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Unprecedented Rochester-MLS NEXT Pro fiasco likely gifts the Riverhounds a berth in 3rd Round of US Open Cup

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC have not played a regular season or tournament match yet in 2023, but they now likely already advancing when official word comes from United Soccer Federation in the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s due to Rochester NY FC’s failure to field a team for the coming season.

The Riverhounds were scheduled to face RNYFC in the second round of the Open Cup on April 5, at 7 p.m. at Highmark Stadium.

At this late juncture, it is expected that the USSF will award a forfeit win for the Riverhounds, as they’ll move on to the Cup competition’s third round to face an opponent to be named later.  The third round competition dates window would be April 25-26.  At that point, the Hounds would then enter the tournament along with 18 Major League Soccer clubs joining second round winners (from USL Championship and other third/fourth division clubs along with amateur clubs still alive in the competition) .

While no official statement has come from United States Soccer Federation, the news dropped on Friday from MLS Territory reporter Gustavo Lopes and soon after officially confirmed by MLS and the Club (RNYFC).

The club linked to big names like English star Jamie Vardy, one of the most traditional clubs in the United States and long-time rival of the Riverhounds from 1999 to 2017, may never play a game again in its history.

Shortly after the Riverhounds learned that Rochester NY FC would be their opponents in the annual national competition on February 16, speculation began to grow that the Western New York-based club would not be able to field a team.  The club went through an extensive makeover as part of the club’s rebirth announced in 2021 as the former Rhinos rebranded as RNYFC

Uncertainty hung over the scheduled match as there was almost zero communication coming from RNYFC, who competed in the inaugural season of MLS Next Pro in 2022.

They posted a statement on Twitter on January 4, boasting “We’re at a place now where we’re so excited and to think about where we were to where we are — it’s step on the road.  There’s a way to go but the journey is just getting better and better as time goes on for us.”

A week after the Open Cup first and second round schedules were announced, including the news that the Hounds would be facing Rochester, officials from RNYFC did post the following statement on February 22.

That statement only held off the inevitable.

By Friday night, after much negative speculation lingered for weeks, MLS Next Pro made it official that RNYFC would not be part of its league in 2023.

The club’s official Twitter account also put out a statement simultaneously on Friday.

Pittsburgh Soccer Now will have more when official word to comes from the US Soccer Federation and the Riverhounds about the decision on the match scheduled for April 6, and the schedule announcements are shared regarding the Third Round of the competition.

The Riverhounds could face a Major League Soccer opponent or one of the second round winners.  The second round consists of matches between Division II and Division III league teams, and some additional Division II and Division III teams facing first round winners.

The pairings for this round were made with geography in mind, with random selection deciding matchups where there were 3 or more teams in a geographical area, or if a logical geographic fit did not exist.

Twitter Reaction on RNYFC / MLS NEXT PRO Announcements

Many in the soccer community followed to share their disappointment, with MLS Next Pro and United States Soccer Federation taking the brunt of the outrage.


John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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