skip navigation

THE MORNING TEA – Kings’ Cup Finale Brings Memories, Mutual Respect

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 09/26/20, 7:30AM EDT

Share

Legion FC becoming hub for progressing young talent; Sacramento, New Mexico eye key road victories

It’s a night full of rivalries on this penultimate Saturday of the 2020 Championship regular season, including some that have major playoff implications. In one instance, though, it’s the final game between two clubs that have shared plenty over the past six seasons on and off the field. Here’s your Morning Tea for Saturday.

 

THE BIG STORY

On Saturday night, we’ll bid a fond farewell to the Kings’ Cup.

The rivalry series between Louisville City FC and Saint Louis FC will see its 14th and final regular season game at West Community Stadium. And, sadly, it will be missing the ingredient that has made it special over the past six seasons.

That’s not to say there haven’t been special on-field moments over the years. There certainly have been a fair share of big goals and great saves over the years, and big victories to celebrate – mostly in Louisville’s favor. Its fostered a mutual respect between the two front offices and players, including those like Guy Abend and Kadeem Dacres who have worn the colors of both clubs.

But what’s made the Kings’ Cup special has been the supporters.

There are some sets of fans that don’t really mix. That never seemed to be the case with the Louisville Coopers, St. Louligans and all the rest, who in addition to sharing the rivalry on the field have also come together in mutual respect and competition. 

Who can forget the welcoming tailgates that saw fans of both clubs eat, drink and share stories and the love of their clubs before games? How about the sums of money that were donated on both sides for St. Louis and Louisville area food banks through the #Pizzagate fundraisers that originated in the first year of the rivalry? There’s something that is going to endure here because of those relationships that have been developed over the years.

As LouCity President Brad Estes puts it, “You have two groups of supporters that banded together to support soccer in their communities. They support local charities and they show up every weekend, rain or shine, to beat the drum for their clubs.”

Of course, Saturday night has other stakes for STLFC in addition to the Kings’ Cup. In the Group E playoff picture, a win is almost essential to their chances of joining LouCity in the postseason with Indy Eleven sitting poised and ready for any slip-up by the hosts. A win, therefore, would not only give STLFC bragging rights for the first time in the series, but keep their playoff chances alive for one final game.

But what of the Cup after Saturday night? There’s certainly a hope it will return in some form when St. Louis City FC begins play in Major League Soccer either through exhibition meetings or in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

While that may be the case, it’s unlikely to match the emotion, thrills and camaraderie these two clubs have shared over the past six years. After squaring off for the first time in their first games in the Championship on March 28, 2015, tonight the curtain will go down for the final time on one of the most memorable rivalries the league has seen.

 

THIS WEEKEND'S ACTION

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 26


New York Red Bulls II vs. Philadelphia Union II

(4-9-0)
Group F

5:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: MSU Soccer Park

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: NY Wins 49% | Draw 23% | PHI Wins 29%
(2-8-3)
Group F
The Gist: The New York Red Bulls II and Philadelphia II will continue to close out their respective seasons as they meet after differing results in midweek. The Union II moved closer in the Group F standings to New York as they earned a 1-1 draw on the road against Hartford Athletic on Wednesday night with Jack McGlynn scoring a second-half equalizer at Dillon Stadium. The Red Bulls II, meanwhile, suffered a 5-3 defeat to Atlanta United 2 the same night at Fifth Third Bank Stadium, as Jake LaCava and Dantouma Toure were among the scorers. New York is three points ahead of the Union II going into the contest and will be looking to defend its position on home turf.
Discipline: None

