Five Things

Sporting Kansas City is set to host Union Omaha at Children’s Mercy Park in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. CT. Since 2012, Sporting is undefeated in the Open Cup quarterfinals at Children’s Mercy Park and have gone on to win the title in all three years they have hosted the quarterfinals.

Wednesday will be the first-ever meeting between Sporting KC and USL League One side Union Omaha. This will be the first time Sporting has faced a lower league opponent in the tournament since they beat then NASL representatives Minnesota United in the Round of 32 of the 2016 tournament.

Here are five things to watch as Sporting Kansas City and Union Omaha battle it out for a spot in the semifinals of America’s longest-running soccer tournament.

Everything to play for

Just eight teams remain in the 2022 US Open Cup as the field continues to dwindle. The winner of Wednesday night’s match between Sporting and Omaha will go on to face the winner of the LA Galaxy and Sacramento Republic match set to take place Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. CT also on ESPN+. Homefield advantage for the remainder of the tournament will be decided with a draw on Thursday evening after just four teams remain in the competition. It is win or go home Wednesday evening as two teams with vastly different histories take the pitch on either side of one another.

Previewing Union Omaha

Union Omaha is newer to the soccer scene but has entered with a roar. The club was created ahead of the 2020 USL League One season. Playing out of Werner Park, the home of the Kansas City Royals Triple-A affiliate Omaha Storm Chasers, Union Omaha earned a spot in the USL League One finals in their first season. Unfortunately, the final was canceled due to COIVD-19, and Greenville Triumph were awarded first place. They followed up their inaugural season with an even better second season, finishing the campaign atop the USL League One standings, earning a spot in the USL League One Finals and avenging their 2020 disappointment by beating Greenville 3-0 and bringing the title home.

They are the only remaining USL League One team left in the 2022 Open Cup, defeating the Des Moines Menace in the Second Round before becoming the first-ever USL League One club to beat an MLS team in Open Cup history when they beat the Chicago Fire in a penalty shootout in the Third Round. They went on to knock out the Northern Colorado Hailstorm in the Round of 32 and bounced Minnesota United from the Tournament in the Round of 16.

Children’s Mercy Park in the Open Cup

After an impressive run to the quarterfinals, Union Omaha now have to face Sporting Kansas City with Children’s Mercy Park as the backdrop, a historically difficult challenge in the Open Cup. Sporting is 23-7-3 in home matches in the Open Cup, having not lost at home since the 2014 Round of 16. Since Children’s Mercy Park opened its doors in 2011, Sporting has lifted three Dewars Cups, two of which came at home in front of the Blue Hell. Both of Sporting’s 2022 Open Cup matches have come in front of the home fans as well.

How did we get here

In Sporting’s first two Open Cup matches, they have found their backs against the wall, and still come out on top. In the Round of 32, FC Dallas jumped out to a 2-0 lead over Sporting before Nikola Vujnovic and Marinos Tzionis netted their first goals for the club. Tzionis’ equalizer came in the eighth minute of second half stoppage time, the latest goal in regulation in Sporting KC history, and forced extra time. In the first half of extra time, Khiry Shelton forced an own goal and then followed that up by putting the match on ice with a goal of his own.

In the Round of 16, Houston took a 1-0 lead into the break before Johnny Russell took over. He leveled the match in the second half by fighting through bouts of contact, regaining his feet and firing a shot into the back of the net. In the 73rd minute, he buried a penalty to give Sporting the lead, which they held for the final 17 minutes. Now, the quarterfinals loom with a spot in the semifinals on the line.

Momentum building

Sunday, before Sporting began preparation for the open cup, the team traveled to the fortress that is GEODIS Park in Nashville, TN. Sporting handed Nashville SC their first loss in GEODIS Park, their first home loss in over two years and snapped their 25-match unbeaten streak. Felipe Hernandez scored a long-range effort in the first half, a 38-yard free kick he skipped past Joe Willis, and Graham Zusi netted the match-winner from 24-yards out just over six minutes into the second half. Zusi earned MLS Team of the Week presented by Audi honors and had his goal nominated for the AT&T Goal of the Week. Sporting will look to ride their momentum from that monumental road win for their midweek cup match against Omaha on Wednesday.