All four quarterfinal matches in the one hundredth edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup will take place tonight. With every team only 3 wins away, who is most likely to lift the Cup?
To find out, I began by using published casino odds for tonight's matches. Based on those odds, I calculated the implied probability of each club reaching the semifinals. This was done first by using the method outlined on Simon Gleave's excellent blog, Scoreboard Journalism, but that only gave odds of the outcome after 90 minutes. Since the odds of a tie after regulation were between 21 and 29% for each match, I parsed out wins in half of those overtimes proportional to each club's regulation odds, and went 50/50 to account for the randomness of penalty kicks.
Because I don't have time for a more scientific approach today, I handicapped the semifinals and finals based only on home field advantage and my own subjective ranking of this clubs. So, these are fed by my opinion that FC Dallas, Portland Timbers, and Real Salt Lake are equally good and easily the 3 best clubs remaining in the tournament. I ranked New England Revolution fourth, just ahead of the Chicago Fire, with DC United a ways after that, and another gap between them and the Carolina Railhawks and Orlando City. I then factored in a 20% swing based on home field alone, so when equally matched, the win probabilities are 60/40 in favor of the home side.
Without further ado, the odds of each club getting one, two, and three wins in the remaining rounds of this competition, with odds for the home team in bold (home field not determined for the final yet).
It has to be noted that only the "reach semis" column is an objective measure based on casino odds. The rest of the way I could well be overrating some clubs, and it's likely I'm not spot-on in gauging the strength of Orlando City and Carolina, who I have not seen play (or even found any terribly relevant stats for).
Though there is some guesstimation here, it is abundantly clear that Real Salt Lake and Chicago have the easiest paths to the final, which makes sense because they host Carolina and Orlando tonight, and would host their semifinal matches should they beat these lower-tier sides.
The fact that these odds are based on a valuation of Chicago as the fifth-best remaining team speaks to the randomness of cup competitions. Like Wigan's path to this year's FA Cup final (Bournemouth, Macclesfield Town, Huddersfield Town, Everton, Millwall), the Fire could find themselves one win away from a trophy before facing an elite opponent. Likewise, RSL doesn't appear to be clearly superior to FCD or the Timbers, but the layout of the bracket makes them much more likely champions.
Chicago and Portland will clearly field their best able-bodied players tonight, since neither plays a league match this coming weekend. The other 4 MLS clubs all have Saturday matches, requiring some squad rotation. Each of their US Open Cup title odds are all greater than their Supporters Shield chances, meaning that if they are smart they will emphasize tonight's match over their league fixture. Keep in mind, though, that they are only allowed to use 5 international players.
Meanwhile, by their own admission Carolina will be wisely emphasizing their match against Atlanta this weekend. There are only 3 matches left in the NASL's spring season, and the league-leading Railhawks' clash with the second place Silverbacks is just too vital to their title hopes. Meanwhile, Orlando City are so far ahead of the rest of USL Pro, however, that even if they lose their USL Pro match this weekend it would barely dent their likelihood of finishing with the top record in that league.
FC Dallas Perspective
OK, so this is Big D Soccer, so let's bring the focus specifically to the red stripes. Their Shield and USOC odds have pretty much flipped since I advocated resting some starters in the last round (which I still hold would've been the best course at the time). Now they are closer to the Cup than the Shield (9.7% right now per Sports Club Stats) not just in wins needed but in terms of probability, too.
The only thing potentially holding them back from a completely first-choice lineup is the US Open Cup's 5 internationals limit. If you throw out Hassli because of his mysterious-to-Hyndman back issue, that means one of the following can't suit up: Castillo, Fernández, Jackson, Michel, Pérez, or Watson. If I were Hyndman, the easy decison is giving Watson's place on the bench to Bobby Warshaw and sending out the big guns to advance in this tournament.
By the way, if they do win tonight, the red stripes' chances of lifting this trophy rise to around 25%, but potentially much higher is Orlando, DC, or especially Carolina are also triumphant.
- UPDATE -
Because I modeled all of the likely results, it was very easy to simply enter yesterday's outcomes to adjust the overall US Open Cup title odds:
Even though the favorite club of this blog is out, this looks to be anyone's tournament and should be fun to follow from here, even if DCU smells faintly of Wigan and exemplifies the inherent randomness of knockout competitions.