US Open Cup preview: MLS teams enter as regional rivalries take center stage

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The big boys are about to make some noise in the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

As is customary, all U.S. teams from Major League Soccer will enter the USOC at the fourth round stage with plenty of regional rivalries taking center stage across Tuesday and Wednesday in the 102nd edition of America’s oldest knockout competition.

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With teams from the NASL and USL aiming to make a name for themselves by taking an MLS scalp, there are some extremely tasty games coming up with regional rivalries set up by the organizers through to the semifinal rounds.

Defending champions Seattle Sounders (who have won four of the last seven Open Cup titles in case you haven’t bumped into a Sounders fan lately…) host Cascadia rivals the Portland Timbers at the always boisterous Starfire Sports Complex on Tuesday in the only all-MLS tie of the last 32.

Elsewhere everyone else is on upset alert as the pick of Tuesday’s games sees Sporting Kansas City host USL new-boys Saint Louis FC, while the San Jose Earthquakes host Sacramento Republic and the Chicago Fire welcome Louisville City FC to Toyota Park.

On Wednesday there are some beauties to look forward to as New York City FC head out to Long Island to take on the New York Cosmos of the NASL. Other standout games on Wednesday include 2013 champs D.C. United head to the Steel City to face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL, Orlando City head up to South Carolina to play Charleston Battery and 2014 MLS champions LA Galaxy host surprise package PSA Elite.

Below is the full schedule for the USOC fourth round with links to watch or listen to the games live.

U.S. Open Cup – Fourth round


Philadelphia Union (MLS) vs. Rochester Rhinos (USL) – 7:30 p.m. ET – live on U.S. Soccer YouTube
New York Red Bulls (MLS) vs. Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL) – 7:30 p.m. ET – live on U.S. Soccer YouTube
Sporting Kansas City (MLS) vs. Saint Louis FC (USL) – 8:30 p.m. ET – live on U.S. Soccer YouTube
Chicago Fire (MLS) vs. Louisville City FC (USL) – 8:30 p.m. ET – live on U.S. Soccer YouTube
FC Dallas (MLS) at Oklahoma City Energy FC (USL) –  9 p.m. ET – updates on FC Dallas’ Twitter feed
Colorado Rapids (MLS) vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (USL) – 9 p.m. ET – live audio,
Real Salt Lake (MLS) vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2 (USL)- 10 p.m. ET – live on U.S. Soccer YouTube
San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) vs. Sacramento Republic FC (USL) – 10:30 p.m. ET – live on U.S. Soccer YouTube
Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) vs. Portland Timbers FC (MLS) – 10:30 p.m. ET – live on U.S. Soccer YouTube


Richmond Kickers (USL) vs. Columbus Crew SC (MLS) – 7 p.m. ET – live on U.S. Soccer YouTube
Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL) vs. D.C. United (MLS) – 7:08 p.m. ET- live on U.S. Soccer YouTube
New York Cosmos (NASL) vs. New York City FC (MLS) – 7:30 p.m. ET – live on U.S. Soccer YouTube
Charleston Battery (USL) vs. Orlando City SC (MLS) – 7:30 p.m. ET – live on U.S. Soccer YouTube
New England Revolution (MLS) vs. Charlotte Independence (USL) – 7:30 p.m. ET – live on U.S. Soccer YouTube
Houston Dynamo (MLS) vs. Austin Aztex (USL) – 9 p.m. ET – live on U.S. Soccer YouTube
LA Galaxy (MLS) vs. PSA Elite (USASA) – 10:30 p.m. ET – live on U.S. Soccer YouTube

San Francisco 49ers brass announced as investors in Sacramento Republic

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Sacramento’s “State of the City” address proved to feature a bit of the theatrical, as mayor Kevin Johnson announced further investment into USL PRO club Sacramento Republic.

The club is making a bid for entry into Major League Soccer, and has now added influential San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York as well as owners of the National Football League club. The Republic has also received vocal support from Sacramento’s NBA team, the Kings.

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At worst, it’s a savvy marketing move by the 49ers brass. At best, it’s something huge for Sacramento’s soccer dreams. This article said York and his partners should Sacramento over San Jose because of the “chance to get in on the ground floor,” which is a bit alarming for the long-standing Quakes.

From The Sacramento Bee:

York said the investment was prompted, in part, by the importance of Sacramento to the 49ers. “We have more 49ers season ticket holders in Sacramento than we do in San Francisco,” he said as he headed to the airport for a flight to Arizona for the Super Bowl.

Citing Republic FC’s lead investors, he said, “You’ve got a great group of people” and said he was confident Sacramento will win its bid for an MLS expansion team.

The 49ers as an organization aren’t investing; it’s York and six partners and family members. The 49ers group and the Kings will have roughly the same minority stake in Republic FC, said Warren Smith, president and founder of the soccer club. Financial details weren’t disclosed.
That’ll be an eyebrow raiser around the country, though big wigs investing in their local team isn’t anything too new. The sport continues to grow at a rapid pace in the United States.

USL PRO coach charged with murder of police officer in Liverpool

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Following the tragic death of police officer Neil Doyle in Liverpool last Friday, a professional soccer coach in the U.S. has been charged with murder and assault.

On Monday Christopher Spendlove was fired as the assistant coach of Oklahoma City Energy, which plays in the USL PRO, and the 30-year-old has appeared in an English court on Tuesday in his home city of Liverpool.

