The country’s top amateur sides are in action this weekend in the Second Round of Qualifying for the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, U.S. Soccer’s National Championship. Amateur Cup champs Lansdowne Bhoys take on familiar foes in NYC as do 2017 Cinderella men Christos FC in Maryland and GPS Omens, who face fellow Bostonians Kendall Wanderers. LA Wolves and Rochester River Dogz are both through to the Third Round via forfeits.
Join ussoccer.com for a look ahead at this weekend’s 26 games and all 52 teams involved.
New York City has a storied past in Open Cup play, producing the most champions (19) and a staggering 29 titles. Current Cosmopolitan League (Formerly German-American Soccer League) powers Lansdowne Bhoys take on old league rivals New York Pancyprian Freedoms, who won the Open Cup on three occasions in 1979, 1980 and 1982, in the marquee contest of the Second Round.
(NY Pancyprian Freedoms play Lansdowne Bhoys in Round Two Qualifying - photo courtesy of Sam Hodgson - NY Times)
The Bhoys recently beat California giants LA Wolves to be crowned U.S. Amateur champions and have in their squad an array of talent with top-tier experience to spare. Captain and centre-back Sean Kelly was en route to professional glory as a member of Arsenal youth sides that also contained Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie, before injuries took a toll. Towering Gambian goalkeeper Abdoukarim Kabo Dansomakes makes the Yonkers-based squad a solid proposition at the back. Assistant coach and club president Willy McGrory is expecting a tough game on the day against a Freedoms side they know all too well, and drew 1-1 with last time they met in the league. “It’s always the same game against the Pancyprians no matter how we try to change it,” he said. “They’re organized and hard to break down, very strong at the back. On the other hand, we like to attack, so it should be another interesting one.”
(Kendall Wanderers meet familiar foes GPS Omens in the Second Round - photo of courtesy of Domenic Quarato)
Just up I-95 in Boston is another top-of-the table clash between two old, familiar foes. GPS Omens stormed through to the Third Round of last year’s Open Cup proper and were seconds away from forcing ‘99 champions Rochester Rhinos to a penalty shootout. If they want to match those kind of heroics, they’ll have to get past Bay State Soccer League (BSSL) rivals Kendall Wanderers first. When GPS went on a two-year run without a loss, it was the Wanderers – one of the oldest amateur clubs in Massachusetts – who ended it. It’s a case of familiarity breeding contempt (and grudging respect) and you can count on a hot one in Marlborough, Mass. on Saturday. “They’re a good squad, GPS. They like to get forward and are always buzzing around the ball,” said Kendall’s 35-year-old manager Phil Keane, who scored twice in a rout of upstarts Boston Siege in the previous round. “But games between the Kendall and GPS are always tight. We know each other very well.”
2017 Open Cup darlings Christos are also in action. The Baltimore part-timers stormed through to the Fourth Round last time out and led D.C. United before eventually losing out 4-1 to the MLS side. Now they take on Maryland Major Soccer League rivals Izee Auto in a clash that is bound to test their mettle. “It’s an advantage to know who you’re going up against and not have to find out on the day,” said Christos captain Pete Caringi III – a former star with University of Maryland Baltimore County (now assistant coach there). “We’ll know how we can attack them. I expect them to be fired up early and play physical.”
(Christos FC are back in action in the 2018 Open Cup Second Qualifying Round)
Pennsylvania sees a contest between an old Open Cup favorite, United German Hungarians – founded in 1922 and who last played in the Open Cup 18 years ago – against inner-city heroes Junior Lone Star FC (U-23). The Lone Stars train on a public park in gritty Southwest Philly and were founded by West African refugees.
Elsewhere in the Northeast, Mass United and Safira – both big winners in the First Round of Qualifying – meet in another all-Bay State affair. West Chester United (PA) play Phoenix Soccer Club (PA), Aurora Borealis Soccer Club of Illinois take on Stegman’s Soccer Club of Minnesota and Rochester Rover Dogz (NY) are straight through to the Third Round with a minimum of effort after Michigan’s Ann Arbor FC couldn't field a team and were forced to forfeit.
