New Mexico United will try to recapture the magic of its last trip to Texas in the Open Cup - when it upset FC Dallas in 2019 - as it visits Austin FC on Wednesday night. | Photo courtesy Brandino / New Mexico United
Four USL Championship clubs will be in action in the Round of 32 of the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night as Loudoun United FC and New Mexico United square off with opponents from Major League Soccer, and one of the best rivalries in the league renews with a first meeting this season between Birmingham Legion FC and Memphis 901 FC.
Here's a look ahead at the action.
Venue: Segra Field
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Stream: B/R Football
The Lowdown: Loudoun United FC will host an opponent from Major League Soccer for the first time in its history as it welcomes Columbus Crew SC to Segra Field aiming to continue its run in the club’s inaugural Open Cup campaign. Currently sitting in seventh place in the Championship’s Eastern Conference standings, Loudoun has made a positive start to its new era under the primary ownership of Attain Sports & Entertainment, and advanced to the Round of 32 with an emphatic 5-0 victory against Flower City Union in the past round as Ryan Williamson bagged a pair of goals. The side has suffered consecutive league defeats since then, including an unfortunate 2-1 setback to Indy Eleven on Saturday night on home turf, but the hosts will be hoping to rebound against a Crew side that will return to action after being on a bye this past weekend in league play. Columbus sits in sixth place in MLS’s Eastern Conference after a 2-1 defeat to Inter Miami CF in its last outing on April 29, and is winless in three overall in the league. The Crew put in a strong display in the past round of the Open Cup, however, with its 1-0 victory against Indy Eleven a far more attacking display than the final score might indicate, meaning Loudoun will have to produce its best to challenge its top-flight opposition.
Loudoun United FC – Panos Armenakas: The Australian attacking midfielder has notched one goal and one assist in eight appearances in the league so far but is tied for the team-lead with 15 chances created and could provide danger in the final third.
Columbus Crew SC – Jacen Russell-Rowe: The 20-year-old Canadian has recorded one goal and one assist in league play this season and could be expected to step back into the starting lineup here after helping lead the line against Indy Eleven in the past round.
Venue: Protective Stadium
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
Stream: U.S. Soccer
The Lowdown: The lone all-USL Championship clash in the Round of 32 brings together two of the biggest rivals in the league as Birmingham Legion FC and Memphis 901 FC square off for the first time in a winner-advances contest. Dubbed “Southern Harm”, the rivalry has seen numerous memorable chapters since both clubs arrived in the league in 2019, with Legion FC holding a narrow 5W-3L-4D lead in the series. Birmingham claimed victory in both of the league meetings between the sides last season, too, but is coming off consecutive league defeats after falling 4-1 to Oakland Roots SC on Saturday night to drop to second place in the Eastern Conference standings. Memphis, meanwhile, is on the rise after a slow start to the season with its 2-0 win against Hartford Athletic on Saturday night extending its undefeated streak to five games in the league and seven games across all competitions. After advancing 2-1 after extra time against Atlanta United FC in the Third Round thanks to goals by Phillip Goodrum and Nighte Pickering, 901 FC will be aiming to maintain its current form and claim victory against its biggest rival.
Birmingham Legion FC – Enzo Martinez: The veteran playmaker has been on a hot streak of late with five goals and one assist in the past four league games and could be crucial to his side’s chances of success again.
Memphis 901 FC – Bruno Lapa: The Brazilian playmaker will face his former club for the first time after making the move to Memphis from Birmingham this offseason having notched five goals and two assists in six prior Southern Harm contests.
Venue: Q2 Stadium
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
Stream: B/R Football
The Lowdown: New Mexico United will try to conjure its magic from 2019 as it heads to face Austin FC for the first time in the Open Cup, with the USL Championship side coming off a dramatic comeback this past weekend in South Texas. United grabbed a 2-2 draw at Rio Grande Valley FC on Friday night in its most recent league outing as Harry Swartz and Sergio Rivas scored 75 seconds apart in second-half stoppage time to salvage a result against the Toros. New Mexico us now undefeated in its last three games in all competitions, having defeated Phoenix Rising FC 2-1 in the Third Round of the Open Cup as Josh Dolling scored a late winner at Isotopes Park. The side claimed victory in its last trip to Texas in the Open Cup when it took a 2-1 victory against FC Dallas in the Round of 16 in the 2019 edition of the tournament, and five players from the starting lineup in that contest are currently with the club this season, including Sam Hamilton, who scored the second-half winner. Austin enters the Open Cup in this round and is coming off its own late comeback via a 2-2 draw on Saturday night at Portland Timbers FC which saw Will Bruin score an equalizer in the second minute of second-half stoppage time at Providence Park. The hosts are winless in their last seven games in league play, however, putting the side in 12th place in MLS’s Western Conference, which could provide incentive to make an Open Cup run as a means to turn the club’s overall form around.
Austin FC – Owen Wolff: The 18-year-old midfielder has notched one goal and two assists in MLS this season, providing the helper on Bruin’s late equalizer in Portland, and is emerging as one of the club’s bright young talents.
New Mexico United – Will Seymore: The experienced defensive player has played every minute of the season for United so far and will need to marshal the back line well to limit Austin’s chances as United tries to spring another road upset.