The Chicago Fire had the best-case scenario unfold for their U.S. Open Cup chances Thursday, landing a home game against the only USL side left in the competition and a home game in the quarterfinals should they advance.
For the first time ever, the U.S. Open Cup featured a draw for the round of 16 pairings, which was also live streamed on www.ussoccer.com. The 16 teams were grouped into four groups of four based on region. The Fire were grouped with Columbus, Orlando City and USL side Charlotte Independence. The technical name of the region is called the South because we don’t really have a word in the English language to describe that regional group of cities.
Chicago was the first name drawn in its group, meaning it will host Charlotte Independence on Tuesday, June 30 at 7:30 p.m. Should the Fire win, they will also host the winner of Columbus/Orlando City in late July for the quarterfinals. The semifinals will be hosted by the winner of the East group featuring New York Red Bulls, New York Cosmos, D.C. United and Philadelphia Union.
The draw was great news for the Fire who hope to put together a magical Cup run in the midst of an underwhelming league season. And while on paper the Charlotte Independence is the weakest of all 16 teams remaining, a win against the New England Revolution is nothing to ignore.
Charlotte pulled off the upset Wednesday when team captain Jorge Herrera netted an impressive 20-yard bender into the top right corner to secure a 1-0 victory. According to Vegas odds, the only greater possible upset in the fourth round would have been PSA Elite toppling the LA Galaxy.
While Charlotte should have confidence after the stunning victory, they too are struggling in league play at 19th out of 24 teams.
So get pumped Fire fans, quarterfinals and beyond seem like a real possibility. But if Chicago repeats Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup performance, then congratulations in advance to Charlotte for a second stunning result.