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Union Eyeing Open Cup Prize

Union Eyeing Open Cup Prize
There are only two chances for Major League Soccer teams to win a title during their long season. One, of course, is to win an MLS championship, which won’t be decided until December.
The other is to win the U.S. Open Cup, a unique tournament that allows teams of all talent levels to compete. While MLS teams are the dominant ones, there are many other teams from lesser leagues that compete.
In fact, among the eight teams still left in the running this season, seven are from MLS and one, Louisville United FC, plays in the United Soccer League, sort of like a farm system for MLS teams. (The Union own a USL team, the Bethlehem Steel).
Even a team like the Ocean City Nor’easters of the Premier Development League (a lower level league than MLS and USL) competed in the U.S. Open Cup.
Ocean City was eliminated, 4-1 by North Carolina FC of the USL in the third round of the Open Cup.
MLS teams don’t begin action in the Open Cup until the fourth round the Union beat the USL’s Richmond Kickers 5-0.
Then came a true test for the Union with a 2-1 victory over one of their chief rivals, the New York Red Bulls in a round of 16 game.
That advanced the Union to the quarterfinal which they will host at Talent Energy Stadium in Chester, 7 p.m. on July 18against Orlando City FC. (The stadium is easy to get to from South Jersey, just off 295 to the Commodore Barry Bridge, approximately 20 minutes from Woodbury). The semifinals are Aug. 8 and the finals on Sept. 26.
The Union lost a 2-0 decision at home to Orlando City on April 13, so this won’t be an easy game, but in their previous eight seasons, the Union have recorded an impressive U.S. Open Cup resume.
In 2014 and 2015 the Union lost dramatic U.S. Open Cup championship games, both at home.
The Union lost to the Seattle Sounders, 3-1 in extra time during the 2014 championship. The next year was even tighter when the Union lost on penalty kicks to Sporting Kansas City (a team coached by Delran product Peter Vermes).
The teams had played to a 1-1 draw through regulation and extra time and then Sporting KC beat the Union in the penalty kick segment, 7-6.
Some MLS teams may not play all their top players in an Open Cup game, but at this stage, most will have their starters in. No doubt the Union will, as the franchise has always placed a high priority on the Open Cup.
Midfielder Borek Dockal, who has been playing at a high level leads the Union in both goals (5) and assists (6). He has three game-winning goals.
The Open Cup, which was founded in 1914 and is the longest national soccer competition in the country.  Winning the title not only gives team a chance to earn a trophy, but also earns a berth in the prestigious 2019 CONCACAF Championship League. In addition teams earn $300,000 in prize money for winning and the runner-up receives $100,000, giving more incentive for teams to advance.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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