The US Soccer Soccer Federation has announced the possible third round pairings for all eight remaining MLS clubs still alive in the US Open Cup tournament. The Fire will play the winner of next Tuesday's match between the Rochester Rhinos and Harrisburg City Islanders to be held in Harrisburg, Penn.
Harrisburg currently sits in third place in USL Pro's National Division, four points behind division leader Rochester albeit with two games in hand. The Islanders are also home for 2011 Fire draft pick Jason Herrick and sport a 4-1-1 record on their home turf. Why is this all important to the Fire you ask?
Well, if Harrisburg manages to beat Rochester they will travel to Toyota Park to face the Fire on June 28. Should Rochester emerge victorious, the Fire will have to travel to the Rhino's Sahlen Stadium in New York on that same date. After looking at the pairings it's noticebale that a Rochester win would mean that the Fire will be the only MLS side travelling in the third round. How this scenario came to be is somewhat complicated.
All MLS clubs qualifying for the tournament either through 2010 play or through advancement by virtue of play-in victories are automatically advanced to third round play. Keep this in mind when taking into account how the MLS sides are placed in the USSF brackets.
The Chicago Fire Premier team moved into second round action after defeating the Iowa Menace on Tuesday night. Their victory meant that the Fire would move into the opposite bracket since the USSF frowns upon teams from the same organization possibly meeting in a third round contest. This moved the Fire into the bracket with several New York based teams. The New York Red Bulls, NY Pancyprian Freedoms, FC New York, and Rochester.
Since teams are awarded hosting duties based on blind bids made by each individual organization the lower level Rhinos put forth a best case scenario bid that would have enabled them to host the Red Bulls in something of a local derby with a top tier club that would have theoretically ensured them a substantial gate. The Rhino's Sahlen Stadium incidentally holds over 13,000. Of course this was all based on the anticipation that the New York sides would be bracketed together regionally and a Rochester win would almost ensure a match up with the Red Bulls at some point. Unfortunately for the Rhinos (and the Fire) the Red Bulls will host the winner of the FC New York and NY Freedoms match and Rochester drew the Fire. An MLS team in Rochester should be able to draw more attention on a Tuesday night than any other USL or USOC match-up but it's not the draw that the Red Bulls would have been locally for the Rhinos.
Regardless of all that if Harrisburg can defeat Rochester next week, the Fire will host a third round game at Toyota Park on June 28. As for the location, be it Rochester or Bridgeview the Fire organization is apparently working to ensure that the third round match will be available via webcast at Chicago-Fire.com.