PHOTO ESSAY: U.S. Open Cup – where the games are
For the record, there is absolutely, positively nothing wrong with matches in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup playing out inside the larger MLS grounds.
(“Larger” is obviously a relative term here, considering they are generally much smaller than some of the show-boat football and futbol grounds abroad, and dwarfed similarly by NFL facilities and plenty of college football stadiums here. But you get the idea …)
Still, there is something just feels right when U.S. Open Cup drama fills up the cozy grounds just a little closer to the proverbial heartbeat of America. Those in domestic soccer’s second- and third-tiers, that is.
Here are some of the terrific spots where matches will happen Tuesday and Wednesday as the tournament’s third round happens in 16 stadiums – some of which are much lesser known to domestic soccer watchers.
(Info about each ground is below the photo ...)
The Tampa Bay Rowdies make their home at Al Lang Stadium (above), a refurbished baseball facility located on the downtown waterfront of neighboring St. Petersburg, Florida. How does it play for soccer? Ask the Seattle Sounders after Wednesday’s third-round match.
Titan Stadium on the Cal State Fullerton campus may not look like much. But back in the day, they played U.S. national team matches here. That was back in the day of Marcelo Balboa, Desmond Armstrong, Bora Milutinovic, etc.
WakeMed Soccer Park in the town of Cary, North Carolina has a swell history in the game. It was the original home of Carolina Courage in WUSA and now the home ground of the North American Soccer League’s Carolina RailHawks, who take on the LA Galaxy on Wednesday. The complex has also hosted NCAA College Cups and still hosts a regular, packed schedule of college matches.
Just three words need saying about Blackbaud Stadium (above), home to the Charleston Battery: English style pub! It’s built right into the 5,100-seat stadium, which was privately funded and completed back in 1999, back when all but one Major League Soccer team could only dream of a facility to call their own.
The Charlotte Eagles normally do their thing at Queens University’s Tyvola Road athletics complex. But wanting a few more seats for a match with the Chicago Fire, they moved this one to nearby Eagle Field of Winthrop University.
Remember when the Rochester Rhinos were front and center in the MLS expansion sweepstakes? Heck, the club’s Sahlen’s Stadium still looks like a pretty nifty MLS home to some of us. They just need a few more commas on the ownership’s financial portfolio … but details, details!
The Richmond Kickers have been around longer than most MLS clubs, since 1993. And their home field, the 22,000-seat City Stadium – ahem, they didn’t exactly break any creative sound barriers with that one, eh? – has a bigger seating capacity than quite a few MLS grounds. So, we’ll see how D.C. United, struggling mightily in MLS play, deals with all that tonight.