Orlando City starts what we hope to be a long run in the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tonight at 7:30 at Blackbaud Stadium, against our old USL rivals, the Charleston Battery. For many of our readers, who may not necessarily be familiar with this competition, it's a knockout tournament similar to England's FA Cup, with only U.S.-based teams -- both amateur and professional -- eligible to play.
MLS clubs enter the tournament in the fourth round, which is where we are now, after many amateur and lower level teams have already been eliminated. Orlando City's opponent was determined by draw before Round 3 was played, and the Lions were slated to face the winner of the Charleston Battery and Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Battery won, so here we are.
Here's a primer for tonight's match. We'll have more information later in our match preview / "how to watch" post later this afternoon, but the short version is that the game will be available to watch online on Orlando City's website or on Charleston Battery's YouTube page. It won't be on conventional TV.
How many rounds are there?
There are nine in all, but just five for MLS clubs, who start play in Round 4. It takes two wins to reach the quarterfinals from here. The quarterfinals take place in late July, with the semifinals coming in mid-August and the final in late September.
So...the winner just gets a trophy?
Well, no, not just a trophy. The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup has changed names over the years, but it's one of the oldest soccer competitions in the world, dating back to 1913-14, so it's kind of a big deal.
"I know how old and important this trophy is in American soccer," Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath said during yesterday's media conference call. "We want to treat this competition with respect."
How much respect? A lot. The winner of the U.S. Open Cup receives one of the four coveted U.S. spots in CONCACAF Champions League. Oh, and the winning team gets $250,000 in prize money as well.
How has Orlando City fared in the U.S. Open Cup?
Orlando City holds an all-time record of 8-4 in U.S. Open Cup play and has gone as far as the quarterfinals in 2013. The Lions defeated the Colorado Rapids and Sporting Kansas City that year before the Chicago Fire knocked them out.
How has the Charleston Battery fared in the U.S. Open Cup?
The Battery have had great success in Cup play, reaching the tournament's quarterfinals or beyond six times. Charleston, which is 8-12-1 all-time in Cup matches, reached the final in 2008 before falling to D.C. United and finishing second. This season, the Battery is 2-0 in Open Cup play, with both wins coming against Florida-based teams -- Miami United FC and the NASL's Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
Jamaican striker Dane Kelly was named Player of the Round for his performance in Round 3's win over Fort Lauderdale. Kelly scored the game-winning goal, as Charleston rallied from down 2-1 in the final 15 minutes to win, 3-2.
Will we see basically the same lineup from Orlando as we did Sunday?
Oh...Oh GOD no. Orlando City will be like many MLS teams and rest important regulars during Cup matches. Heath said very adamantly yesterday that he and the team are approaching this competition with the utmost respect. But the reality is that the fixture schedule is crowded right now, and some players need rest to stay fresh for MLS matches or simply to let nagging injuries heal up.
"Regardless of whatever lineup we put out tomorrow night, I fully expect us to win the game and progress," Heath said. "As much as I'm going to change the team tomorrow, I'm taking it very seriously."
Still, expect to see guys like Harrison Heath and Tyler Turner in the lineup, along with the return of defensive midfielder Amobi Okugo and probably Seb Hines. We'll likely see a few regulars, just owing to numbers with guys like Cyle Larin and Darwin Ceren out, but don't expect 90 minutes of Kaká.
What's the history between these two teams?
During their time in the USL, the Lions went 2-1-2 in Charleston and were unbeaten in nine games against the Battery in Orlando. The teams met most recently in the 2015 preseason, drawing 1-1 in a game that was significantly shortened by weather and pitch conditions. Brek Shea scored on a header off a Kaká cross for Orlando, but Navion Boyd equalized for Charleston in a match that lasted all of 26 minutes back on Feb. 25. Boyd's goal was effectively the last action of the game, as the lightning and rain moved in at that point. Shea hasn't scored for his club since that goal.
Are there any roster limitations?
As a U.S.-centric tournament, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup has restrictions on using international players. Each team may dress only five foreign players for Cup matches. This can be problematic for a team like Orlando City, which relies heavily on international players. A few will have to sit.
What if it's a draw?
If the teams are tied after 90 minutes, they will play 30 minutes of extra time, similar to how World Cup knockout round matches are played. If there is still no winner after 120 minutes, penalty kicks will be used to determine which team advances.
Does this count in the standings?
No, the U.S. Open Cup is a separate competition and there won't be any points added to Orlando City's total should they win. If the Lions prevail, their fifth-round opponent will be determined via draw, as will the game's location.
Where and who will Orlando City play if they win?
There will be a drawing Thursday to determine the Round 5 match-ups. Provided Orlando City gets past Charleston, we'll bring you that information as soon as it's available. The date would be June 30 or July 1.
Who won it last year?
Seattle Sounders FC won their fourth U.S. Open Cup with a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union. The teams were tied at 1-1 after 90 minutes but Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins found the net in extra time at PPL Park in Chester, PA. So, we know there will be no repeat this year, as the Sounders lost to rival Portland last night. Dempsey got mad and ripped up the referee's book, so...yeah, no repeat.