Sporting Kansas City takes on Sacramento Republic FC in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinals on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. CT at their home stadium of Heart Health Park. The match can be streamed via an ESPN+ subscription. A spot in the finals is on the line as one of the Open Cup’s most historic clubs, Sporting KC faces a newcomer to the semifinals in Sacramento.
Wednesday marks Sporting’s sixth semifinal appearance in America’s longest-running soccer competition. They have won four Open Cup titles, tied for the most in Major League Soccer, and are in pursuit of that coveted fifth trophy.
Here are five things to know as Sporting Kansas City and Sacramento Republic FC fight it out in the Open Cup semifinals.
Spot in the final on the line
After three consequential cup contests, Sporting KC is one win away from competing in the 2022 Open Cup finals. The winner of Sporting v Sacramento will take on the winner of the New York Red Bulls at Orlando City SC which also kicks off on Wednesday night, but at 6:30 p.m. CT on ESPN+. Due to hosting priority, Sporting would host the finals if they win and the Red Bulls win. If both Orlando and Sporting win, Sporting will travel to Exploria Stadium for the finals. However, in order to get to the final, Sporting KC must take care of business against Sacramento Republic FC on the road.
Sporting KC will take the pitch against Sacramento for the first time in first-team history. Sporting KC II, then the Swope Park Rangers, have locked horns with Sacramento on seven occasions in USL Championship play, posting a 3-2-2 record. Current Sporting KC players Daniel Salloi and Felipe Hernandez have started matches at Heart Health Park for SPR.
Founded in 2012, and beginning play in 2014, Sacramento Republic FC hails from the USL Championship. In their first year of play, Sporting Legend Preki was named USL Coach of the Year after leading Sacramento to a USL Cup title win in their inaugural season. Presently, Sacramento is in seventh in the USL Championship Western Conference with an 8-5-6 record. They are led by Mark Briggs after he helped lead now MLS NEXT Pro club Real Monarchs to the playoffs in USL. Although their leading goal scorer Maalique Foster has four goals scored this season, they have 11 goal scorers and seven players with multiple goals.
How did we get here?
The journey to the semifinals for Sporting KC began back on Tuesday, May 10 at Children’s Mercy Park. After falling behind 2-0 to FC Dallas, a second half goal from Nikola Vujnovic had Sporting down a goal in stoppage time. With the final kick of regulation in the 97th minute, Remi Walter sent a corner towards the area. Marinos Tzionis squared his shoulders and redirected the ball with his head over the Dallas keeper and into the goal for the latest regulation goal in Sporting KC history. Khiry Shelton then forced an own goal and scored one for himself in extra time to lift Sporting past FC Dallas and into the Round of 16.
In the next round, Sporting came face to face with one of their rivals, the Houston Dynamo on May 25. After conceding right before halftime, captain Johnny Russell kicked it into high gear in the second. He scored an incredible goal, fighting through multiple tackles to fire the leveler home in the 52nd, before giving Sporting the lead in the 73rd with a perfect penalty. Sporting would hold on to win 2-1 and punch their ticket to the quarterfinals. In the next round, Union Omaha of USL League One came down I29 for a cup clash. Sporting sent the Owls home with a 6-0 thrashing with braces from Hernandez and Salloi, and goals from Kortne Ford and Khiry Shelton. Now, Sporting will travel for the first time in the 2022 Open Cup with that spot in the finals hanging in the balance.
On the road again
In their last 10 matches, Sporting has played seven away from home. The club’s frequent flyer miles have been adding up in the month of July with Sporting making three straight road trips in the span of eight days. In their last five road tests, Sporting is 2-2-1 with impressive wins at Nashville and in Montreal. Their draw was a comeback 1-1 midweek tie with their northern rivals, Minnesota United. While Sporting has not had to travel yet for an Open Cup match, they have outscored opponents 12-3 in the tournament this season. This will also be Sporting’s first match at a lower-division team’s home since 2016 when they faced then NASL team Minnesota United.
Sporting KC vs. USL
History is on Sporting’s side on Wednesday when they take on Sacramento. Sporting has won their last four Open Cup semifinal matches (2004, 2012, 2015, 2017) and then gone on to win the cup in all four of those instances. The club has advanced in 24 Open Cup matches since 2012, more than any other team in the country. Sporting is also 15-5-3 against non-MLS teams in the tournament all-time.