Orlando City faces a tough battle to qualify for the shortened US Open Cup
The first three games of the 2021 season will have added weight to Orlando City after US Soccer decided to adjust the qualification process for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
The association has canceled the opening round for the tournament, which was supposed to start on May 4th, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Open Cup committee said this is to prevent teams from having to add more spring travel to their spring plans.
Instead, the tournament begins with the round of 16, which includes eight MLS teams, four USL championship teams, one National Independent Soccer Association team, one USL League One team, and two Open Division teams.
The MLS participants in the US Open Cup will be determined by May 3rd from the eight best teams in the table.
The Lions play three games before May 3 – the home game against Atlanta United on April 17, a street game in Kansas City on April 23, and a home game against Cincinnati FC on May 1. The team will miss several key players for these games.
Star playmaker Mauricio Pereyra will serve a red card suspension from the 2020 playoffs for the first two games of the season. Pereyra, player designate, is viewed as the centerpiece of the offense by coach Oscar Pareja and his dynamic presence typically defines games for the Lions.
Left start Jo 1/4 u00e3o Moutinho is also questionable for the opening month of the season after a hip operation in December. Although his surgeon had predicted a recovery window of four to six months, Pareja was optimistic that Moutinho could return in the first month of the game. Right-back Kyle Smith filled his position during the pre-season games.
Star striker Daryl Dike is also unlikely to return early from his loan to Barnsley in the English championship, which is slated to end in May. While Pareja remains confident that Dike will return for the 2021 season, the Lions have not proposed any plans to activate the recall clause in his loan agreement.
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The striker’s position will be bolstered by the arrival of Brazilian striker Pato, who, along with Tesho Akindele and Matheus Aiás, will make up the top scorer list.
The round of 16 is scheduled to begin on May 18th, but the committee will re-evaluate the feasibility of the tournament on April 19th. If the committee determines that it cannot hold the round of 16 at that point, the tournament for 2021 will be canceled.
If the tournament continues, the quarter-finals will take place May 25-26, with a semi-final June 15-16 and the Open Cup final June 29-30. Every game in the tournament will be broadcast live on ESPN +.
The Lions had previously advanced to the semifinals of the tournament in 2019.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Julia Poe at [email protected]