Over the past few seasons the Seattle Sounders have unquestionably put more of an emphasis on the US Open Cup than the LA Galaxy, and under more normal circumstances it's likely that trend would continue. There's a bit of a wildcard this time around, however; while the Galaxy will be in action this weekend, it's not MLS play. Instead LA will play host to Real Madrid in a World Football Challenge match. The WFC fixture is slightly different than a regular friendly in that there is something (ostensibly) on the line, but it's difficult to imagine any of the involved parties are taking things too seriously. That leaves the question as to whether Galaxy coach Bruce Arena might run with a slightly stronger squad than he has been inclined to field in recent years. While it's difficult to imagine either of Landon Donovan or David Beckham starting the game it's not so far fetched to picture either making a cameo in the later going. Outside of those two, no XI the Galaxy put on the field would come as much of a surprise.
For their part, the Sounders should be fielding a similarly strong side and could likely do so using fewer first-team players thanks to their superior depth. A back line consisting of Michael Tetteh, Leo Gonzalez, Patrick Ianni and Zach Scott seems a reasonable expectation, though James Riley and/or Jeff Parke could easily start as well. Kasey Keller making his first USOC appearance of the season wouldn't be too much of a surprise. Depending on Sigi Schmid's plans for Saturday a striker pairing consisting of two of Nate Jaqua, Pat Noonan, Mike Fucito and Roger Levesque seems likely and should things remain close past the hour mark an appearance by Fredy Montero is well with reasonable expectation. If the Sounders are weak anywhere it will be in the midfield as players like Miguel Montano, David Estrada, and Mike Seamon have perhaps earned the chance to show Sigi Schmid that they deserve a longer look with the first team.
And even with circumstances being different this time around in terms of the immediate future for the Galaxy, that's certainly no proof that LA is any more inclined to look to their first-teamers. The Galaxy are focused on bringing home a Supporters Shield/MLS Cup double this season; Bruce Arena has as much as admitted to that being the case. With an aging core and a lot of season left to play, LA may very well be content to trust this one to the kids. The uncertainty surrounding this contest is what makes it such a nervy lead-up; you can prepare for what you know is coming, no matter how intimidating it might be. But without awareness of what you're going to be up against, the wait can be murderous.