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Lion Links: 3/30/21

Kyle Smith inks new deal, Daryl Dike shows well on international stage, U.S. Open Cup details announced, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Montreal Impact Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Tuesday, everyone. The weekend was quite a mixed bag. There was the positive of Orlando City players appearing for the USMNT and U.S. U-23s, but also the lowlight of the latter team failing to qualify for the Olympics. Again. Regardless, the only way out is forward, so we keep a stiff upper lip and look ahead. Let’s get to the links.

New Deal for Smith

It was announced yesterday that Kyle Smith has signed a new contract with Orlando City. The 29-year-old fullback has been inked to a two-year deal that includes an option in 2023, so he’ll be in Orlando for the immediate future. The move is a good one for the Lions. While Smith isn’t currently first choice at either fullback slot, he is a more than capable defender who works hard, and was particularly impressive when called upon to fill in for Joao Moutinho last season. He will likely be the starter at left back for the beginning of the 2021 season as Moutinho continues to rehab from off-season surgery.

Dike Impresses With USMNT

Daryl Dike showed well during a substitute appearance with the United States Men’s National Team’s 2-1 victory over Northern Ireland on Sunday. Dike played just under 30 minutes in the second half, and did just about everything except for score. He probably should have opened his account with the national team as he had a couple good chances to do so, but he was a threatening presence in the final third, and generally played well.

Dike’s solid work in the second division of English soccer has also seen him nominated for the FLW Fan’s Player of the Month Award. The youngster has been on a tear with Barnsely since arriving on loan, and has been one of the driving forces behind the club’s promotion push.

U.S. Open Cup Details Announced

More details about this year’s iteration of the U.S. Open Cup have been announced. Eight Major League Soccer teams will participate in this year’s abbreviated tournament, and only 24 teams will compete in the entire competition — a drastic but necessary reduction in numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The eight stateside based MLS teams with the highest number of regular season points per game after the first three weeks of the 2021 season will qualify for the competition, entering play during the Round of 16. If teams have an equal number of points per game then the first tiebreaker used will be goal differential, followed by goals scored per match.

Additionally, four USL Championship teams and one USL League One team have been chosen to participate in the tournament. El Paso Locomotive FC, Lousiville City FC, Phoenix Rising FC, and the Tampa Bay Rowdies will represent the USL Championship; while reigning USL League One champions Greenville Triumph SC will represent their division. The final three slots will be occupied by National Independent Soccer Association 2020 Fall Champion Detroit City FC and two slots that will be drawn from lower level leagues.

Jiangsu Won’t Defend Title

Reigning Chinese Super League champions Jiangsu FC will not defend their title this season after the league did not grant the team a license to compete in the 2021 season. Suning, owners of Jiangsu FC, announced in February that they would no longer continue to fund the club due to financial constraints brought on by the pandemic. Jiangsu had hoped a new owner would be found to step in and help fund the club, but that has not been the case. The domino effect means that relegated team Cangzhou Mighty Lions will return to the top flight in order to fill the missing spot. Two teams each from the second and third divisions of Chinese soccer were also refused licenses.

Free Kicks
  • A new Orlando Pride jersey is on its way tomorrow.
  • One of the NBA’s most familiar faces classed up his wardrobe a bit.

That’ll do it for me today. Y’all stay safe out there.