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U.S. Open Cup superlatives: Best fan gear, most heated rivalry & more from the third round

We're back with the best and wackiest from the Open Cup.

6 min read

It’s getting serious now. Three amateur teams survived until the third round of the U.S. Open Cup, and none made it out alive. The USL Championship entered 16 teams into the tournament this week, and 12 advanced, leaving some room for chaos as we trend towards the Round of 32 in three weeks.

Even if the Cinderella stories didn’t meet fairytale endings, this round was still full of wild moments and can’t-miss storylines. Let’s hand out another set of Open Cup superlatives.

Most Heated Rivalry

Detroit City. Michigan Stars. The rivalry dates back to the clubs’ time in the NPSL, back when the Stars were known as FC Sparta Michigan. Detroit City has had the better of the matchup over the years, winning almost two-thirds of their meetings outright across more than 20 competitive bouts.

Like the series itself, the game was lopsided. Le Rouge outshot their in-state foes 22 to eight, with Maxi Rodriguez absolutely dictating the terms in the midfield. The Stars weren’t without a chance or two; Justin Meram and Harrison Afful, longtime MLS teammates, both availed themselves admirably. Goalkeeper Tatenda Mkuruva absolutely stood on his head in a seven-save outing.

The dam eventually broke with the guests down a man in added time, with Rodriguez scoring the winner. That’s when the smoke hit.

Stars owner George Juncaj famously complained of being “sabotaged with smoke, darkness, and smell” after an Open Cup loss in this same match-up in 2022, and Detroit matched that energy again on Tuesday.

Excellence in Fandom

Like two ships passing in the night, the USL’s two Virginia-based clubs — the Richmond Kickers and Loudoun United — missed out on playing in the same league by a year. The Kickers dropped to League One in 2019, the same season Loudoun joined the Championship.

They finally met competitively on Wednesday night in what ended up being a somewhat dull affair, but one Richmond supporter at City Stadium more than made up for the energy.

What more could you ask for? There’s a comically oversized hat, a Tom Bogert-esque mustache, a Waffle House arm sleeve, a 2017 Kickers kit to show that he’s an old head. This is the magic of the Cup.

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