As difficult it is to believe, MLS clubs will start playing U.S. Open Cup matches already. They're actually qualifying matches but still the results will progress or destroy title hopes.
It's part of a new wrinkle this year as some clubs will have to qualify to participate. In case you need a refresher or are unaware of the new format, here it is:
The top three clubs in each conference from last season qualified directly to the tournament proper: D.C. United, New England, Chicago, Houston, FC Dallas, Chivas USA.
The remaining six clubs will have to qualify. The non-playoff clubs - Galaxy vs. Columbus, Real Salt Lake vs. Kansas City - will have qualifying matches. The winners will play one more game (Galaxy-Crew vs. New York; RSL-KC vs. Colorado) and those winners will reach the tournament.
RSL hosts Kansas City today while the Galaxy is at the Crew next Tuesday.
I thought the Galaxy, as 2006 finalists, should have gotten a direct bid to the tournament. Still, the way it turned out, if the Galaxy beats Columbus, the Red Bulls will come out here to Carson to play the Galaxy. Suddenly, that's not a bad thing.