As the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup makes its long-awaited return after a two-month hiatus, the focus now turns to the intriguing prospect of Lionel Messi chasing the coveted Golden Boot title. The tournament's semi-finals are set, featuring MLS matchups that promise gripping soccer action. Among the many storylines, Messi's potential rise to the top of the goal-scoring chart stands out as a captivating narrative.
With the 108th edition of the US Open Cup in full swing, attention is drawn to the semi-final clashes. FC Cincinnati will host Inter Miami, fresh off their Leagues Cup victory, while Real Salt Lake will face off against Houston Dynamo. These matchups hold immense significance as they pave the way for the final showdown on September 27th, where the best of American soccer will compete for the prestigious title.
Amidst the team rivalries, individual accomplishments continue to play a pivotal role. The spotlight currently shines on the race for best scorer of the tournament, where seven players are separated by just one goal:
Damir Kreilach, Real Salt Lake - 4 goals
Josh Dolling, New Mexico United - 4 goals
Jonathan Lewis, Colorado Rapids - 3 goals
Corey Baird, Houston Dynamo FC - 3 goals
Ibrahim Aliyu, Houston Dynamo FC - 3 goals
Milan Iloski, Orange County SC - 3 goals
Elvis Amoh, Hartford Athletic - 3 goals
Of these contenders, only Kreilach, Baird, and Aliyu have advanced to the semi-finals, showcasing their consistent prowess in front of goal. However, it's the presence of Lionel Messi that has ignited discussions about a potential shift in the scoring hierarchy.
Messi's remarkable Leagues Cup campaign, where he netted ten goals in seven matches for Inter Miami CF, has raised hopes of a similar goal-scoring spree in the US Open Cup. To stand a chance at claiming the title of the tournament’s highest scorer, Messi must score at least four goals in the remaining matches. With the possibility of two games ahead, it is not out of the realms of reality for the 2022 World Cup winner.
Yet, Messi faces competition from the aforementioned trio of Kreilach, Baird, and Aliyu, who are determined to extend their goal tally in the competition. The semi-final clash between Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo guarantees that at least one of these players will have an opportunity for additional matches in their pursuit of the top scorer title.
While it's no small feat to bridge the gap and emerge as the top scorer, Messi's recent performance in Leagues Cup—a tournament he dominated—provides a glimpse into his potential to single-handedly influence matches. Scoring multiple goals in both the semi-final and final would be a challenging task, but Messi's soccer brilliance often transcends expectations.