The New York Red Bulls learned their next opponent in the US Open Cup on Thursday, while fans were given a mild surprise about which venue it will be at.
The Red Bulls will face MLS expansion side Charlotte FC in the next round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on either May 24 or May 25. New York will host the next round, but rather than open Red Bull Arena in Harrison, the club will host the match at MSU Soccer Park in Montclair, New Jersey, the 2,000-seat home of its reserve team.
Much like other leading MLS clubs like Seattle Sounders at Starfire Sports Complex and New York City FC at…a to-be-determined college field near you, the Red Bulls have opted to play their Open Cup games at smaller alternate venues. With small crowds expected for the midweek affairs, many MLS front offices choose not risk high operating losses at the big league buildings.
The stadium on the campus of Montclair State University is a capable venue featuring a modern turf surface and updated amenities after a renovation the Red Bulls helped finance four years ago. But much like for Red Bulls II games, the site is a difficult one for many fans in the Five Boroughs and beyond to reach, particularly on a weeknight.
But as for the soccer, New York will be favored in a match against a Charlotte side that has struggled to gain a foothold in its first season of existence. Currently 4-1-6, Charlotte has recovered from a rough opening month of the season but still feels much like a work in progress as new personnel settles in on and off the field. They have found some relief in their Open Cup scheduling, arriving on the heels of wins over Southeastern third division sides Greenville Triumph and Richmond Kickers.
The Red Bulls meanwhile currently sit 2nd in the Eastern Conference and are coming off a statement win over DC United in the round of 32 on Tuesday night. Defender John Tolkin said that night that the cup is a competition the club views as important, and manager Gerhard Struber will be expected to play a strong lineup in Montclair as he seeks his first success on American soil.