“We’re feeling the Magic of the Cup,” said Wesley Leggett, Loudoun’s two-goal hero from their Round of 32 win (out on the road in Southern California then too, against Orange County SC). “We’re always underestimated and that’s kind of a special weapon we have.”

LAFC will be ready with their own weapons. They have a veteran presence and proven scorer in Kei Kamara – who bagged the opener in the last round’s 3-1 win on the road against Las Vegas Lights.

“Open Cup games can always be weird,” said Kamara, who, at 39 is the oldest active player in MLS and an Open Cup winner from 2012 with SKC. “It’s up to us to make sure we’re focussed and not one of those teams from the top division that gets knocked off – because you see that happen all the time in the Cup.

The only game of Day One that’s not a direct tilt between teams from MLS and the USL Championship takes place in Queens, NY. Belson Stadium is the venue as New York City FC II (the lone remaining Division III combatant of MLS NEXT Pro) host USL Championship side New Mexico United.

The Albuquerque-based club that reached the Open Cup Quarterfinals in 2019 – and they look up for challenge again this year. Their 4-2 win over a Diego Luna-led Real Salt Lake in the Round of 32 is an apt indication of where their heads are.

“Open Cup games can be tricky,” said Zico Bailey, who scored twice in the upset over RSL. “We’re not the underdogs this time and the main thing is to have the mentality right. They (NYCFC II) will be younger, but you have to respect your opponent no matter what or else they can surprise you.”

Day Two (May 22nd) – Three-Game Slate

Indy Eleven host Detroit City FC in the only all-USL Championship contest of the Round. Both sides have already exceeded their best-ever previous Open Cup runs by reaching this year’s Round of 16 – and now they stand on the cusp of the rare air of a place in the Quarterfinal.

DCFC are fresh off a huge road win against MLS powers and reigning Open Cup Champions Houston Dynamo while Indy Eleven bested USL Championship mates San Antonio FC to reach this stage.

The two other games on the Round of 16’s Opening Day marquee feature USL Championship sides looking to pull off major upsets against opponents from the top-tier of MLS.

Al Lang Stadium will be the venue for the Tampa Bay Rowdies as they host 2016 Open Cup Champions FC Dallas – led by USMNT striker Jesus Ferreira and former Real Madrid man Asier Illarramendi. The converted baseball stadium, just steps from the Bay, was the site of one of the Round of 32’s most enthralling (and just plain nuts) games. The Rowdies blew a 4-0 lead in the last ten minutes of regular time but eventually won out over Birmingham Legion 6-4 thanks to a Manuel Arteaga bicycle kick in OT.

“Playing against an MLS team is a good chance for us to demonstrate our quality, but we have to stay calm and work hard to keep sight of the things we want to do,” outlined Arteaga – a sentiment shared by the Rowdies’ outstanding goalkeeper Jordan Farr: “We’ll want to impose ourselves right away and I think they’ll [FC Dallas] be impressed with the kind of game they get from us.”

Wrapping up Day One is a test out West for the four-time Open Cup-champion Seattle Sounders, who needed a dramatic penalty shootout against Division II powers Louisville City in the last round to book a place in this Round of Sixteen. Now, at their home-away-from-home up in Tukwila, Washington, the Sounders will host last year’s USL Championship toppers Phoenix Rising, who’ll be hungry to claim a first-ever place in the Open Cup Quarterfinals.

So, with the promise of excitement, thrills and spills, we invite you to join us in enjoying all the action. Be sure to watch EVERY GAME of the Round of 16 LIVE on watch.usopencup.com (US Soccer), MLSSoccer.com/usopencup-live-streams/ (MLS) or USLsoccer.com/watch (USL).

Fontela is editor-in-chief of usopencup.com. Follow him at @jonahfontela on X/Twitter.


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