(Junior Lone Star U-23s train in Southwest Philly - photo courtesy of Jonah Fontela - 2017)
Soccer Storms Brewing in the Southeast and Rocky Mountains
Miami-based Red Force FC, veterans of last year’s Open Cup finals, were in fine form in their 2018 First Round Qualifier, beating FC Ginga 8-1. They’ll look for more of the same in Round Two against Miami Nacional FC. Fellow Floridians in action are South Florida FC, who line up against Boca Raton FC, while Orlando Storm take on FC Kendall at home.
Over in Texas, NTX Rayados hope to push through to the main event for a second straight year, but they’ll have to go through the hard-charging Celtic Cowboys first. The Austin side, who wear the green-and-white hoops of Glasgow Celtic much like Lansdowne Bhoy do in New York, won the first Open Cup contest in their history when they beat city rivals Real Cuauhtemoc 3-2 last month.
(North Texas Rayados aim to reach their second straight Open Cup proper in 2018)
Georgia-based Majestic Soccer Club will try to live up to their name when they take on Tennessee’s Nashville United while Louisiana delegates Cajun Soccer Club will be eager to bring the heat against fellow New Orleanians Motagua.
Out Rocky Mountain way, Harpos FC are proud of their hash tag and ironic battle cry #bullsh*tpubteam, but don’t let it fool you. The men from the high Rockies, based out of Boulder, are highly respected and much-feared in the amateur ranks. They struggled in their first game, beating FC Boulder on penalties after playing a man down for a whole half in messy conditions. But they have the pedigree, talent and the kind of focus needed to go a good, long way in this competition. Up next, they’ll take on a young, fit and organized Colorado Springs FC. “In the Open Cup, every game is a Cup Final. Nobody wants to lose and everyone you come up against is really going for it,” said Harpos manager and former player Johnny Freeston. “We’ll have to go out there and be ready for some smash-mouth stuff. That’s what it’s all about we’ll have to make sure we’re ready to go.”
(Boulder-based powers Harpos FC are looking to make a fresh run in the 2018 Open Cup)
Also in Colorado, Azteca FC – 5-1 winners in the First Round – play host to favorites Colorado Rush, while Fort Collins United travel to FC Denver who had a comfortable 3-0 win in their opener. The Centennial State’s final participant, Indios Denver, welcomes traveling IPS/Marathon Taverna of Oregon. The rest of the Mountain Region’s clashes see Ojuelos Jalisco take on fellow Arizonians Galati FC, while Sporting AZ FC and Inter EmpireWorks FC (both from Arizona) meet in Phoenix.
LA Wolves, one of the top amateur teams on the American scene, are through to the Third Round of Open Cup Qualifying play without having to exert much effort. Vanquish FC’s forfeit (due to the sudden loss of their primary sponsor) sees the Los Angeles side, once coached by none other than U.S. National Team standout and TV pundit Eric Wynalda, are now one step away from their second straight Open Cup proper.
Of the 16 teams in action in the Pacific Region, all but one are from California. El Farolito, who won the Open Cup as CD Mexico in 1993, take on Academica Soccer Club in San Francisco, while La Maquina – who reached the Open Cup proper last year – host Las Vegas Mobsters in Santa Ana (Ed's note: LV Mobsters forfeit after publishing and La Maquina move on to Third Round). Over in Petaluma, Cal Victory FC play Davis Legacy SC. Valley United tangle with Chula Vista while Buena Park FC and Santa Clarita Storm meet up in what promises to be a tight contest. Santa Ana Winds round out the action against Newcastle United FC at home in Lake Forest.
(LA Wolves are through to Qualifying Round Three by virtue of a forfeit - one of two in the Round)
The winners from Round Two move on to the Third (and final) Qualifying Round set for Nov. 18-19. The winners of those Third Round games then move onto the big show, the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Follow all the action and keep your finger on the pulse of the #USOC2018 on twitter and Instagram @OpenCup and ussoccer.com.