In the world of soccer, clubs participate in multiple competitions simultaneously. A heavyweight such as Manchester United might play consecutive games in its regular Premier League, followed by games in the Champions League, the Carling Cup and the FA Cup. The latter competition is the standard by which all national federation competitions are measured, and the United States' version of it is called the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
What may surprise those who think soccer is relatively new to this country is that this cup competition has been held since 1914 (which is not to say that the contest has been administered with much love and care by the U.S. Soccer Federation). As as an "open" competition, it allows amateur and "minor league" teams to test their mettle against "major league" teams, which don't always appreciate the distraction, expense and rather frequent upsets that the U.S. Open Cup subjects them to. And for fans of smaller teams, such as the Carolina RailHawks of Cary, the U.S. Open Cup is a chance to break out of the confines of the lower divisions and be taken seriously by more prestigious competition.
Tonight, the RailHawks play in the second round proper, having received a first-round bye. The opponent will be either PSA Elite, an amateur side in Irvine, Calif., or the under-23 squad of the Portland Timbers, an MLS team. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.; adult tickets run $10–$25. If you can't make this game, there's also a home league game a few days prior, on Saturday, May 19. —David Fellerath