By Seth Biddulph | April 9, 2019 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The next step in New Mexico United’s short history begins this week, when the possible second round pairings in the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are announced.
In this, the 106th edition of the national soccer championship, United will enter in the second round along with the other eligible USL Championship clubs. This time around 94 amateur clubs from across the country kicked off the qualifying rounds in September. After four rounds of competition, that field has been narrowed to only 7 clubs that will advance to the tournament proper.
United won’t know for sure who their opponent will be until after the first-round matches are played over May 7 – 8. Due to the staggered entry format of the tournament, their first opponent will likely be one of the amateur clubs. The club has a great shot of reaching the fourth round and going up against an MLS team. Just think, we could be seeing an MLS club playing here at Isotopes Park.
Okay, it’s not very likely, but stranger things have happened.
Not only does being part of the Open Cup bring increased exposure to all of the clubs involved, the prize at the end is nothing to sneeze at. The winning club walks away with $300,000 and an invitation to the CONCACAF Champions League. The last club to claim the crown and advance was the Houston Dynamo. Being the runner-up is nothing to scoff at; another $100,000 will go to that club.
Since this is a tournament format, there are a couple rule differences that do get implemented that we don’t normally see in league play. There must be a winner in every match; if the score is tied at the end of regulation, there will be 30 minutes of extra time. If a winner still isn’t determined, the clubs go to penalty kicks. The other major rule change is that if a match goes to extra time, clubs are allowed four substitutions instead of the regular three.
This is a big opportunity for the United to showcase what they can do against soccer clubs from across the spectrum of U.S. Soccer. Although their first match won’t be until May 14 or 15, the club could see up to two extra matches each month from May through August depending on how far they go, so managing fitness and injuries will play a major factor. This may lead to some interesting lineups while getting guys rest and trying to stay fresh.
We’ll have updates soon, as the first-round pairings will be announced on April 10, 2019.
Seth Biddulph is a beat reporter for the Seek and Strike Collective covering the beat on New Mexico United. Follow him on Twitter@SethBiddulph