The U.S. Open Cup is on the docket for Roots against the Greeneville Triumph today, among the few teams playing out-of-region matches for Round 2. Should Oakland be victorious, the draw for Round 3 will occur on Friday at 9 a.m. where the U.S. Open Cup selection committee will decide whether to split teams in 12 groups of four, or eight groups of six. Teams within those groups will be paired to play at random selection.
It’s been a disaster for USL Championship teams thus far with Indy Eleven, El Paso, Las Vegas Lights, and Monterey Bay taking losses–the latter two impact the Western Region.
With some inspiration from Mike Pendleton’s examination of the possible South Eastern draw, let’s look into where the Roots may fit into the third round alongside its MLS counterparts ahead of Friday’s draw. This, of course, is assuming all goes as planned tonight in Greenville.
MLS (3-4 eligible):
- LAFC, SJ Earthquakes, LA Galaxy
- Automatically in Round of 32 (Round 4): Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers
- Real Salt Lake?
USLC (6 eligible):
- Oakland Roots (facing Greenville Triumph), Sac Republic (facing Timbers U23), Orange County SC, San Diego Loyal, PHX Rising, New Mexico
Division III (4 eligible):
- Central Valley Fuego, Bay Cities, Tucson
- Cal United Strikers/San Fernando Valley
The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers bypass Round 3 and received an automatic berth into the Round of 32. This leaves LAFC, LA Galaxy, and San Jose Earthquakes as the three eligible MLS organizations to feature in the next round for the Western Region. Real Salt Lake is also competing, but I’m unsure if they would be considered a western cup-team. They don’t fit geographically to Oakland Roots, so we’re not going to worry about them for now.
The U.S. Open Cup prefers to have MLS teams “spread evenly” throughout the bracket, meaning this could result in three groups of four to maintain even distribution, or two groups of six, which would force one group to feature multiple MLS teams.
Should the USOC move forward with 12 groups of four, they hope to maintain five of the groups with two MLS teams, while seven groups would have one. If they choose eight groups of six, one group would have three MLS teams with the other seven having two.
Tying in geographical standards and preventing MLS teams from facing each other, it seems certain that Roots will be grouped with the Earthquakes, Sacramento Republic (assuming they defeat Timbers U23), and Bay Cities FC.
For shits, let’s throw some other possible groupings for the Western Region out there.
Bay Cities FC or Central Valley Fuego
LAFC or LA Galaxy
Central Valley Fuego or Cal United/San Fernando
LAFC or LA Galaxy or Real Salt Lake
Tucson or Cal United/San Fernando
These groupings would keep the average amount of travel the least for each team aside from Central Valley Fuego in Fresno. The Northern California teams play each other, the two Los Angeles MLS franchises get split into different groups. Group C required some guesswork, but it could make sense for Phoenix to pair with Tucson, New Mexico, the LA teams, or Real Salt Lake. In the end, Oakland shouldn’t get paired with out-of-state teams for a second consecutive round.
My guess is that even if Monterey won, the theoretical Group A stays the same given they are all Northern California clubs. My prediction is that the Quakes draw Bay Cities and welcoming back BCFC to Paypal Park, enabling Oakland and Sacramento to make up the canceled USOC match in April of 2020.
Now let’s look into two possible groups of six:
LAFC or Galaxy
San Jose Earthquakes
Central Valley Fuego
LAFC or Galaxy
PHX Rising or Real Salt Lake
San Diego or Real Salt Lake
Orange County or Real Salt Lake
Tucson or Real Salt Lake
Cal United/San Fernando or Real Salt Lake
My logic when selecting Roots’ six team group is that the Open Cup would want to prevent the Los Angeles MLS teams from facing each other this early in the tournament. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean that LAFC and LAG they won’t be grouped together, they just won’t be drawn to play against each other in Round 3. Group A maintains possessing two MLS franchises; Group B needs to finalize a second team, which could be Real Salt Lake–this would result in one of Phoenix, San Diego, Orange County, Tucson, or the lower division sides taking an extra trip.