Charlotte Independence vs. Memphis 901 FC

(7-3-4)
Group G

7:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Sportsplex at Matthews

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: CLT Wins 54% | Draw 24% | MEM Wins 22%
(2-7-4)
Group G
The Gist: The Charlotte Independence can clinch a place in the USL Championship Playoffs with a draw on Saturday night against Memphis 901 FC, but will be aiming for all three points as its battle for first place with Birmingham Legion FC in Group G continues. The Independence missed out on a chance to move into first on Wednesday night as they played to a 0-0 draw with Miami FC that saw Valentin Sabella hit the post in the closest chance for either side to find the net. Charlotte will be boosted by the potential return from suspension of forward Dane Kelly, and he’ll look to continue a strong recent run of form that has seen him reach 10 goals for the season. Already eliminated from playoff contention, Memphis could be looking for a little revenge against the Independence after failing to take victory in three prior meetings this season. That includes a 3-2 defeat when 901 FC last visited Charlotte on August 15, a game in which Memphis had a two-goal lead in the first half but fell away to defeat.
Discipline: None

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. Hartford Athletic

(10-3-1)
Group F

7:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Highmark Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: PIT Wins 78% | Draw 15% | HFD Wins 7%
(8-3-2)
Group F
The Gist: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC can lock up first place in Group F with victory against Hartford Athletic on Saturday night and also take another step toward finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference with one game remaining. The Hounds are on a five-game winning streak, and have recorded five consecutive shutouts to put itself within reach of finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference for a second consecutive season. One of those victories came against Hartford, which Pittsburgh defeated 5-0 when they last met on September 12. The Athletic still have a slim chance to win the group, but they would need to beat the Hounds and then close out the season with two more victories next week. After playing to a 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union II on Wednesday night, it will likely take Hartford’s best performance of the season to break through and deny the Hounds the division crown.
Discipline: None

Birmingham Legion FC vs. North Carolina FC

(7-3-4)
Group G

7:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: BBVA Field

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: BHM Wins 52% | Draw 25% | NC Wins 23%
(4-7-1)
Group G
The Gist: Birmingham Legion FC can clinch its second consecutive trip to the USL Championship Playoffs with a draw against North Carolina FC on Saturday night, but as with the Charlotte Independence it will be looking for all three points in the race for first place in Group G. Legion FC returns to action after a 4-0 romp past Miami FC in its last outing that saw Alex Crognale and Neco Brett each find the net twice. Brett has now recorded nine goals for Birmingham in his first season at the club, putting him in the conversation for a second consecutive Championship All-League selection. North Carolina must win to keep its playoff chances alive and took a 2-1 victory when it visited Legion FC for the first time this season on September 2. NCFC has won only once in its last four games since then, pushing it to the point of elimination.
Discipline: North Carolina – Nazmi Albadawi (Suspended)

Miami FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies

(2-7-4)
Group H

7:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Riccardo Silva Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: MIA Wins 26% | Draw 26% | TBR Wins 48%
(9-2-3)
Group H
The Gist: The Tampa Bay Rowdies will try to make it three wins out of four this season against in-state rival Miami FC as it looks to hold onto first place ahead of the Charleston Battery in Group H at Riccardo Silva Stadium. The Rowdies return to action after grabbing a late 2-1 victory against Atlanta United 2 on September 16 as Sebastian Guenzatti scored deep in second-half stoppage time to pick up all three points. Tampa Bay took a 3-0 victory when it last visited Miami and is 2-0-1 overall this season against the Championship newcomers, who have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. Miami came away with a 0-0 draw in its last outing on Wednesday night against the Charlotte Independence, though, and would love the chance to play spoiler as it closes out its first season in the league.
Discipline: None

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. Real Monarchs SLC

(2-6-5)
Group C

8:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Weidner Field

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: COS Wins 37% | Draw 26% | SLC Wins 37%
(3-9-1)
Group C
The Gist: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and Real Monarchs SLC will have pride on the line as they wrap up their rivalry series for another year at Weidner Field with the Switchbacks looking to build on a big victory in their most recent outing. Colorado Springs rallied for a 2-1 win against New Mexico United last Saturday afternoon for its first win since the season resumed in July as Christian Volesky and Luke Ferreira found the back of the net. The Monarchs have taken two wins out of three meetings this season against their Rocky Mountain rivals, however, and will be looking for another three points to snap a recent downturn in form that saw them eliminated from the playoffs last week. Real’s last win was a 4-1 result against Colorado Springs on September 9 as four different players – including Noah Powder, signed to an MLS contract for Real Salt Lake on Thursday – found the net.
Discipline: None

