Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
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Tonight, Minnesota United will find out its opponent in the team's first match of the US Open Cup. The Des Moines Menace and Real Colorado Foxes, two teams from the fourth-division Premier Development League, play tonight in Des Moines. If Des Moines wins, United will travel to Iowa on May 28th; if Colorado wins, Minnesota will host the Foxes on the same day.
A third-round game against Des Moines would be a rematch from last year, when Minnesota hit one of the low points of their season by losing to the Menace 1-0 at home, a game so bad that both head coach Manny Lagos and team president Nick Rogers publicly apologized to fans afterwards.
The real prize remains a win in the third round, as it means that United would be matched up against an MLS side. US Soccer is pairing the teams geographically, meaning that - depending on the teams left at that point - Minnesota would almost certainly play Kansas City, Chicago, or Salt Lake in the fourth round.
It's worth remembering that, to the guys on the field, games against MLS teams are probably only second in importance to playoff games. This is especially true for American players, who feel a great need to prove themselves against the first-division teams that have turned them down.
MLS, like the NASL, is taking a break during the beginning of the World Cup in June - offering the opportunity for clubs to play US Open Cup games on the open weekends. The fourth round would likely be the weekend of June 14 and 15. If Minnesota is drawn for a home game in the fourth round, it will also give United a chance to play another summertime game, and given that the team's attendance dramatically increases in the summer month, there's no doubt that the front office is crossing its collective fingers for this to happen.
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