ORLANDO, Fla. - Excitement is building in downtown Orlando as Orlando City SC is set to play in its first ever U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday night. More than 25,000 fans are expected at Exploria Stadium to watch the sell-out championship match against Sacramento Republic FC.
Orlando City’s pursuit of its first trophy in the U.S. Open Cup is personal for Benji Michel, who grew up in Orlando and was signed by the Lions as a homegrown player.
"It means everything. I mean, this is why we fight, this is what our job is," he said. "We don’t just play to play, we want to play to win trophies. And we have an amazing opportunity."
Sacramentoblic is looking to become just the second lower-division club to win the championship in a quarter-century. Orlando City, which joined MLS in 2015, has never won a title. The closest the Lions came was in 2020, when they were runners up in the MLS is Back tournament.
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - JULY 27: Exploria Stadium before U.S. Open Cup Semifinal game between New York Red Bulls and Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium on July 27, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
In addition to a trophy, the Open Cup winner also earns a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.
But it’s about more than just hardware for Michel, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Haiti. A self-described "bad kid," Michel’s big brother became his legal guardian and set him on a better path, which eventually led back to his hometown.
The game starts at 8 p.m. ET.