Cripes! It's this years' FA Cup all over again as the lower division sides muscle their way into the final stages of the competition. Charleston disposes of FC Dallas in convincing fashion, the soon-to-be MLS-bound Sounders demonstrate that they can already hang with the lower echelon of the top flight by downing KC, and lowly USL-2's own Crystal Palace Baltimore almost made it a trifecta but stumbled at the final hurdle and went out on penalties. Still, claiming half of the semifinal berths and guaranteeing their presence in the final will be a sweet reward for the little USL engine that could.
Oh, but what might have been for DC United! If C.P. Baltimore could have taken the penalty shootout against the Revs, that would have left United as the Open Cup's Portsmouth analogue--the proverbial man amongst boys. As it stands, they've got the Revs at home, but the Revs are nothing if not cup specialists--well, at least until they reach the final anyway ;-). Any chance that this will be as exciting as the MLS Cup semi of a few years ago? Nope. C'mon, but it's in RFK, isn't it? Yeah, good luck with that.
But it does raise the question. With a Champions' League berth on the line, isn't the risk of overextending your starters worth the reward? Even at this late stage of the tournament, the MLS sides were still fielding half- or three-quarter-strength lineups, almost as if they had been following some Pavlovian programming that convinced the coaching staffs that the Open Cup was worthless. That behavior has left the door wide open for some USL sides to step up to the continental plate. Strange, I thought that Puerto Rico or one of the Canadian USL sides would have the easiest go of qualifying for the brand-spanking new CONCACRAP Champions' League.