Less than 24 hours before Orlando City and Sacramento Republic square off in the US Open Cup, a US Soccer spokesperson confirmed the federation was spying on Sacramento’s training session in the Orlando area on Monday. .
It will be the first time since 2008, when D.C. United beat the Charleston Battery, that a first-division MLS team will be pitted against a second-division opponent. Sacramento is looking to become the first lower division team to win a US Open title since the Rochester Rhinos defeated the Colorado Rapids in 1999.
Sacramento, which plays in the Second Division USL Championship, was practicing at Central Wind Park in Winter Springs, 23 miles north of Exploria Stadium, sources with knowledge of the incident told The Athletic on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. There, Republic FC saw an Orlando City employee watching the training session, sources said. Sacramento employees asked the Orlando City employee to leave, and the employee refused to do so for 30-45 minutes, sources added.
ESPN’s Taylor Tweman first reported the news. A spokesman for the city of Orlando said the athletic club had no comment. Attempts to reach The Sacramento Republic were not immediately successful.
The incident is not expected to have any impact on Wednesday’s final, as it will be handled by US Soccer’s Open Cup committee and must go through an investigation process.
The US Open Cup is a tournament that began in 1914. The Cup is open to all levels of soccer teams in the US, from men’s amateur to top professional divisions. The tournament was held every year since 1914 until it was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year’s finale featured a lot of intrigue. Not only is it a rare matchup between a first- and second-division team, but Sacramento was announced as an MLS expansion team in 2019, only for current owner Ron Burkle to opt out of the deal in 2021.
MLS has since shifted its sights on expansion markets, including Las Vegas and San Diego.
Sacramento is currently in fourth place in the USL Championship Western Conference, while Orlando City is fifth in the MLS Eastern Conference. Wednesday night’s finale at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium is sold out.
(Photo: Rich Graessle / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)