When asked what sets his club apart from others in the United States, Kyle Perkins, the manager of Saturday’s U.S. Open Cup “Play-In” participants KC Athletics can’t help but chuckle.
“We’re really not a club, necessarily,” he says. “We’re just one team that’s done alright for ourselves over the years.”
Before describing his side as “the most amateur team in the tournament”, Perkins explains that the team came into existence back in 2001 through a merger between the Kansas City Football Club and Kansas Legends Soccer Club.
“It was a mix of guys that were decent, some of who went to college and played and others that didn’t,” he said. “After school, guys came back and still had some desire to keep playing competitively – it’s sort of grown from there.”
On Saturday, KC Athletics will visit Harpo’s FC in Commerce City, Colorado, kicking off its third U.S. Open Cup tournament appearance since first qualifying in 2010. As they do, they’ll hope to put to bed the controversy that saw them miss out on the 2013 edition.
The side appeared to have earned its third Open Cup berth that year after downing Michigan-based Dearborn Stars 1-0 in a USASA Region II qualifying match, but the visitors from metro-Detroit protested the match, citing the size of the field KC arranged for the teams to play on. Indeed, the width was three yards short of the minimum required 65 yards and a replay was ordered shortly after to be played at a neutral site in Chicago.
With only a few days to coordinate travel for his players to go 500 miles to Chicago, KC instead withdrew from the replay and missed out on the tournament.
“Our team is all nine-to-five types with kids and families,” said Perkins. “Getting away isn’t easy for us in general, getting away weekend after weekend right after we’d already played it wasn’t something we could pull together. It was disappointing, but I think we knew we’d be back here and we’ve put it behind us.”
As they go up against Harpo’s on Saturday, they’ll do it with the experience of former Colorado Rapids midfielder Steven Emory, former Portland Timbers defender Ryan Kowaluk, ex-Atlanta Silverbacks defender Bobby Reese and the return of Peter Kariotis, who played professionally in Greece with Niki Voulo FC and Aetos Skydra.
They’ll also have a familiarity with their hosts. With KC already earning one of USASA’s Region II’s qualifying berths, the side also entered in the USSSA qualifying tournament, held in nearby Overland Park, Kansas last month.
The two teams met twice in the tournament. Harpo’s won the group stage match 4-1, went on to the tournament final and since KC was the other finalist and had already qualified, Harpo’s earned their berth without having to play the USSSA championship match. The Colorado-based side took that match lightly and fell 3-1 as KC Athletics ended up USSSA champs, even though it’s not how they qualified for the Open Cup.
“It’s sort of weird playing the same team three times so close together,” Perkins said. “We know a little bit about them. We know they have a huge roster to choose from, they might have a few guys we don’t know about, but we go there now with some experience in this tournament and ultimately knowing what’s on the line.”