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NYCFC to face New Jersey at Red Bull Arena in Leagues Cup Round of 32

The VAR call in the Atlas game continues to haunt New York City.

All New York City FC needed was for Toronto FC to win their match tonight against Atlas FC by three goals or more — that was the formula required for NYCFC to win the East 3 group and have home-field advantage in the Round of 32.

Instead, Toronto lost 0-1, giving the group to Atlas. In the meantime, New Jersey Red Bulls scored a thrilling stoppage time-winner over Atlético San Luis to win East 4 and earn the right to host NYCFC at Red Bull Arena in the Round of 32. The game will be held on Thursday, August 3 at 8 pm ET.

Atlas FC fined by Leagues Cup Disciplinary Committee for Nazi tweet

When pigs fly Toronto score

Truth be told, the chances of Toronto pulling off a comfortable multi-goal win were close to zero. Toronto were winless in seven games going into this match — that includes the 5-0 thumping NYCFC handed them last week in their Leagues Cup group stage game. Toronto last scored a goal June 24, and that was in a 2-1 loss to New England Revolution: There was no way this team was going to battle their way into the knockout rounds, and unintentionally come through for NYCFC.

But NYCFC can feel hard done by the order East 3 final table. New York City lost to Atlas last week after a late Justin Haak goal that would have drawn the two teams even was overturned by VAR. That call remains controversial, and gained a fair amount of international notoriety: While Atlas posted a now-infamous tweet supporting the decision by quoting Nazi reichminister Joseph Goebbels, many, including MLS pundit Andrew Wiebe, feel the goal should have stood.

A draw would have sent the game to penalty kicks, and that extra point would have decided who won the group. Instead, it was the questionable refereeing of Bryan López that delivered East 3 to Atlas.

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Home away from home

But that’s water under the George Washington Bridge: NYCFC will face Red Bulls in Harrison, NJ, after they pulled off a dramatic last-minute win over San Luis. First, Red Bulls goalkeeper Carlos Coronel saved Unai Bilbao’s poorly taken penalty in the 90+1st minute. Then, Red Bulls striker Dante Vanzeir found the back of the net one minute later on a classic New Jersey counterattack: This is a team that loves to score in transition.

The result puts Red Bulls in first place in East 4, and gives them home-field advantage. A draw and a win in the penalty shootout also would have put them in first place, but a draw and a loss in the penalty shootout would have delivered the group to New England Revolution, and sent NYCFC to play their Round of 32 match at Gillette Stadium.

A loss would have eliminated New Jersey, and sent San Luis into the next round.

But that was not to be. Instead, we’ll get the Leagues Cup Edition of the Hudson River Derby this Thursday night.

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Looking ahead

The winner of the NYCFC vs New Jersey game will face the winner of the Philadelphia Union vs DC United game, which will also be held on Thursday, August 3.

Home-field advantage for the Round of 16 and all subsequent knockout rounds will be decided by the tournament seeding, which is based on the 2022 table. Because Philadelphia won the Eastern Conference last year and came in second place in the Supporters’ Shield, they have home-field advantage over every team except for LAFC.

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