CHESTER, Pa. -- The Union have entered the busiest stretch of the 2012 season, but if the players get their way they’ll be adding a few more games to the schedule.
Philadelphia return to Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup action on Tuesday (7:30pm, TICKETS) when the team takes on club affiliate Harrisburg City Islanders. The winner will earn a berth in the semifinals, which will be played at PPL Park if Philadelphia emerge victorious.
The Union had a chance to play in the 2011 U.S. Open Cup, but failed to qualify as one of eight MLS teams in the 40-team tournament field. This year, however, the USOC organizers introduced a new format. The tournament field was expanded to 64 teams comprised of 32 professional teams and 32 amateur teams. All 10 U.S.-based United Soccer League Pro teams and six North American Soccer League teams joined the field in the second round, and the 16 American MLS clubs entered in the third round.
After winning both of the club's first two games in Open Cup play, Philadelphia are now just one of eight teams remaining in the single-elimination tournament.
“It’s been fantastic because it gives us the opportunity to chase some silverware, and that has to be a goal of any club," interim manager John Hackworth said. "In addition to that, it’s the oldest and most prestigious cup in the country aside from the league, and it gives you the chance to compete in the Champions League.”
In addition to a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League, where teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean battle for regional supremacy and a spot in the annual FIFA Club World Cup, winning the 99th installment of the United States Soccer Federation’s annual tournament would earn the Union a $100,000 prize and — more significantly — the first trophy in franchise history.
Also among the final eight clubs is Seattle Sounders FC, who hope to make U.S. Open Cup history by winning a fourth straight title. But before Philadelphia can think about dethroning the reigning champions, they’ll first have to get through Harrisburg, who defeated the Union in a friendly on June 12 by a score of 3-2.
“Harrisburg is a fantastic opponent and they’ve already beaten two of the MLS teams in this competition," Hackworth said. "We played them a couple of weeks ago. We know it’s going to be a big challenge on Tuesday. We hope the fans understand how important it is. For those fans that weren’t here for our first Open Cup win in team history, it was a pretty amazing night."