their best-ever run in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup – in a challenging year for both the club and the tournament.

Sacramento Republic FC (USLC) vs Seattle Sounders FC (MLS)
Tue, July 9, 11 pm ET at Heart Health Park in Sacramento, CA

Ever since reaching the 2022 US Open Cup Final, Sacramento Republic FC always seemed like they would be back. That’s a tall order in the Modern Era, when returning to the championship game in any competition is challenging. But the team from California’s capital has something special about it.

Maybe it's the Indomitable City spirit that continues to burn in them. The same fire lit a fanbase who looked ready to make the jump up to Major League Soccer with their team. The same fans who, after seeing those expansion hopes fade away, now believe in the tried and true motto: If you can’t join then, beat them.

Sacramento tends to score against opponents in open play: Of the team's 21 goals, 18 have come from simple shots taken in front of the net. The team’s top goalscorer is Trevor Amann, a former NPSL champion who made his bones in USL League One before getting his first USLC contract this year.

But offense isn’t really the team’s strong suit. Instead, the defense is where Sacramento earn their wins. The team has conceded 0.8 goals per game this season, the second-best across the USL Championship. The team’s eight clean sheets are the second-most in the league this season, all earned by goalkeeping hero Danny Vitiello between the posts.

But since the cupset win over the San Jose Earthquakes, the Republic have struggled in the USL. The team just won two games, while losing three others and earning one scoreless draw. The only consolation is that two of the losses were against top teams in the league, Oakland Roots SC and Tampa Bay Rowdies. However, this team still draw as much as they win, with seven in each column.

Prediction: Seattle has not looked great this season, nor have they looked good in this Open Cup — they needed penalty kicks to beat Louisville City FC in the Round of 32 and needed to be bailed out late against Phoenix Rising FC. Both of those games saw teams travel long distances to the Pacific Northwest. Now Seattle is on the road against a hungry Sacramento side on two-dollar beer night? The Republic will once again be unable to win in 90 minutes. But this isn’t the regular season and they’ll walk away winners eventually. This is the cupset of the round, 2-1 AET.

Kieran Phillips ‘Going for It’ as Sacramento Republic Target More Cup Magic
Sacramento Republic’s two-goal hero from the Round of 16 talks about the importance of Cup competition and the USL Championship side’s high hopes ahead of this year’s Quarterfinals

LAFC (MLS) vs New Mexico United (USLC)
Wed, July 10, 11 pm ET at BMO Stadium in Los Angeles, CA

The best team in the Western Conference of the USL Championship has a date with the best team in the Western Conference of Major League Soccer. New Mexico United is probably not well-liked by readers of this website after they beat NYCFC II to reach this point. But, looking past that, it’s hard to hate them.

This is a team whose whole identity can be traced back to the Open Cup. The team’s first run came during theinaugural 2019 season where they reached the Quarterfinals, the same place the team finds themselves now. Their dedicated fanbase sold out charter flights to go across the country then, and they are doing it again.

What NMU does well is possession-based football. Former Scottish Premiership striker Greg Hurst leads the squad with seven goals in the regular season, double that of second-place Daniel Bruce. However, even if Hurst is neutralized, the team will still hold the ball and find ways to pick the opposition apart. That’s how the team beat Real Salt Lake in the Round of 32, and how the side gained the upper hand against the Baby Blues.

If you don’t let your opponent have the ball, they can’t score on you. That’s probably why the team ranks fourth in the USL Championship in terms of average possession.

Since beating NYCFC II in the Round of 16, New Mexico has been on a slight tear, with five wins and two losses, enough to keep the team atop the USL Championship Western Conference.

Prediction: Being a damn good USL Championship team is one thing. Is it enough to topple Los Angeles FC? The fact is LAFC has a lot of offensive firepower and it's hard to see New Mexico beating that. Will it be closer than people think? Yes. But LAFC walks into the Semifinals, 3-1.

Ready, (Jet)-Set, Go for United Cinderellas New Mexico
Division II powers New Mexico United head to LA for this year’s Quarterfinals with high hopes, history – and hundreds of their devoted fans from Albuquerque on hand and hungry for a Cupset.
New York City’s history in the US Open Cup
From the disastrous results of the early years, to the magic of New York City FC II’s three (and counting) cupsets in a row, we look at every US Open Cup game played by the club.