Louisville City FC will try to advance to the Quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the second time in its history later this month. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
Louisville City FC advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday night with its penalty shootout win against fellow USL Championship side Detroit City FC. Tonight, the current Championship Eastern Conference leader – and only remaining undefeated professional side in the United States this year - will find out which side it will square off against as it bids to match its best run all-time in the historic event.
Ahead of the draw – which will air live at 8:30 p.m. ET on Futbol Americas on ESPN Plus – here’s a look at the three potential opponents from Major League Soccer that LouCity could be matched up with.
The Lowdown: Nashville advanced after extra time on Wednesday night, rallying from a two-goal deficit to defeat reigning Open Cup champions – dating back to 2019 – Atlanta United FC 3-2 at Nashville’s recently-opened home of Geodis Park. The former USL Championship club has made a strong start to life in the top flight, and includes current United States center back Walker Zimmerman and Hany Mukhtar, who earned MLS Best XI a season ago after recording 16 goals and 12 assists.
The History: LouCity and Nashville have squared off at this stage of the Open Cup previously when both teams were in the Championship in 2018. Louisville took a 2-1 victory at Lynn Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville on that occasion as Paco Craig and Paolo DelPiccolo staked it to a two-goal lead before Matt LaGrassa answered for the visitors. The teams finished even in their all-time series in the Championship, each taking two victories with one contest drawn across five meetings.
Matchup Potential: LouCity has the history against Nashville, but the side NSC Head Coach Gary Smith can now call on has become one of the most difficult to beat in Major League Soccer and reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs. Nashville is probably the toughest draw LouCity could get.
The Lowdown: Orlando City SC took a 1-1 win against the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday night on home turf at Exploria Stadium thanks to goals by Ercan Kara and Andres Perea three minutes apart early in the second half. The win was a lift for the Lions – a two-time USL Championship title winner in 2011 and 2013 before their move to MLS in 2015 – who have had an up-and-down start to the MLS season but sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a 5-4-2 record, including losing three times on home turf. There are some notable names in Orlando’s roster, though, including former Brazilian international Alexandre Pato and defender João Moutinho.
The History: Louisville City FC and Orlando City SC will always be interlinked, with LouCity having acquired its USL Championship franchise rights from the Lions upon their acceptance to Major League Soccer for the 2015 season. The teams have never met in official competition, although they have played exhibitions in the past, but the ties between the clubs have continued with current Orlando defender Kyle Smith having won two titles with LouCity and LouCity President James O’Connor having previously played and coached the Lions.
Matchup Potential: Given the prior history of the clubs, the narrative surrounding the first meeting of the two in the Open Cup would offer a great build-up. You would also expect that O’Connor – even now as a senior executive – would love LouCity to put one over on his former team.
The Lowdown: Inter Miami CF has defeated a pair of lower-division opponents to reach the Round of 16 in its first foray in the Open Cup with former LA Galaxy II standout Ariel Lassiter scoring twice in a 3-1 win against USL League One side South Georgia Tormenta FC on Tuesday night and former Charleston Battery USL Academy signing Robbie Robinson adding the third. IMCF has only won three times in the league so far this season though, conceding 19 goals in 10 games, as the squad led by former England international and current IMCF Head Coach Phil Neville has seen its form prove erratic.
The History: With IMCF in its first Open Cup after the tournament was not held in its first two seasons of existence, LouCity has not played the South Florida-based squad yet in official competition. Unlike with Orlando, there aren’t any ties between the clubs in terms of players either.
Matchup Potential: Despite the side’s win against Tormenta FC on Tuesday night, Neville voiced his displeasure with the performance after the game, which grabbed the postgame headlines. Of the three options, if LouCity can get IMCF on its home turf, it would look to be the most favorable matchup possible.