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Third-Tier Union Omaha Knocks Off Minnesota With SportsCenter Top 10 Goal

There’s nothing better than an all-inclusive, single-elimination sporting event in which teams with far fewer resources have a chance to knock off the blue bloods. It’s why the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments are some of the most popular events in the country and why you should be paying more attention to the U.S. Open Cup, particularly what Union Omaha is doing right now.

Coming from USL League One — the third division of U.S. soccer — Union Omaha has knocked off two MLS clubs on its way to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals. On Wednesday night, the Owls came from behind to beat Minnesota United 2-1 — and made it onto SportsCenter’s Top 10 in the process with a must-see late winner.

Union Omaha will play Sporting KC in the quarterfinals in late June. The winner of that advances to the semifinals against either the LA Galaxy or the tournament’s other darling, USL Championship (second division) club Sacramento Republic FC, which beat San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 on Wednesday.

The remaining teams are all from MLS, including a tasty New York derby between Red Bulls and NYCFC in the Northeast and an SEC battle between Orlando City and Nashville. 

The semifinals will be played in late July followed by the final in September. The last time a non-MLS side reached the final was 2008 when the Charleston Battery fell to D.C. United. The Open Cup was not held the last two years because of Covid-19. 

Union Omaha Highlights

Playing at home, the Loons had the perfect start. Adrien Hunou completed a wonderful team goal in the sixth minute, just about the worst way to start for the underdogs.

Despite Minnesota dominating possession — 73 percent for the game — Omaha’s Hugo Kametani equalized just before halftime thanks to some classic Route 1 football.

Early in the second half, Joseph Brito became a superstar.

Brito, a 23-year-old fresh out of college at Charlotte, briefly transformed into Luis Suárez to rip a beautiful volley past Loons keeper Eric Dick.

The goal was so nice, it landed at No. 4 on Wednesday night’s SportsCenter Top 10, no small feat considering how little regard ESPN gives soccer these days. (Seriously though, why does @ESPNFC exist on Twitter but it never tweets out MLS or U.S. Open Cup highlights it broadcasts on ESPN+?)

Minnesota United took 16 shots — six on target — but couldn’t find an equalizer, sending Union Omaha to the quarterfinals. 

The Owls aren’t the first lower-division soccer team to crack SC’s Top 10 this month. The Des Moines Menace came in at No. 3 on the Top 10 a couple of weeks ago. Omaha beat Des Moines in the second round of the Open Cup, followed by a shootout win over the Chicago Fire in third round, 2-0 win over USL One side Northern Colorado Hailstorm in the Round of 32 and Wednesday’s win over Minnesota. 

At this point, there’s no telling when Union Omaha’s run in the U.S. Open Cup will end, and we’re just enjoying the ride. 

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