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“Cupsets” prevail as MLS teams enter U.S. Open Cup


I love this competition folks, just love it.

On Tuesday night the U.S. Open Cup provided plenty of shocks as four Amateur teams remain in the knockout competition, with the big boys from Major League Soccer now involved.

The third round draw is set, check it out here, with some real Cinderella stories in the making.

Four PDL sides produced “Cupsets” to make it to the third-round and will now face MLS opposition. Reading United defeated the Harrisburg City Islanders 1-0 and will now face the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.

The Ocean City Nor’easters pulled off perhaps the upset of the round, defeating the Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1-0, they now face Philadelphia at PPL Park.

While out in the Midwest, two teams also created huge upsets. The Des Moines Menace beat reigning NASL champions Minnesota United 1-0 and will now face reigning Open Cup champs Sporting KC at Sporting Park.

Rounding up the “Cupsets” FC Tucson rallied to defeat the heavily-favored San Antonio Scorpions on penalties. Tucson will now face the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium.

(More: Can lower-tier teams still go far in the U.S. Open Cup?)

So, wow, these small sides have all been rewarded big time for their magnificent efforts in reaching the third-round of the Open Cup.

That is why I love it so much.

The incentive was clearly there for these smaller sides to win, with many of their players desperate for a chance to showcase their talent at Red Bull Arena, Sporting Park, BBVA Compass Stadium and PPL Park. This is the stuff of dreams.

When we hear British commentators waxing lyrical about non-league sides reaching the third-round of the FA Cup and facing Premier League teams, a huge sense of excitement and great admiration for that small club exists. We appreciate the fruits of their labor and the fact that they’ll get a big pay day to boost the clubs finances for years to come, which is a godsend to these amateur or semi-pro sides.

(More: Getting to know the U.S. Open Cup underdogs)

This is what happened last night in the Open Cup.

Sure, these four PDL sides will get financial gains, not much, but still a vast improvement on their previous income. But now their reputation will grow exponentially, with the top collegiate players already earmarking them as a potential destination to play summer-ball next season. The benefits of reaching the third-round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are endless for the amateur sides. That’s why the want it so much.

And that, once again, is why I love this competition so much.

Roll on next week, let’s see some big boys from MLS take a tumble.

Chelsea: Conte expects warm reception for Mourinho; Terry is fit

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  A fan wears a Chelsea scarf with the image of the club's former manager, Jose Mourinho before the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.

Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.

[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]

Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.

“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”

Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. The manager guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.

“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”

Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.

Canada vs. U.S. among top-notch CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

VANCOUVER, CANADA - JUNE 20:  Gershon Koffie #28 of the Vancouver Whitecaps brings the ball up field against Dax McCarty #11 of the New York Red Bulls at B.C. Place on June 20, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images)
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The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.

No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.

[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]

The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.

Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.

Full schedule
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)

The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).

Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).

Report: USWNT star Holiday has brain tumor removed

Costa Rica v United Staes: Final - 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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World Cup champion Lauren Holiday has had a brain tumor removed, one month after giving birth.

Holiday’s husband, Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans, announced that his pregnant wife was diagnosed with an operable tumor in September, and Lauren Holiday has publicly thanked fans for support while requesting prayers.

[ MORE: UCL Final in United States? ]

The Holidays welcomed their first child earlier this month, and Jrue left the Pelicans preseason to help his wife.

The BBC added this tidbit:

Unbelievably as a three-year-old, she had open-heart surgery to repair a defect and went on to become one of the world’s most respected football players.

Get well soon, Lauren.

WATCH: FC Dallas rocket goal sends Guatemalan rainwater flying off net

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Carlos Lizarazo #22 of FC Dallas looks on during the second half of an MLS soccer game against Toronto FC at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
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Carlos Lizarazo’s ridiculous rocket shook rain off the net in an aesthetically pleasing CONCACAF Champions League goal on Thursday.

The Cruz Azul loanee struck a vicious shot for FC Dallas’ fifth goal, which boosted out of the No. 8 seed for the quarterfinals after a 5-2 win at Suchitepéquez in Guatemala.

[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]

Lizarazo, 25, had two goals in 10 appearances for FCD heading into the game, with both coming in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.