RailHawks set for L.A. Galaxy in U.S. Open Cup soccer

There will be no David Beckham, no Landon Donovan and no Robbie Keane – but there should be the largest crowd in WakeMed Soccer Park history for a Carolina RailHawks game when the L.A. Galaxy pays a visit for the third round of the 99th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

More than 8,000 tickets have been sold for the match, which will be the first to include the finished section of stands in the north end zone.

But it’s the fourth game in 11 days for the visitors, which means a number of L.A. players will be resting at home instead of in Cary on Tuesday night. Donovan and Keane are on international duty.

The importance of winning isn’t lost of the defending Major League Soccer champs, who are just 3-8-2 a little more than a third into its season. And there will be at least one big name Galaxy player available for the match, men’s national team veteran Edson Buddle.

“We’re trying to put a group out there that’s fresh and can win the game,” said coach Bruce Arena, former head coach of the U.S. national team. “It’s a team we think can step on the field and play well.”

Having Beckham and others healthy enough to make a late-season surge and defend its MLS Cup is what the Galaxy “need them for the most” said Galaxy striker Chad Barrett.

In last week’s second-round Open Cup match, the RailHawks (0-4-5) eliminated adult amateur team PSA Elite by a 6-0 score. With the Open Cup, a tournament featuring teams from all levels of professional soccer in the United States, second-division teams like the RailHawks enter in the second round while MLS teams start play in the third.

Sixteen teams advance to the fourth round.

New rules introduced this year to the Open Cup allow smaller division teams slated to host MLS teams to either sell their home game to their opponent or keep the home game. Two North American Soccer League teams – Minnesota and Atlanta – chose to sell their home games, but Carolina did not and might be rewarded with a crowd that could surpass the 7,339 that came for a 2008 friendly against Mexican professional team Cruz Azul.

“Every time you play a lower-division team, it means a lot to them,” Arena said. “My experiences with these teams is that they’re always good competitive teams and they want to show that they belong on the field.”