Who could forget New Mexico United’s deep run in the US Open Cup one year a
By Josh Kaskinen | Image: US Open Cup
Certainly not any soccer fan in the Land of Enchantment.
From a second round draw with USL Championship Western Conference powerhouse Phoenix Rising FC that had all the drama of a power outage, extra time and penalty kicks, to defeating two MLS clubs, to sending an entire freaking passenger airliner to Minneapolis for a quarterfinal matchup, the US Open Cup gave the club and fans plenty of memories and magical moments last year.
New Mexico United has a chance to recreate some of that magic this season in their second appearance in US Soccer’s annual showdown to crown the top domestic club.
This time around, New Mexico will have the chance to take on a USL League One opponent for the first time in their short history.
US Soccer today announced the pairings for the second round of the 2020 edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, and New Mexico United officially knows their opponent for their first match: Greenville Triumph SC.
Why such a geographically distant opponent this early?
Thanks to a variety of circumstances and new rules guiding the competition this year, including top tier professional clubs joining one round earlier, same-league matchup restrictions, a newly sanctioned tier three professional league (NISA), and a lack of lower tier independent, eligible clubs, geography was thrown out the window.
Much like last year, Isotopes Park doesn’t quite meet US Soccer’s standards for hosting an Open Cup match, so they will likely be on the road again for however many matches they end up playing in the competition this year. Last year, the club clearly put a big stake in doing well in a tournament that helped them gain exposure nationwide as a first-year organization. But taking part in a competition that takes place during the same months as a regular league season means midweek games, and often during New Mexico United’s Open Cup run last year, that meant that were a couple of stretches of Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday matches.
In the later part of the regular season last year, New Mexico United stumbled a bit, suffering draws and losses in matches they were expected to win, causing them to slip to tenth place on the table and barely sneak into the playoffs. Many fans wondered if the fatigue from the travel and extra matches during the Open Cup run were a contributing factor to their struggles down the stretch.
It will be interesting to see if the club and the coaching staff will keep the same philosophy in regards to the US Open Cup this season, or if they will put more of their focus on finishing the USL Championship season in a higher position on the table.
As for Greenville Triumph SC, expect them to be a quality opponent. Last year, they finished in third place on the USL League One table, qualifying for the playoffs. In the semifinal, they defeated Lansing Ignite FC 1-0, advancing to the finals, where they lost to North Texas SC 1-0. They were a very defensive team last year, as most of their matches were low scoring affairs, and they only allowed 22 goals throughout the entirety of the regular season.
Greenville also had US Open Cup experience in their first year of existence as well. In the first round, they went against fellow USL League One side South Georgia Tormenta FC, who they defeated 1-0. In the second round, it was USL Championship side Charleston Battery who came out on top 2-1, putting an end to Triumph’s Open Cup run in 2019.
All told, this should be an excellent matchup when these two teams meet at Legacy Early College on April 7th. The winner will advance to the third round of the competition falling across April 21th-23rd. If history is any indicator, New Mexico United should have plenty of fans in attendance, even 1,500 miles away.
Watch All U.S. Open Cup Matches on ESPN+
For the second consecutive year and as part of a four-year deal, ESPN+ will be the home for all Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup games from the First Round through to the Final.
Full 2020 U.S. Open Cup Schedule:
First Round: March 24-25
Second Round: April 7-9
Third Round: April 21-23
Round of 32: May 19-20
Round of 16: June 10 or June 23-24
Quarterfinals: June 23-24 or July 14-15
Semifinals: July 14-15 or August 11-12
Finals: August 11-12 or September 22-24