The New York Cosmos will take on Black Rock FC of USL League Two (formerly USL Premier Development League) tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET at Rocco B. Commisso Stadium at Columbia University in the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Before discussing Black Rock FC, it's worth walking through what is the US Open Cup, and tis relevance to American clubs.
The US Open Cup is the United States' longest-running national soccer tournament, and is arguably the purest expression of the sport in America to be found. Roughly similar to the English Football Association Cup, the single-elimination, multi-round competition spans clubs from the amateur, semi-pro and professional levels, all the way to single-entity teams in the USSF-sanctioned first division league, Major League Soccer. Winners of the US Open Cup earn a berth in the group stage of the next CONCACAF Champions League tournament. The three remaining berths available to the United States are only given to teams in the MLS single-entity league. As such, the US Open Cup is the sole means of a non-MLS team in the entire country to formally play at the international level. It remains a long shot, as an MLS team has generally taken the USOC's CONCACAF Champions berth as well since the mid-nineties.
In past years, USSF had applied a best-effort, low-budget approach to providing match streams free of charge. This satisfied the expectation that, as the body mandated with the growth of the sport in the United States, the USSF would promote and manage this long-running tournament while also fulfilling the USSF's desire to spend as little as possible yet still protecting its preferred relationship with the MLS and Soccer United Marketing. SUM is a company wholly owned by the MLS and tasked with managing all National Team appearances and many international friendlies. It splits revenue with USSF and its MLS shareholders.
This year, USSF made the decision to spend even less money on Open Cup operations by handing to for-profit vendor ESPN the rights to stream all matches. All 2019 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup matches will be made available to customers of the ESPN+ streaming service. This will improve match stream reliability and experience only for those able or willing to pay for it.
The Cosmos first opponent in their run to the Cup is a relatively new club, rising out of the USL Premier Development League, which was recently renamed to the somewhat misleading name of USL League Two.
"I recognize what the Cosmos mean on the U.S. soccer landscape," said CEO and Coach of Black Rock FC Jon Moodey. "I'm thrilled they're still doing well. It's an awesome opportunity to play a legendary organization and test ourselves in that way. It's a great honor and it's something that I'm really excited about."
Black Rock FC players are mostly college students, and according to Michael Lewis, have been put in an unenviable position of choosing between practices and their final exams.
With that being said, the Cosmos should not be complacent and overlook this USL League Two side in, their first appearance in the tournament. Players were handpicked out of the best of several groups in the western Massachusetts area. Much to supporters' chagrin, the Cosmos - despite robust season-long records - have a history of stumbling at the beginning of recent USOC runs. Some of our best moments in the modern era have been in the third and fourth USOC rounds - defeating regional MLS single-entity teams like Red Bulls and NYCFC more often than not.
Hopefully this is the start of a great cup run for the Boys In Green. Let's go New York Cosmos!
James Izurieta contributed to this report.