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It’s a 408 vs. 510 Showdown as San Jose Earthquakes Take on Oakland Roots

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Split images of two men in soccer uniforms running on the field. The man on the left is kicking a soccer ball.
The San Jose Earthquakes will face off the Oakland Roots as part of the U.S. Open Cup — only the second time these two Bay Area teams play against each other. Earthquakes midfielder Hernán López (left) debuted for the South Bay team on May 4, 2024, in a regular league game against Los Angeles FC, where the Quakes notched their biggest win of the season so far. Roots midfielder and Berkeley local Ali Elmasnaouy (right) stood out in the team's April 16, 2024, game versus San Francisco's El Farolito, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime. (Credits for the photos, left and right: John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images // Doug Zimmerman/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USS)

This year’s U.S. Open Cup keeps getting better and better for Bay Area soccer fans. After knocking out San Francisco’s El Farolito in the previous round, Oakland Roots Soccer Club will play against the San Jose Earthquakes on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in San José’s PayPal Park.

The game will also be streamed live. You can watch it here.

Whoever wins will move forward to the fifth round of the Open Cup, the oldest soccer competition in the country that brings teams together that usually play in different leagues — the Earthquakes compete in the Major League Soccer and the Roots in the United Soccer League Championship, for example. The stakes are high: whoever ends up winning the Open Cup will also be granted a spot in next year’s Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Champions Cup. And thanks to the tournament’s open format, you get very original matchups that you won’t see anywhere else.

In none of the “Big Four” sports leagues — the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL — does a team repping the South Bay face off against an East Bay team. But in soccer, anything can happen.

The Earthquakes are coming into this match fresh off a 3–1 win against SoCal rival Los Angeles FC on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, a game that drew in more than 43,000 fans, many of them hyped to see the Bay Area once again #BeatLA. Due to competition rules, the South Bay team is jumping into the Open Cup this year, along with a handful of other MLS teams, much later, during the tournament’s fourth round.


The 2–1 victory against El Farolito on April 16 was the last time the Roots won a game, with the East Bay team unable to notch a win in their recent regular league matches. And despite their stadiums being a 30-minute drive away from each other, the Roots and Quakes have only played against each other once before: a 3–2 win for the Quakes at PayPal Park during the 2021 preseason.

The Roots are feeling excited about this second opportunity to play the Quakes. “Facing an MLS team, you have to be fully prepared,” said Tommy Hodul, vice president of public relations for the Roots. “But there’s nothing that we can’t accomplish in that game with the staff and the players that we have.”

A closeup of two men dressed in soccer uniforms with the man on the right covering his mouth with his shirt.
Ali Elmasnaouy, #45 of the Oakland Roots, celebrates scoring a goal during the U.S. Open Cup third-round match between the Oakland Roots and El Farolito on April 16, 2024, at Pioneer Stadium in Hayward. (Doug Zimmerman/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

This 510 vs. 408 area codes matchup also brings together a lot of homegrown soccer talent, with Bay Area-born-and-raised players featured on both rosters — and winning matches as well. In the match against El Farolito, Roots midfielder and Berkeley High alum Ali Elmasnaouy not only played his first game for the team, but the 19-year-old also scored the tie-breaking goal in overtime.

“A local kid scoring the game-winning goal in his professional debut for his hometown team —it doesn’t get much more special than that,” Hodul said. “It’s really special to see players from the 510 area code making it at the professional level through our club.”

When local clubs seek out local talent, it doesn’t just benefit those clubs, but it also boosts soccer’s overall place in a community. Simon Tobin, head coach of men’s soccer at San José State University, has seen firsthand how quickly soccer has grown throughout California in the past few decades and said that local clubs, in particular, have helped boost the love for the sport among fans and young players.

“There was a time when the NFL or the NBA were what local great athletes were looking towards,” he said. “I think the arrival of the MLS and especially the Quakes in this community gives local kids that aspiration to play at the top level in this country.”

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And the Bay is currently experiencing a boom of local professional teams: in 2021, the Earthquakes announced the creation of their very own MLS Next Pro team, now called The Town FC, which plays at Saint Mary’s Stadium in Contra Costa County and also serves as the Quakes’ reserve squad. For its part, the Roots launched in 2021 the all-female Oakland Soul team, which plays in the USL W League. And just this year, the Bay FC kicked off its first game as the Bay Area’s first-ever National Women’s Soccer League team.

With so many more pro teams in the Bay, fans are winning too, Tobin said. “It’s starting to mirror a little bit what you see if you live in South America or Europe, where you’ve got two or three teams in your vicinity, and you have a strong allegiance for them.”

And as soccer grows in the U.S., so does the role of money, especially in the sport’s premier league, the MLS.

In 2023, MLS teams made 15% more in sponsorship revenue — nearly $600 million more than the previous year. A factor in that seems to be Argentinean superstar Lionel Messi’s move to Inter Miami. Having a big name like Messi can turbocharge a fanbase — and sponsors — but it also represents a big financial responsibility to the team. After all, Inter Miami has agreed to pay Messi $60 million a year (compare that to the $47.61 million that LeBron James got paid this season). As for the Quakes, they’re also going in for some big contracts: last month, the San Jose team spent a club-record $6 million to bring in Argentine midfielder Hernán López.

A group of men wearing soccer uniforms on a soccer field are huddled together.
San Jose Earthquakes huddle before a game between Los Angeles FC and San Jose Earthquakes at Levi’s Stadium on May 4, 2024 in Santa Clara. (John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

However, this recent wave of investment has also changed the relationship between the MLS and the Open Cup. Because the Open Cup welcomes teams from all different leagues, MLS teams often play against much smaller teams with fewer resources, and the Cup’s match schedule interferes with the increasingly busy MLS calendar.

Last year, ESPN reported that MLS Commissioner Don Garber publicly shared his disappointment with the much smaller reach Open Cup games have. “I would say that they’re not games that we would want our product to be shown to a large audience … So I appreciate the enthusiasm about it, but we need to get better with the U.S. Open Cup,” he said. “It’s just not the proper reflection of what soccer in America at the professional level needs to be.”

And the number of MLS teams in the Open Cup is also dwindling. In 2023, all 26 teams in the league played. And the MLS originally intended for no MLS teams to participate this year but reached a deal with the U.S. Soccer Federation, which struck a deal to have eight teams come in this time, the Quakes being one of them.


It’s uncertain how many MLS teams will appear in next year’s Open Cup, making Tuesday’s uniquely Bay Area matchup between the Quakes and Roots even more special.

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