The Sacramento Republic’s run to the US Open Cup semi-finals has been one of the highlights of the competition’s return.

Held for the first time since 2019 due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Open Cup is US soccer’s oldest national competition, founded in 1914.

The last non-MLS team to win the tournament was the Rochester Rhinos (now Rochester New York FC) back in 1999. But this year, the Sacramento Republic are doing their best to halt that run, beating the likes of LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes to reach the final four.

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Standing in their away of the final are four-time winners Sporting Kansas City.

SKC have endured a torrid 2022 season so far, sitting bottom of the Western Conference, with the Cup providing some much-needed solace. Naturally, star winger Johnny Russell is hoping this is the end of the line for this year’s fairytale.

“Sacramento probably weren’t given much of a chance and they’ve made a great run,” Russell said. “They’re in the semi-finals by merit. They deserve to be there. The cup is good for stories like that as well. Hopefully, this is where the story comes to an end.”

Head coach Peter Vermes added: “It’s a team that aspires to be in Major League Soccer. They’ve built themselves that way, and so we know what we’re up against. We’re playing at their place, so that’s another difficulty.”

Some of SKC’s greatest moments have been in the Open Cup, winning the title four times between 2004 and 2017.

Unfortunately for Russell, that run ended a year before he joined the club, but this is the chance for him to write another chapter into the club’s history books.

“It’s massive; it’s another opportunity to go and win a title,” the Scotland international said. “I’ve always enjoyed my whole career playing in cup competitions, I think there’s something a little bit special about the cup. Here it’s no different.”

The winner of this match will face either Orlando City or the New York Red Bulls in the final.

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