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Phoenix Rising to Face North Carolina in Open Cup Match on May 8

April 19, 2024 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
Phoenix Rising FC News Release

Phoenix Rising FC will enter the 109th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in the Round of 32 on Wednesday, May 8 at WakeMed Soccer Park vs. North Carolina FC.

"It will be an exciting matchup for us," said Rising head coach Danny Stone. "We're looking forward to it. North Carolina has been a good team to watch this year. They will test us. It will be an exciting challenge for us. It wasn't expected but it adds a little bit more enjoyment to the competition by seeing some new teams earlier in the competition."

For Rising, the new format means it will begin the tournament at the furthest point it has advanced in any of its eight previous appearances.

Phoenix Rising FC History in U.S. Open Cup

The tournament hasn't been kind to the defending USL Champions. Prior to the franchise rebranding as Phoenix Rising, Arizona United advanced to the Fourth Round of the 2014 tournament by beating Portland Timbers U23's and OKC Energy FC. In the only official match against an MLS team in franchise history, United took a 1-0 lead vs. LA Galaxy in the 36th minute on a goal scored by Matt Kassel. The score held until the 51st minute, when Gyasi Zardes scored his first of two goals in a three-minute span to knock Arizona out of the open cup.

It hasn't gotten any better from there. Arizona United went 1-2-0 in the open cup in its final two seasons. Rising crashed out of the cup to lower division teams in 2017 (San Francisco Deltas) and 2018 (Sporting Arizona FC) before falling 4-3 in penalties at home to New Mexico United in 2019. Even the Phoenix Rising team that won 20 consecutive matches between May 10 and September 14, could not find a way to advance past the second round.

After the tournament took a two-year break for COVID, Rising showed some promise in the tournament by winning two games in 2022 (vs. Valley United and New Mexico United), but ultimately fell, 2-0, in Sacramento in the Round of 32. That loss coincided with a turn in the season and perhaps the franchise. Going into that game, Phoenix held a league record of 6-3-0. After that match, Phoenix went 2-8-5 through August 12, leading to the coaching change that brought in Juan Guerra.

Able to bring Phoenix its first USL Championship, Guerra fared no better when matched against Phoenix's U.S. Open Cup ghosts. Phoenix advanced past Greenville Triumph 1-0 at home, but fell, 2-1 at New Mexico United in the third round.

The Opportunity

When Rising fell, 2-0, to Sacramento in the 2022 tournament, the Republic went on to defeat MLS sides San Jose Earthquakes (2-0), LA Galaxy (2-1) and Sporting Kansas City (0-0, 5-4 in PKs) to advance to the U.S. Open Cup Final against Orlando City. Sacramento held Orlando scoreless until the 75th minute, then the floodgates opened. City ended the upset run by winning 3-0 at home.

The win gave MLS its 26th U.S. Open Cup win in the last 27 seasons. The only lower division winner came in 1999 when the Rochester Rhinos upset the Colorado Rapids, Dallas Burn, Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew to claim the Open Cup Title.

Rising enters the tournament in the Round of 32 and would need to win four consecutive matches to become one of just three lower division teams (Rochester, Charleston, Sacramento) to make the final in 27 years. After today's draw, Phoenix would also need to win at least the first two games on the road.

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The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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