FC Tulsa vs. San Antonio FC

(3-2-7)
Group D

8:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: ONEOK Field

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: TUL Wins 25% | Draw 24% | SA Wins 51%
(10-1-3)
Group D
The Gist: FC Tulsa will try to keep pace with Austin Bold FC in the race for the second playoff place in Group D, while San Antonio FC will continue its pursuit of the best record in the Championship as the two sides meet for the third time this season. San Antonio has gone 1-0-1 in the two prior meetings this season, including a 2-0 victory at Toyota Field when the teams last met on August 22 as Luis Solignac and Ignacio Bailone scored for the hosts. SAFC is currently in line for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and would maintain the pressure on Reno 1868 FC with a victory at ONEOK Field. Tulsa is in a critical point of its pursuit of the playoffs, though, as it trails Austin by two points with one game in hand. Having drawn its last three outings, Tulsa would regain a small edge of Austin with victory, but should it fail to take victory could be facing at least a four-point deficit to make up after Bold FC plays OKC Energy FC on Sunday evening.
Discipline: None

Saint Louis FC vs. Louisville City FC

(6-4-4)
Group E

8:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: West Community Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: STL Wins 31% | Draw 27% | LOU Wins 42%
(9-3-2)
Group E
The Gist: The final regular season meeting for the Kings’ Cup has both the trophy up for grabs and Saint Louis FC’s season on the line as it hosts Louisville City FC in its penultimate game of the regular season. STLFC comes into the contest one point behind Indy Eleven for second place in Group E after a 1-1 draw between the sides on Wednesday night that saw both STLFC’s Sam Fink and Todd Wharton sent off for two cautionable offenses. Anything but a victory for Saint Louis against LouCity, though, could see Indy eliminate STLFC from playoff contention next Wednesday when it hosts Sporting Kansas City II before the two teams meet for a final time on the final Saturday of the season. LouCity has already claimed its playoff place, meanwhile, and will clinch the group with at least a draw against its long-time rival. Currently on an eight-game undefeated streak after a 4-1 victory against Memphis 901 FC, LouCity also still has a chance at the best record in the Eastern Conference should it take victory should either Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies slip up in their remaining games.
Discipline: Saint Louis – Sam Fink (Suspended), Todd Wharton (Suspended)

El Paso Locomotive FC vs. New Mexico United

(8-2-3)
Group C

9:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Southwest University Park

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: ELP Wins 43% | Draw 27% | NM Wins 29%
(7-4-2)
Group C
The Gist: El Paso Locomotive FC can clinch first place in Group C with victory against New Mexico United on Saturday night as the rivals meet for the final time this regular season at Southwest University Park. Locomotive FC holds a four-point lead in the group standing with each team having three games remaining and would move clear should it take all three points for a second consecutive outing against United. Locomotive FC defeated New Mexico for the first time when the teams last met on September 5 as Dylan Mares scored the winner in a 3-2 result with two minutes remaining. That victory was part of a five-game winning streak for El Paso that continued last Saturday night in a 2-1 win against Real Monarchs SLC. United, meanwhile, suffered a 2-1 loss in its last outing as it lost a first-half lead against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in its lone official “home” game of the regular season at Weidner Field. New Mexico had previously claimed a draw and a win in its previous two visits to El Paso this season and would make the race for the playoff very interesting again if it could pull off another win on Saturday night.
Discipline: None

