One-and-done tournaments are never easy by their very nature. You lose once, you go home. The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is no different, yet Columbus Crew SC's road to the final makes it even more difficult.
Following Wednesday night's 3-1 road victory over the Richmond Kickers, the Black & Gold found out Thursday the team's opponent for the Fifth Round: Orlando City SC.
Crew SC has already faced Orlando twice this season, defeating the Lions with a man advantage at MAPFRE Stadium on April 18 before earning a 2-2 road draw a month and a half later while playing a man down.
Despite the unbeaten record against the MLS expansion side, traveling to Orlando for the Open Cup contest will not be easy. The Black & Gold played once in front of a raucous 31,430 City fans and getting a win in front of another big crowd in a one-off game is not desirable.
Following that, Crew SC would either play the Chicago Fire or the United Soccer League's Charlotte Independence. No matter which side Columbus faces, the Black & Gold will once again be on the road for the quarterfinal match as Crew SC did not make a bid to host that round.
If Columbus wins its third round match of the tournament, a feat the club is yet to achieve in league play, Crew SC will again travel in the semifinals, taking on the winner of the East bracket, the New York Red Bulls, the New York Cosmos, the Philadelphia Union, or D.C. United.
Another road victory would take the Black & Gold to the U.S. Open Cup Final and potentially the side's only home date of the tournament.
Winning away from home is never easy and Crew SC's path keeps them on the road possibly throughout the competition.
It would be impressive to see Columbus navigate murky waters and reach the final for the fourth time in team history.