(Aug. 8, 2017) — A sparkling semifinal showdown awaits Wednesday in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup when Sporting Kansas City hosts the San Jose Earthquakes at Children’s Mercy Park. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT with a live stream at SportingKC.com and local radio broadcasts airing on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish). Tickets for the highly anticipated matchup are also on sale at SeatGeek.comas a pair of Western Conference rivals look to punch their ticket to the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final on Sept. 20.
Sporting Kansas City and San Jose have rolled to the Open Cup semifinals on the back of three straight victories in earlier rounds of U.S. Soccer’s oldest national competition, now in its 104th edition. Both sides have their eyes firmly on the sizable prize given to the 2017 champion, specifically $250,000 in prize money and a berth in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League.
Wednesday’s hosts have steamrolled through the tournament field thus far, outscoring opponents 9-0 in pursuit of the club’s fourth Open Cup title. Manager Peter Vermes’ men began their quest with a 4-0 dismantling of Minnesota United FC on June 14 before prevailing 2-0 at the Houston Dynamo a fortnight later. Sporting Kansas City then pulled off a remarkable 3-0 extra-time win over FC Dallas in the quarterfinals on July 11, playing a man down for most of regulation just two days after the passing of co-owner Neal Patterson.
Goalkeeper Tim Melia has orchestrated a three-game Open Cup shutout streak with hopes that Sporting KC can become just the second team in the modern era (1995-present) to hoist the trophy without conceding a goal. On the opposite end of the field, the three-time Open Cup champions have adopted a scoring-by-committee approach. Latif Blessing, Gerso, Ike Opara and Daniel Salloi have each scored twice in the 2017 tournament.
The Earthquakes are braced to leave the friendly confines of Avaya Stadium for the first time during their Open Cup run, having rattled off home wins against the San Francisco Deltas (2-0), Seattle Sounders FC (2-1) and the LA Galaxy (3-2). San Jose’s mettle was tested in the quarterfinal round on July 10 when head coach Chris Leitch’s team fell behind in the third minute to LA before rallying with three unanswered goals, including a brace from prolific striker Chris Wondolowski.
San Jose has already equaled its best-ever finish in the Open Cup. The Earthquakes are making their first semifinal appearance since 2004, when the club coincidentally suffered a 1-0 defeat to Kansas City. That matchup serves as the only previous Open Cup meeting between the MLS charter members, coming a month prior to Kansas City lifting the trophy at Arrowhead Stadium with a 1-0 triumph against the Chicago Fire.
Sporting Kansas City will be just three days removed from a 1-1 draw with Atlanta United FC at Children’s Mercy Park. Benny Feilhaber buried a 59th-minute penalty kick for his third goal in as many games before Atlanta forward Jacob Peterson scored in the 91st minute to deny his former club all three points. Despite the frustrating nature of Sunday’s result, Sporting Kansas City preserved its unbeaten home record in 2017, which currently stands at 9-0-5 across all competitions. The Western Conference leaders are also unbeaten in 12 games overall (6-0-6) since the start of June, one shy of tying the club record set in 2012.
Entering Wednesday on the heels of consecutive home wins in league play, San Jose currently occupies the sixth and final playoff spot in the West. The Quakes emerged 2-1 winners on Saturday at the expense of Columbus Crew SC, with Marco Urena late in the first half and Wondolowski netting his team-best ninth MLS goal in the 56th minute.
Wednesday marks the third meeting between the sides this season. Sporting Kansas City claimed a 2-1 home win on March 18, receiving a long-range blast from Benny Feilhaber and an own goal from David Bingham. The return trip to Avaya Stadium saw San Jose muster just five shot attempts, their fewest in an MLS home game in the club’s 20-year history.
Statistical trends paint a positive picture for Sporting KC ahead of the semifinal clash. Vermes’ men have won six straight Open Cup home games, while San Jose has never defeated an MLS opponent in the Open Cup proper on the road (0-5-1 excluding Open Cup qualifiers). In addition, Sporting KC has won 12 of its last 13 home meetings against the Earthquakes (all competitions) dating back to their first Open Cup matchup in August 2004.
Wednesday’s winner will advance to the 2017 Open Cup Final against either the New York Red Bulls or FC Cincinnati of the USL. That semifinal match will kick off next Tuesday, Aug. 15 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.