Reno 1868 FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC

(10-2-1)
Group A

9:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Greater Nevada Field

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: RNO Wins 50% | Draw 24% | SAC Wins 26%
(7-1-5)
Group A
The Gist: Reno 1868 FC can clinch first place in Group A with victory as it plays host to Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday night, but will also be aiming for all three points as it looks to maintain its bid to end the regular season with the best record in the Championship. Reno took a 5-2 victory against Portland Timbers 2 last Sunday night in its last outing as Foster Langsdorf scored in his seventh consecutive game to sit among the scorers. Langsdorf is now one goal from tying Hadji Barry’s Championship record of eight consecutive regular season games with a goal. If there’s been a blot on Reno’s record this season, though, it’s been the club’s struggles against Republic FC. Sacramento has won two of the three meetings and was seconds away from a third before Reno scored a stoppage-time equalizer in a 3-3 draw the last time the teams met. Currently on a nine-game undefeated streak, Sacramento would move within two points of Reno with a win on Saturday to keep the race for first place alive.
Discipline: None

Las Vegas Lights FC vs. LA Galaxy II

(2-8-3)
Group B

10:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Cashman Field

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: LV Wins 37% | Draw 24% | LA Wins 39%
(7-5-1)
Group B
The Gist: The LA Galaxy II will try to move back into second place in Group B with a win on Saturday night as it visits Las Vegas Lights FC. Los Dos grabbed a crucial late draw on Wednesday night in its last outing as Alejandro Alvarado Jr. scored in second-half stoppage time to earn a 1-1 draw with San Diego Loyal SC. The result kept the Galaxy II a point back of SD Loyal, but with three games remaining to San Diego’s one, Los Dos has the inside track to reach the playoffs ahead of both San Diego and Orange County SC going into the weekend’s action. Las Vegas has been eliminated from playoff contention, meanwhile, but has given Los Dos challenging contests in the prior two meetings between the clubs. The Galaxy II had to rally for a 3-2 victory when the sides last met on September 15, and both SD Loyal and Orange County would love to see Las Vegas turn the tables on their playoff rival and take victory.
Discipline: Las Vegas – Seth Moses (Suspended), Mobi Fehr (Suspended)
Discipline: LA Galaxy II – Omar Ontiveros (Suspended)

Phoenix Rising FC vs. Orange County SC

(8-3-2)
Group B

10:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Casino Arizona Field

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: PHX Wins 59% | Draw 22% | OC Wins 19%
(6-4-3)
Group B
The Gist: Phoenix Rising FC can clinch a playoff place with a victory – and could clinch first place in the group should Las Vegas Lights FC defeat the LA Galaxy II – as it plays host to Orange County SC on Saturday night. Rising FC is looking to rebound from its first home loss of the season last weekend as it fell 3-2 to San Diego Loyal SC despite another pair of goals by Junior Flemmings, who took his season total to 14 goals to extend his lead in the race for the Golden Boot. Orange County has previously had Phoenix’s number this season, though, taking a draw and a win on home turf when these sides met earlier in the season. Sitting one point behind the LA Galaxy II with three games remaining, Orange County is firmly in the face for the playoffs in Group B, and with another victory could set up a final week surge into the postseason.
Discipline: None

Sunday, September 27


Tacoma Defiance vs. Portland Timbers 2

(2-9-2)
Group A

4:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Cheney Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: TAC Wins 41% | Draw 22% | POR Wins 38%
(3-11-0)
Group A
The Gist: The Portland Timbers 2 will look to sweep their home-and-home series with Tacoma Defiance this week, and in turn claim the regular season series between the rivals, as they meet at Cheney Stadium. Portland claimed a 3-1 victory on Thursday night as Jorge Gonzalez struck twice at Providence Park to give T2 its third win in the past four games. Gonzalez is on a hot streak of his own, having scored six goals in those four games to sit tied for the Championship lead in September alongside FC Tulsa’s Dario Suarez. The Defiance had taken victory in the opening two games of the regular season, but now need to take victory to regain third place in the Group A standings and snap an eight-game winless streak that followed its last win against T2.
Discipline: None