Spendlove and 28-year-old Andrew Taylor are accused of murdering off-duty officer Doyle in the city center of Liverpool, as it is alleged he was attacked in the early hours of Friday morning and a post-mortem examination found that Doyle died from a fatal bleed around the brain.

In a statement Oklahoma Energy FC said that Spendlove was dismissed “given the seriousness of the charges” as the former student at Oklahoma City University will await trial in the early summer and a preliminary hearing will be held on January 6, 2015 into the murder charges and also charges of unlawfully and maliciously wounding Michael Stephenson and Robert Marshall during the same incident.

Here’s is the statement from the Energy’s GM, Jason Hawkins, in full.

“We are stunned by the news today of murder charges being filed against OKC Energy FC assistant coach Chris Spendlove in England stemming  from an altercation involving several individuals on Friday, December 19. The incident resulted in the death of an off-duty law enforcement officer. Details of the incident will be forthcoming as the matter winds its way through England’s legal system including the extent in which Chris was involved. Given the seriousness of the charges, we have made the decision to dismiss Chris  from the organization. That said, we are deeply saddened by the news of the incident and our hearts go out to the family of the police officer who lost his life. We are also disheartened for Chris. As an assistant coach, he was always professional and conducted himself in a proper and respectful manner. Our thoughts are also with him and his family during this difficult time.”

Vancouver announces USL PRO team, expansion of training facilities

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USL PRO is coming to Vancouver this Spring, announced Friday as Whitecaps FC 2, to replace the Whitecaps U-23 team.

The club will compete in metro Vancouver at Thunderbird Stadium inside of the University of British Columbia. Like many clubs WFC2 will be partially fan-owned.

Vancouver joins Cascadia counterparts Seattle (Sounders 2) and Portland (Timbers 2) in putting a club in USL PRO, while Toronto FC reserves, Real Monarchs, FC Montreal, LA Galaxy II are also in the league or have announced plans to join the league. FC Dallas could be on the way, too.

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On top of the team, Vancouver announced an expansion of the National Soccer Development Centre in Canada.


In partnership with UBC and the Government of British Columbia, the club also revealed preliminary renderings of the final phase of the NSDC, featuring a state-of-the-art fieldhouse (subject to final UBC Board of Governors approval), which is set to be completed prior to the start of the 2017 Major League Soccer (MLS) preseason.

The fieldhouse is being designed by Acton Ostry Architects, an award-winning architectural firm based in Vancouver, in collaboration with BBB Architects, internationally recognized sports architects who recently completed the Kia Toronto FC Training Ground & Academy. In total, the multi-campus NSDC includes seven fields – two artificial turf fields at Simon Fraser University, and three grass and two artificial turf fields at UBC.

“Today marks another important milestone for our club and another step forward in our partnership with UBC,” said Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi. “We’re thrilled to be launching our USL PRO team at UBC. We have many talented young players at our club, including nine Residency products who recently did very well internationally with our Canadian U-20 men’s national team. WFC2 will allow them to continue their development against quality competition, including our fellow Cascadia rivals from Seattle and Portland. Along with the renderings of our new training facility, we have a clear view into our future. These initiatives will provide a positive impact and lasting legacy for Whitecaps FC, Canadian soccer, UBC, and the community at large.”

So what do you make of this? Does it raise or lower your opinion of USL PRO? Does this push them forward, even or behind the NASL?

UFC fighter among new Sacramento Republic investors, MLS charge continues


Sacramento is serious about bringing top-flight soccer to California’s capital city. Very serious.

The hugely ambitious USL PRO club (who just secured the USL title in their first season as a franchise) which calls Sacramento home have announced a whole host of new investors are on board as Sacramento Republic FC aims to gain entry into Major League Soccer.

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During a visit to Sacramento in September, MLS officials were said to be impressed with what they saw as calls continue for a new franchise in California, especially with Chivas USA’s future looking uncertain amid reports of a two-year hiatus.

UFC fighter Urijah Faber is perhaps the highest profile name among the new owners, which includes minority owners in the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, Mark L. Friedman, Dave Lucchetti and Phil Oates, plus investors Dale Carlsen, Brad Jenkins, Jonna and Roger Ward, Dr. Aaron Reeves and Lisa Parker. Those 10 investors join lead investor Kevin Nagle, plus co-founder and club president Warren Smith and developer Larry Kelley in the club’s MLS ownership group.

From the club’s website, here’s what President Warren Smith had to say about a new influx of cash into the team:

“The individuals and companies that are standing behind Republic FC represent many of the region’s biggest success stories. These investors believe not just in the club, but in Sacramento. Their names are synonymous with the region, and each is dedicated to expanding our community’s sports and entertainment options.”

One important note on these new investors: they will only pour money into the franchise if the club are granted MLS expansion rights.

After a hugely impressive first season in North American soccer, the Republic averaged 11,293 fans for the USL PRO which was a league record and better than incoming MLS expansion franchise Orlando City. That includes moving to the smaller venue of Bonney Field halfway through the season which has a capacity of 8,000. Warren Smith’s plans for Sacramento republic include MLS entry by 2016 and a new downtown stadium seating 18,000 people.

As we said at the start, Sacramento is serious about soccer.