The last three clubs to participate in the USL Cup Final are still alive in the 2018 edition of the USL Cup Playoffs, but all eyes are a fourth club.
FC Cincinnati hasn’t lost a match since May 26, the soon-to-be MLS club kickoff off a 24-match unbeaten run with a win over New York Red Bulls II a week later.
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Those two sides meet in the quarterfinals on Saturday, a match-up of the top team in the league and a Red Bulls side which won the cup in 2016.
The winner will meet either No. 2 seed Louisville City or No. 6 Bethlehem Steel. Louisville is led by USL Golden Boot winner Cameron Lancaster, a 25-year-old Londoner who made a single 12-minute appearance for Tottenham Hotspur against Wigan in 2014.
Out West, there’s another Premier League experienced player who plenty more neutrals have known for some time. Didier Drogba returned after four months off to play three of Phoenix Rising’s final four regular season matches, turning on the juice with a goal in the first round of the playoffs as Phoenix blew out Portland Timbers 2.
Phoenix faces No. 7 seed Swope Park Rangers, which has lost the past two USL Cup finals and should not be overlooked.
The fourth quarterfinal sees Orange County SC and Reno 1868 FC meeting in Irvine. OC is paced by former Akron University standout Aodhan Quinn, who has 11 goals and 15 assists. Former Southampton man Jos Hooiveld is also on the squad, and may be tasked with shutting down Jamaican striker Brian Brown.