OKC Energy FC vs. Austin Bold FC

(1-6-6)
Group D

6:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Taft Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: OKC Wins 27% | Draw 25% | ATX Wins 48%
(4-3-6)
Group D
The Gist: Austin Bold FC will continue its pursuit of the playoffs as it heads to visit OKC Energy FC, which could be eliminated from playoff contention by the time kickoff arrives at Taft Stadium. Energy FC would see its playoff hopes officially come to an end if FC Tulsa takes victory against San Antonio FC on Saturday night, but regardless will be looking to find a strong finish to the season after seeing its winless streak reach 10 games last Saturday night in San Antonio. Bold FC, meanwhile, will be hoping for help from SAFC in its playoff pursuit before it hits the field on Sunday, and after a 4-0 victory against Sporting Kansas City II on Tuesday night will be hoping to build on an entertaining attacking display. Should Tulsa fall to SAFC, Austin would move five points clear in the race for second place with a win, a sizeable advantage going into the final week of the regular season.
Discipline: None
 

THE SOCIAL CIRCLE

 

THE USL LOWDOWN

- Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC hasn’t conceded a goal in 483 minutes going into Saturday night’s game against Hartford Athletic, and that’s positioned the Hounds to finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Craig Meyer has more on another stellar season for Head Coach Bob Lilley’s squad.

- New Mexico United has a four-point margin to make up on El Paso Locomotive FC for first place in Group C, but the side is hoping it can put pressure on its rivals with victory on Saturday night. The Albuquerque Journal’s Ken Sickenger has more from United’s camp as it prepares for its fourth visit to Southwest University Park this season.

- Two years ago, Luke Spencer scored the game-winning goal in the 2018 USL Championship Final. Now, ahead of the club’s next pursuit of a title in the Championship Playoffs, he’s also become a father, which has certainly meant an adjustment for everyday life. The Louisville Courier-Journal’s Jonathan Saxon has more.

- The stakes couldn’t be higher for Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday night as it visits rival Reno 1868 FC at Greater Nevada Field. Indomitable City Soccer’s Alicia Rodriguez explains two reasons why victory would be massive for Republic FC, with insight from Head Coach Mark Briggs.

- Birmingham Legion FC’s second season has seen the club take another step forward on the field, but thanks to city natives like Bayern Munich’s Chris Richards the potential for soccer in the city and region is becoming even more apparent. The Birmingham News’ Joe Goodman has more on how the club is aiming to let local talent – including the likes of current Academy signing Jaden Servania – thrive.

- The USL Championship announced on Friday it has issued a six-game suspension and undisclosed fine to LA Galaxy II player Omar Ontiveros for the use of foul and abusive language during the club’s contest against San Diego Loyal SC on Wednesday night. Per the player’s contract, Ontiveros could also be subject to additional discipline from LA Galaxy II.

- FC Tulsa returns to action on Saturday night in a key game against San Antonio FC at ONEOK Field hoping its work during a gap in games has helped prepare the side for a massive game in the Group D playoff race. “We’ve had an opportunity to work on things that we feel we have gotten away from a little bit,” Tulsa Head Coach Michael Nsien told the Tulsa World’s Barry Lewis. “We feel like we’ve healed and are in the best position as possible, physically and mentally, to compete against San Antonio and win.”

- Younes Boudadi produced a pair of assists in Reno 1868 FC’s 5-2 victory against the Portland Timbers 2 last Sunday night. Ahead of Saturday’s rivalry clash with Sacramento Republic FC, he spoke with Nevada Sports Net’s NSN Daily to talk about his first professional season with the club.

Follow the USL Championship

Most Recent News

Most Read News

Latest Videos

  • Somos Familia – The Lucero Family

  • By USLChampionship.com Staff 01/25/2021, 8:20pm EST
  • New Mexico United’s short documentary follows family whose passionate fandom brought them to Colorado Springs in 2020 season.
  • Read More