US Soccer today hosted the draw for the round of 32 of this year’s US Open Cup. The third round of the tournament concluded last night with 24 teams advancing being joined by the final eight MLS teams, who all received byes because of their 2021 finish. The 32 teams were grouped into eight pods of four based on geography with a blind draw being held for the teams that did not fit geographically.
Many Sporting Kansas City fans were intrigued by the idea of being grouped with USL-1 Champions, Union Omaha after they knocked out the Chicago Fire on penalty kicks on Tuesday night. Unfortunately when the pods came out last night, Kansas City did not get grouped with the team closest to them geographically, instead getting sent to the South Central pod, joining the three Texas teams that advanced, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, and San Antonio FC.
The draw, conducted on US Soccer’s site and YouTube page saw a pair of Inter Miami fans draw envelops first to see who would be the hosts for the two games in each pod, then see who each host would play. All four teams in Kansas City’s pod put in bids to host games. The Dynamo were drawn first into the first host slot, with Kansas City being drawn into the second home slot. The next envelop opened decided the Dynamo’s opponent for the round, which came up with the USL Championship side, San Antonio, leaving Kansas City to host fellow MLS side FC Dallas.
The game will take place on either Tuesday, May 10th at Children’s Mercy Park. It’ll be the second time Kansas City will host Dallas in a matter of weeks as the two teams will play in Kansas City on April 30th in league play. The game will fall between a pair of trips to the coasts for Kansas City as the weekend before the game Sporting will be headed to Citi Field to take on the defending MLS Cup Champions, New York City FC. The weekend after this round of the Open Cup will see Sporting 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 draw for Kansas City in a sense that it’s another game against a team that Sporting and their fans regularly see in league play. 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 the chance to play teams that they don’t normally play.
Unfortunately that’s not really how the tournament has worked for Kansas City over the past number of years. Since the 2015 US Open Cup (six actual tournaments after the cancelation of the 2020 and 2021 tournaments), this will be Kansas City’s 17 game in the tournament. In those 17 games, just two of them have been against teams outside of MLS. Being drawn against FC Dallas in the round of 32 this year is the 11th straight game Kansas City will play against MLS competition in the tournament. The last time KC played a non-MLS team in the tournament was on June 15th, 2016 in a fourth round match up against Minnesota United in their final season in the NASL ahead of their jump to MLS. Before that it was St. Louis FC on June 16, 2015.
Obviously the stats will lean towards more MLS teams as in that stretch of games, Kansas City has twice won the tournament, and the further you get into the the tournament, the likelihood of lower division teams decreases, but to go this length of time without a “new” opponent is frustrating.
The other frustrating thing about the draw is the regional nature of it that has seen Kansas City play just three teams in over 50 percent of their Open Cup games over that time. With the draw today, Kansas City will be taking on FC Dallas for the fourth time in that 17 game stretch, that’s along with playing the Houston Dynamo four times, and Minnesota United (both MLS and NASL) three times. Ten of Kansas City’s 17 games have been against just three opponents. In the last 16 games in the tournament, half of them have been against just two teams, Dallas and Houston.
It just takes away some of the magic of the cup when your team ends up playing not just the same teams each year, but the same teams they already see two to three times a year in league play. Maybe if Kansas City and Omaha both advance maybe they’ll be regrouped together and maybe then we’ll see the two regionally close teams face off. Or more likely if KC advances they’ll just get matched up with the Houston Dynamo or Minnesota United again.