CHICAGO (Tuesday, June 29, 2004) – A quartet of former champions enters the fold as the 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third round kicks off Wednesday night in eight venues across the country.
Six A-League teams and two Major League Soccer clubs join the tournament and will face two A-League teams, two Pro Soccer League teams and four amateur teams from the Premier Development League. Third round victors will advance to face one of the eight MLS teams who are the last to enter the tournament when the fourth round kicks off on July 20.
The Richmond Kickers (A-League), who won the Open Cup in 1995, will get things started with a 7 p.m. ET kickoff at Sports Backers Stadium in Richmond, Va. as they host the Cape Cod Crusaders, defending PDL champions. Forward David Bulow assisted on a first-half goal and scored two second-half goals as the Crusaders posted a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Western Mass Pioneers (PSL) in the second round. Bulow also had a goal and an assist in a 4-1 victory over N.Y. Greek American-Atlas (USASA) in the first round and is second on the Open Cup scoring chart with eight points. Although they did not appear in the 2003 Open Cup, the Kickers are riding a three-game winning streak at home in the tournament with their last loss in Richmond coming in 1997 to the MetroStars (MLS).
The only team to win the U.S. Open Cup since MLS teams first participated in 1996, the 1999 Open Cup Champion Rochester Raging Rhinos host a match on Wednesday at 7:35 p.m. ET at Frontier Field. Their opponent, the Chicago Fire Reserves, are led by the 2004 Open Cup’s leading scoring to date, Julian Nash (4 goals, 2 assists, 10 points). In the first round, the Reserves bested S.A.C. Wisla (USASA) 5-1 in a Chicago derby played in the west suburbs of the Second City. In the second round, Chicago hit the road and topped the New Hampshire Phantoms (PSL) with a matching 5-1 result. The Raging Rhinos have a 13-7 overall record in the Open Cup since 1996, and have won a game in seven of the last eight tournaments. For this match, the 100-pound, three-foot tall Dewar Cup will make the journey from the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, N.Y. to Rochester for the game. Each team to win the tournament since its inception in 1914 has had its name added to the trophy, which has since been retired and resides full time at the Hall of Fame.
Two of the five MLS teams with U.S. Open Cup titles enter the competition on Wednesday night. The Columbus Crew will host the Syracuse Salty Dogs (A-League) at 7:30 p.m. ET at Columbus Crew Stadium. The Crew, 2002 Open Cup Champions, are operated by the tournament’s namesake and soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt. Syracuse advanced to the third round with a 4-2 victory over the South Jersey Barons (PDL) on June 21, after the teams played to a 1-1 draw on June 15 in a match that was abandoned due to weather and darkness. Only six of the 15 players to take the field in the 2002 final for the Crew are still with the team, but forward Jeff Cunningham for the Crew has five goals and eight assists in 15 Open Cup games in his career.
The Dallas Burn are the final team with an Open Cup championship entering in the third round, with their title coming in 1997. Dallas will be hosting the Virginia Beach Mariners (A-League) at 7 p.m. CT at Old Panther Field in Duncanville, Texas. Both teams left the Open Cup in the fourth round last year, with the Mariners falling to D.C. United and the Burn being upset by the Wilmington Hammerheads of the PSL. Virginia Beach opened the 2004 tournament with a 2-0 win over another Dallas area team, the DFW Tornadoes of the PDL. Dallas has an 8-1 record vs. A-League teams in the Open Cup, while the Mariners have yet to beat an MLS team in four tries.
The defending league champions from the Pro Soccer League and the A-League will face off in another intriguing Open Cup match-up, as the Charleston Battery (A-League) host the Wilmington Hammerheads at Blackbaud Stadium at 7:30 p.m. ET. The teams have met once in the U.S. Open Cup, with Charleston coming out on top 2-1 in Blackbaud Stadium on July 6, 1999. Wilmington advanced to the third round with a 3-0 victory over the Cocoa Expos (PDL), with all three goals coming in the first half.
Another Carolina team, the Dynamo, will host the Atlanta Silverbacks (A-League) at MacPherson Stadium in Browns Summit, N.C. at 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Carolina, one of the four PDL teams remaining from the first round, advanced with a 5-1 win over the Milwaukee Bavarians (USASA) in the first round and a 4-2 win over the Charlotte Eagles (PSL) in the second round. The Silverbacks, making their third consecutive Open Cup appearance, will hope to avoid the upset in North Carolina for the second consecutive year. Last year, Atlanta fell victim to Wilmington in the third round suffering a 2-1 defeat and an early exit.
The last of the four PDL teams in the third round, the Boulder Rapids Reserve, will travel to St. Paul, Minn., to face the Minnesota Thunder (A-League) at James Griffin Stadium at 7 p.m. CT. In their only Open Cup match vs. a PDL team, the Thunder lost to the Mid Michigan Bucks in 1999 in Blaine, Minn. The Rapids Reserve squeaked through to the third round in the closest match of the 2004 Open Cup. Tied with the San Diego Gauchos after 120 minutes, Rapids goalkeeper Luis Robles saved the final penalty kick by San Diego as his team moved on with a 5-4 advantage.
Wrapping up the third round, the Portland Timbers (A-League) will make their first Open Cup appearance as they travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Blitzz (PSL) at 7:30 p.m. MT in Rice-Eccles Stadium. Three first half goals vs. the Sacramento Knights (USASA) in the second round put the Blitzz through to the third round. The Blitzz had been knocked out of the Open Cup in the second round for three straight years, including a shocking 4-0 defeat to the PDL upstart Fresno Fuego in 2003.
At stake in the tournament is $180,000 in prize money broken down as follows: $100,000 to the champion, $50,000 to the runner up and $10,000 to the team which advances deepest in the tournament from each of the Division II, Division III and amateur levels. The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the U.S. Soccer Federation’s National Championship, is an annual competition open to all amateur and professional soccer teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. It is the oldest annual team tournament in U.S. sports history and among the oldest soccer tournaments of its type in the world. In 1999, the competition was renamed to honor long-time soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt.