Alex Muyl plays the ball against a Rochester Rhinos player in the 2016 U.S. Open Cup (Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s crazy to think that the 2022 Major League Soccer season is just over a month away. New York Red Bulls’ preseason is already underway down in Florida. After a brief trip to California for an invitational, the home opener in mid-March will essentially be here. Overall, things are coming together.

One thing fans might be forgetting though is the return of the U.S. Open Cup. After being canceled the past two years due to COVID-19, the 2022 edition is packed. A possible record number of teams, new leagues, and the news that RBNY will enter one round earlier are all exciting.

The official announcement regarding teams competing in the 2022 tournament has been delayed multiple times this month. Officially, the reason for the delay is unknown. It is highly likely to be because of one of the professional leagues having issues confirming team numbers. Despite this, the latest word is that the announcement will come this week, possibly as soon as late today or Tuesday.

While we await the final slate, fans do know RBNY will enter in the Third Round and will play a non-Major League Soccer team. The new U.S. Open Cup format explicitly says this. It will only change if there is a travel burden on a lower league side. However, 2022 seems to have a plethora of nearby lower division teams ready to play in Harrison.

Knowing all this, let’s take a look at a handful of teams that could be on their way to playing the Bulls later this year. This list is not in order of preference, but in terms of placement on the general U.S. soccer “pyramid”.

Rochester New York FC – MLS Next Pro (Division 3)

Despite the unfamiliar name, Rochester New York FC and RBNY have a previous history in this tournament. RNYFC is actually the renamed Rochester Rhinos, the former United Soccer League side and 1999 U.S. Open Cup champions. Also known as the last non-MLS team to win the tournament. After going on hiatus following the 2017 USL season, Rochester has been in a purgatory of sorts. News was sparse and sporadic. This includes originally planning to join USL League One to being bought by Leicester City FC star Jamie Vardy.

It was only in 2021 that the side truly re-emerged. This included the new name, logo, and celebrity owner. While some of these announcements have been received better than others, the fact is the team is back. Not only that but it is the lone-independent side in the newly created Division 3 MLS Next Pro. Not much else is known of the team. Soccer veteran Bruno Baltazar is the team’s first head coach but no names are on the roster yet.

The last time RBNY played Rochester was in 2016’s Fourth Round. A twentieth minute penalty kick by Sacha Kljestan was the lone goal in the Bulls’ 1-0 win. Before that, the then-Rhinos beat the then-MetroStars, 3-1, in the Fourth Round. It’s hard to say if this truly is a rivalry renewal with how much has changed in six years. But one can’t help but get excited for the possibility of a trip back to Rochester, New York.

FC Motown – National Premier Soccer League (National Amateur)

The most enticing of the possible match-ups includes a lower division team with a ton of RBNY DNA. FC Motown, playing out of Morristown, New Jersey, currently competes in multiple national and local leagues. Of note, the group’s National Premier Soccer League team should be in line for a spot in the 2022 U.S. Open Cup.

Former RBNY Homegrown Šaćir Hot is the team’s head coach. Not only that, but the roster is known to host future and former talent from the Red Bulls. This includes names like Joe Fala, Roy Boateng, and Dilly Duka just to name a few. During the 2019 U.S. Open Cup, an undermanned FC Motown squad fell to RBNY U23 in a first round penalty kick shootout.

While Motown has yet to recapture that same national level success it had reaching the 2018 NPSL Finals, the team is still a threat. The team has never won more than a game in the tournament. However, a near guaranteed chance to play the Red Bulls in the Third Round may be the type of encouragement Celtic need.

Oyster Bay United FC – United Premier Soccer League (Regional Amateur)

The newest team on this list, Oyster Bay United FC is officially less than a year old. In that time, the team has impressed in both the UPSL and regional stage. A strong regular season and run to the American Premier Division Playoff final was a good indicator. But winning three games in Open Cup qualifying, including two against legendary NYC clubs, has put the young side on the map.

Led by head coach Josue Esqueche, United’s roster is mostly Long Island talent. Some are expats like forward Davidson Marseille, originally from Haiti, while others like Dan Giorgi are locals with experience playing for area colleges and teams.

If given the chance, Oyster Bay would be the first long island team to face RBNY in the tournament in 25 years. The last time was a quarterfinal meeting between the Long Island Rough Riders and MetroStars in 1997. That game ended 1-0 in favor of Metro after extra time.

Lansdowne Yonkers FC – Eastern Premier Soccer League (Local Amateur)

If any team can truly claim they’ve earned a chance at playing the Red Bulls, it’s Lansdowne Yonkers FC. They are probably the lowest team here in terms of “tier”. Probably somewhere around sixth or seventh if the U.S. organized that far. But from that position in the disorganized pyramid Lansdowne has excelled, especially in 2021.

The team won nearly a dozen trophies across league, state, regional, and national competitions. When the organization won its second ever National Amateur Cup over Cal FC in late summer, it also earned direct qualification into this year’s tournament. That went along with conference and league silverware in the Eastern Premier Soccer League and a second national tournament title (the Werner Fricker Open Cup). All of this took place in a span where Lansdowne went undefeated in all competitions it entered during 2021, dating all the way back to late 2020.

This will be Yonkers third time entering the U.S. Open Cup. Both previous times the team competed under its previous name, Lansdowne Bhoys FC. They;ve never played an MLS team in the tournament but have played professional teams. This includes an upset road win over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds back in 2016.

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