TAMPA, Fla. - A historic Third Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will continue tonight with a record eight USL League One clubs among the 48 competing for a spot in the Round of 32. With the addition of 17 Major League Soccer clubs in this round, four League One clubs will become the first batch to ever face off against the country's top-flight league in competitive play.
On the docket for tonight are five unique matchups featuring League One clubs facing off against USL Championship, MLS and USL League Two opposition.
For a more in-depth look at each matchup, take a look at each club's success in the U.S. Open Cup.
Venue: City Stadium; Richmond, Va.
Kickoff: Wednesday, April 20; 6:30 p.m. ET
Weather: Sunny, 60°
The Richmond Kickers will aim to advance to the Round of 32 for the first time since 2018 and 15th time in club history. For the visiting North Carolina Fusion U23, the 29-year-old club will look to get back to the Round of 32 for the first time since 2006 – the same cup run that saw the Fusion defeat the Kickers in the Second Round.
Richmond arrives in the Third Round following a 1-0 victory over in-state EPSL rival Northern Virginia FC, while North Carolina enter the round on the heels of a remarkable run, downing SC United Bantams and the Charlotte Independence. While the Fusion's USL League Two campaign has yet to kick off, the Kickers have seen a strong start to their League One season, sitting at second in the table.
Richmond Kickers - Akira Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald leads the league in saves with 14 and is tied for the lead in clean sheets with one. Fitzgerald has only allowed two goals in four competitive matches this season.
North Carolina Fusion U23 - João Silva: The 24-year-old Brazilian has proven to be a crucial piece to the Fusion midfield and attack, scoring once against the Independence.
Venue: Triumph Stadium at Legacy Early College; Greenville, S.C.
Kickoff: Wednesday, April 20; 7 p.m. ET
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 65°
Taking the quick drive down I-85, MLS expansion side Charlotte FC will face off against hosts Greenville Triumph SC on Wednesday evening. Both sides will play for a spot in the Round of 32 – the potential best finish for either side.
Triumph SC have struggled at the beginning of the League One season, managing just one point and one goal through two contests. Following a slow start to its inaugural campaign, Charlotte FC have won three of its last five matches. Greenville arrive in the Third Round of the U.S. Open Cup after a 2-0 victory over USL Championship's Oakland Roots SC.
Greenville Triumph SC - Venton Evans: Evans scored the lone Triumph SC goal in last week's 1-1 draw with North Carolina FC. The club's leading scorer in league play, Evans has also tacked on an additional shot and chance created.
Charlotte FC - Ben Bender: The first overall selection of the 2022 MLS SuperDraft has contributed to his club's early success with a team-high three assists to go along with one goal.
Venue: Breese Stevens Field; Madison, Wis.
Kickoff: Wednesday, April 20; 7 p.m. ET
Weather: Rain, 47°
Regional opponents Forward Madison FC and Minnesota United FC will face off for the first time at historic Breese Stevens Field. With a win, Madison would advance to the Round of 32 for the first time in club history. MNUFC, on the other hand, is fresh off a U.S. Open Cup Final appearance in 2019.
Forward Madison FC have experienced a rather strong start to the 2022 season, earning a trio of hard-fought draws in its first three matches. Minnesota currently finds itself at seventh in the Western Conference with a 3-2-2 start to the 2022 MLS season.
Forward Madison FC - Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu: Earning Team of the Week honors on Monday, Wheeler-Omiunu assisted Christian Enriquez’s long-distance goal and completed 88% of his passes while winning six of eight ground duels in a draw with FC Tucson.
Minnesota United FC - Kervin Arriaga: Joining the Loons over the offseason, the Honduras international midfielder leads Minnesota in accurate passes per match.
Venue: Rio Tinto Stadium; Sandy, Utah
Kickoff: Wednesday, April 20; 9:30 p.m. ET
Weather: Partly cloudy, 60°
Following its incredible extra-time victory over USL Championship side Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in the Second Round, Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC have further developed its identity just a handful of matches into its existence. One of four League One clubs facing off against MLS opponents, the Hailstorm will look to replicate Union Omaha's formula for downing MLS clubs at their home venues.
Relying on proven veterans, the Hailstorm were a stoppage-time Tresor Mbuyu goal away from maintaining its stellar unbeaten start to its inaugural campaign. Despite a recent 6-0 thumping at the hand of reigning MLS champions NYCFC, RSL have found early-season success, defeating Seattle, New England and Nashville in recent matches.
Real Salt Lake - Pablo Ruiz: The do-it-all, third-year RSL midfielder has been extremely efficient in the season's early matches, leading his side in successful dribbles per match, key passes per match, big chances created, accurate passes per match possession won in final third and successful tackles per match.
Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC - Robert Cornwall: In one League One match for the Irish veteran, Cornwall leads the Hailstorm in passing accuracy at 92.2%.
Venue: Heart Health Park; Sacramento, Calif.
Kickoff: Wednesday, April 20; 10:30 p.m. ET
Weather: Showers, 62°
Central Valley Fuego FC will look to extend its incredible start to its inaugural campaign by further extending its U.S. Open Cup run against Sacramento Republic FC at Heart Health Park on Wednesday evening.
Both sides enter the Third Round of the competition after a pair of respective thumpings. Fuego FC took care of USL Championship side El Paso Locomotive FC 4-0, and Republic FC handled USL League Two's Portland Timbers U23s 6-0. Additionally, both clubs have seen strong starts to their league campaigns.
Sacramento Republic FC - Rodrigo Lopez: Another key midfielder, Lopez has proven efficient and effective for Sacramento with a team-leading nine possessions won in the final third.
Central Valley Fuego FC - Villyan Bijev: On a remarkable tear to begin his first League One campaign, Bijev has knocked in four goals in three competitive matches.