US Open Cup First Round Preview: Duluth FC @ Forward Madison

Today is the day everyone, the local league season is [kind of] underway once again. In addition to this Border Battle with Duluth FC opening their season at Forward Madison. Des Moines Menace, Chicago House, and others will open their season in the 2024 edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. This has been a massively different start to the 2024 edition and a match has not been played yet. A long delay initially started following Major League Soccer’s announcement they would not play in the tournament and intended to send their MLS Next Pro affiliates instead. This kicked off a long drawn out conversation for the format, which included fears the USOC would be scrapped entirely for this year.

This was settled on March 1st when the United States Soccer Federation finally revealed the tournament format. Gone were all MLS teams participating, reverting back to the partial participation common through 2011. In were some of the affiliated MLS Next Pro sides, allowing affiliated lower league clubs back in for the first time since the 2015 edition.

The Magic of the Cup

The US Open Cup is the only true national soccer championship in the United States. Due to the lack of promotion and relegation, along with most league’s tendencies to self isolate interleague play is rare. This is one of the few times each season clubs from different leagues play each other. This makes the Open Cup truly unique in American sports as there is no equivalent in other sports. There is no baseball tournament where the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks can play the Minnesota Twins and no hockey tournament where the Quad City Storm could face the Iowa Wild. The NBA does have an in season tournament, but it includes no G League teams.

The Open Cup also provides every team something to compete for in every match. The furthest advancing lower league side from each division earns $25,000. The runner-up earns a cool $100,000 and the tournament champion gets $300,000 and a place in the 2025 Concacaf Champions Cup. With only eight MLS teams participating in 2024 it is quite possible the Cup could see it’s first non-MLS winner since the 1999 Rochester Raging Rhinos.

Forward Madison FC (USL1)

The ‘Mingos are the clear favourites to win in this first round clash. The professional side has already been together for a full preseason unlike Duluth. Madison has also already opened their 2024 league campaign with a 1-1 draw with South Georgia Tormenta FC. Madison will look to lean on 2023 top scorer Christian Chaney to overpower the BlueGreens. Matt Glaeser is in his 3rd Season in charge of the ‘Mingos and will certainly be hoping to avoid another Cupset like last season.

Duluth FC (NPSL)

The BlueGreens return to the US Open Cup for the first time in nearly five years and for the first time under fourth year manager Sean Morgan for their first match of 2024, a full two months before NPSL play begins. This is not the first time Duluth has had to assemble a squad on short notice for the Open Cup. Duluth FC previously qualified for the 2018 and 2019 editions. In 2018 Duluth defeated fellow NPSL North club Dakota Fusion on penalties in an absolute classic before falling in the Third Round to the now defunct St. Louis FC club. In 2019 the BlueGreens fell on penalties to Des Moines Menace in the First Round.

Tune in via US Soccer here

Other Area Matches
All Matches on Wednesday, March 20:

Chicago City SC (USL2) @ Chicago Fire II (MLSNP) – 7pm CT
SeatGeek Stadium – Bridgeview, IL

Stream here

MNUFC2 (MLSNP) @ Chicago House AC (MWPL) – 7pm CT
Langhorst Field – Elmhurst, IL

Stream here or follow our coverage on Northland Soccer Journal

Des Moines Menace (USL2) @ Capo FC (NISA) – 9:30pm CT
Jserra Catholic High School – San Juan Capistrano, CA

Stream here