While Major League Soccer is celebrating its brightest stars on Wednesday night, two teams from the lower leagues of American soccer will square off for a chance to make the final four of the U.S. Open Cup.
Miami FC of the NASL and USL’s FC Cincinnati face each other at Riccardo Silva Stadium at 7;30 p.m. ET with a semifinal matchup against the New York Red Bulls on the line. The match was originally scheduled for a few weeks ago, but poor weather conditions in Florida forced it to be postponed until Wednesday. Since the semifinal draw has already been made, the winner of the contest will host the Red Bulls in the next round.
Miami FC comes into Wednesday with more attention on their owner than anything they’ve done on the field this season. Riccardo Silva is busy fighting the pro/rel fight, albeit unsuccessfully, and he’s caught national attention for his recent presentation to MLS about television rights.
While that was going on, Miami FC were tearing up the Spring Season of the NASL, finishing atop the table with 36 points, 10 clear of the second-place San Francisco Deltas. In their Fall Season opener on Saturday, Miami FC fell, 3-1, to the New York Cosmos. The player that sticks out the most to MLS fans on the Miami FC roster is Kwadwo Poku, who became a cult hero during his time at New York City FC. Jonny Steele, Michel, Michael Lahoud and Gabriel Farfan are among the former MLSers on the roster.
FC Cincinnati have been the darlings of the U.S. Open Cup as they’ve packed Nippert Stadium and won in dramatic fashion, but now they have to pick up a result on the road. The Ohio team lost, 3-2, to the Rochester Rhinos on Saturday in its final tune-up for the quarterfinal showdown.
Currently, FC Cincinnati sit in sixth place in the USL Eastern Conference Standings with 30 points, and before Saturday’s defeat, they had won three league matches in a row.
Djiby Fall is the player to watch for FC Cincinnati. The striker has tallied 11 goals so far this season, and he’ll be chomping at the bit to give the visitors an early lead to protect on the road. Goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt has also received headlines during the tournament for his tremendous play in the penalty shootout against the Chicago Fire.
There’s certain to be some type of big-game heroics from either side with the prize on the table being so large, but who scores the game-winning goal or who makes the big save remains to be seen. All we know is that Wednesday should be a great showcase for the second division leagues in the United States.