Thursday, May 9, 2013

Its Finally Here! Open Cup Kickoff!!

(photo credit: TheCup.US facebook)
One hundred years of US Soccer have led to this...the Centennial edition of the the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.  Without a doubt, the nation's longest standing athletic tournament, the Open Cup is one of the purest, most exciting competitions you'll find anywhere in the wide world of sports.  Prone to historic upsets and Cinderella stories, I've always found myself cheering for the little guys, even if they're up against a team I would normally root for.

The Charleston Battery are no strangers to success in the Cup, and have made quite a name for themselves as giant-killers, in their own right.  In 1999, the Battery topped DC United 4-3 in an extra-time thriller.  Two years later, the Pride of the Lowcountry drubbed the New York MetroStars 4-1 at Blackbaud Stadium.  Charleston are one of the only lower division sides to ever make an appearance in the final stage of the tournament, falling 2-1 in heartbreaking fashion to DC United in 2008.  Perhaps my favorite Battery Open Cup match was the 3-1 rout of Chivas USA in Charleston...Not only did Charleston net three fantastic goals, the goats were so upset at their own manhandling that by the end of game they started a fight and several of their players were ejected with only seconds to play.

The powers that be have made it clear that another successful Open Cup run is a priority for the Charleston Battery this year, and with a huge bundle of cash and Champion's League spot up for grabs, why not??  Unfortunately, as its slated up, May is one of Charleston's busiest months in terms of fixture congestion, but it will interesting to see how the pieces come together when the Battery enter the fray in the second round.  For an in-depth analysis of how Charleston enters the draw, check out CHSSoccer.net.

But first things first.  Technically, the dance has already begun.  Two play-in matches took place Tuesday night to determine the final field in the first round.  In typical Open Cup style, even these preliminary matches were high scoring nail-biters.  FC Hasental (NPSL, and yes their crest bears a rabbit) downed the Fresno Fuego Future with four straight goals as the match finished 5-3.  Interestingly enough, the other match finished 5-3 on PK's, as the Georgia Revolution (also NPSL) squeaked by the Colorado Rovers after extra time.  If you haven't already seen it, here's a look at the first round of play:


FIRST ROUND SCHEDULE

May 14Mass Premier Soccer (USASA) at GPS Portland Phoenix (PDL)8 p.m. ETMemorial Field, Deering High School;
Portland, Maine
May 14Icon FC (USASA) at Brooklyn Italians (NPSL)8 p.m. ETAviator Sports Complex;
Brooklyn, N.Y.
May 14New York Red Bulls U23s (NPSL) at Ocean City Nor'easters (PDL)7:30 p.m. ETCarey Stadium;
Ocean City, N.J.
May 14FC Lehigh Valley United Sonic (NPSL) at Reading United AC (PDL)7 p.m. ETDon Thomas Stadium;
Reading, Pa.
May 14Ocala Stampede (PDL) at Red Force (USASA)7:30 p.m. ETFlorida International Soccer Stadium;
Miami, Fla.
May 14VSI Tampa Bay FC (USL PRO) at Orlando City U-23s (PDL)7 p.m. ETSeminole Soccer Complex;
Sanford, Fla.
May 14Chattanooga FC (NPSL) at Carolina Dynamo (PDL)7 p.m. ETMacpherson Stadium;
Greensboro, N.C.
May 14Dearborn Stars (USASA) at Michigan Bucks (PDL)7:30 p.m. ETUltimate Soccer Arenas;
Pontiac, Mich.
May 14RWB Adria (USASA) at Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL PRO)7 p.m. ETHighmark Stadium;
Pittsburgh, Pa.
May 14River City Rovers (PDL) at Dayton Dutch Lions (USL PRO)7 p.m. ETBeavercreek High School;
Beavercreek, Ohio
May 15Madison 56ers (NPSL) at Des Moines Menace (PDL)7:30 p.m. CTValley Stadium;
West Des Moines, Iowa
May 14NTX Rayados (USASA) at Austin Aztex (PDL)7:30 p.m. CTHouse Park;
Austin, Texas
May 14Phoenix FC (USL Pro) at FC Tucson (PDL)7:30 p.m. Arizona TimeKino Sports Complex Grandstand;
Tucson, Ariz.
May 14Sacramento Gold (NPSL) vs. Portland Timbers U23s (PDL)7:30 p.m. PTJELD-WEN Field;
Portland, Ore.
May 14Doxa Italia (USASA) at Sounders FC U23s (PDL)7 p.m. PTSunset Chevrolet Stadium;
Sumner, Wash.
May 14PSA Elite (USASA) at Laredo Heat SC (PDL)8:15 p.m. CTTexas A&M International Soccer Complex;
Laredo, Texas
May 14Real Colorado Foxes (PDL) at Georgia Revolution (NPSL)7 p.m. ETRYSA Soccerplex;
Conyers, Ga.
May 14FC Hasental (NPSL) at Ventura County Fusion (PDL)7 p.m. PTVentura College;
Ventura, Calif.

There are a handfull of oddballs from smaller conferences and associations and its always nice to have those wildcard darkhorse teams to spice things up.  You'll also notice there are several representatives from the ever-expanding grassroots league, the National Premier Soccer League.  Of course there are several PDL clubs in the mix and even a few USL Pro squads in the first round.  Here are the teams to keep your eye on:

Ocean City Nor'easters: Ever the underdog, these boys understand what the tourney is all about.  In a previous USOC tangle with DC United, their fans managed to intimidate the screaming eagles and only just fell short of a glorious upset.  

Reading United AC:  The Battery hosted this side last year and the PA squad can be tough competition.  Reading's alumni have really begun to go places...we're talking MLS and beyond.

Chattanooga FC:  These boys are known for quality football and their supporters, the Chattahooligans are largely responsible for inciting a football culture revolution in Middle Tennessee.  Nos vemos, El Conductor!!

Michigan Bucks:  Drawing on a wealth of college talent, the Bucks have won the PDL title and had an excellent run in the Cup last year.  Don't be surprised if they knock off a few big names this go around.  

I love this competition and what it means for the Beautiful Game in America.  I'm practically beside myself with anticipation!  Let it begin!  Let it begin!!

Who will be the next to lift the Cup??  I can't wait to find out!

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