Monday, June 24, 2013

Orlando, Raleigh Have Chance to Impress in US Open Cup

The quarterfinals of the US Open Cup have two underdogs left.

The Carolina Railhawks, of the Division 2-NASL, and Orlando City of Division 3-USL Pro, will try to win Wednesday night to move forward to the semifinals in the 100th edition of the U.S. Open Cup, one of the oldest Soccer tournaments in the world.

Of course, there is plenty on the line in this championship.  There is the automatic berth to play CONCACAF Champions League in 2014 and the prestige of being crowned the champs of all pro and amateur Soccer teams in the U.S.

Since the inception of MLS in 1996, only one outsider to MLS has won the tournament.  It was the Rochester Rhinos of 1999.  Two other times, minor league teams were in the final.  Rochester lost in '96 and the Charleston Battery lost in '08.

There are a couple of other reasons that advancing will mean so much to Raleigh and Orlando fans.  It has already been decided that if they win, they will host each of the semis.  They are on the other side of the bracket from each other.

And, then, there is the elephant in the room.  By winning it all, Raleigh and Orlando can really stake claim for an invitation from MLS to become a new franchise in the league.

MLS has no teams in the Southeast part of the U.S. and wants a presence there.  Both cities, Orlando and Raleigh, are capable of putting together substantial marketing promotions to brand a successful pro team.  Orlando has its one franchise in the NBA.  Raleigh has its one in the NHL.

Miami, Tampa and Atlanta would want their say about the prospects of becoming a First Division team (MLS).  But, they are not the ones left standing in the quarterfinals of this year's U.S. Open Cup and can't prove their skill any longer on the pitch/field.

Orlando has not made any secrets about its wishes to become part of MLS.  Carolina has not been as vocal from its front office, but with its stadium already expanded to accomodate more than 15,000 fans, the idea of jumping to MLS would definitely gain more traction by winning the U.S. Open Cup.

Here's to the underdogs, the minor leagues, the guys looking for their breaks, working relentlessly to get noticed.  Two teams looking for respect and one championship forever to be remembered.

In a century old tournament, is this the year for another unlikely team to step up and win it all?

There are six MLS teams left ready to rebuke any kind of darkhorse theory.

No comments:

Post a Comment