Nine Through to the Big Time: #USOC2023 Fourth Round Qualifying ReviewThe Open Division Qualifying Rounds wrapped on December 17-18 and sent nine amateur hopefuls through to the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Proper – where dreams are always up for grabs.
The Fourth and Final Round of Qualifying sent nine Open Division clubs through to next year’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Proper – and it wasn’t short on drama. Seven of the nine road teams won out while only three clubs booked their place in a second consecutive Open Cup. The likes of Inter San Francisco, Chicago House AC and Nashville’s Beaman United will take their place at the big table for the first time.
Join usopencup.com for a look at the brave and talented survivors of this year’s Open Division Qualifying campaign – which began all the way back in September with more than 100 clubs in contention.
Two Powerhouses Return
Lansdowne Yonkers, the 2021 National Amateur Cup champions from New York, return to the Open Cup Proper for a second consecutive year after pulling off a 2-0 win on the road against SC Vistula Garfield of New Jersey. The scoring came from Dean Dillon, on the stroke of halftime, and a Vistula own-goal early in the second half.
It was yet another clean sheet for the Bhoys, who only conceded one goal (against Queensboro FC in the Third Round) in all four of their Qualifying games – in which they scored a total of 14 times. “I think we’re a deeper side than last year and our aim is to make as long a run as possible,” said Shamir Mullings, the club’s striker and youth academy director – as well as a member of the side that beat Ocean City Nor'easters before falling to pros Rochester NY FC in the Second Round Proper earlier this year.West Chester United SC, led by coach and American amateur soccer hero Blaise Santangelo, did their Qualifying the hard way – and all the way to the bitter end. All four of the Pennsylvania side’s wins came on the road, including the 2-1 come-from-behind result in the Fourth Round at the home of fellow 2022 Open Cup participants NoVa FC in Leesburg, Virginia.
Jacob Gosselin (from the spot) and the outstanding Levi ‘Sunshine’ Meruca scored in the 2-1 win that saw the West Chester side return for a second Open Cup on the trot. “It’s not easy going out on the road every weekend,” said 30-year-old striker Chas Wilson, a high school teacher and soccer coach. “But it’s the Open Cup so we do what we have to do.”
No lights But All the Drama
West Chester’s three-hour drive to Virginia was nothing compared to the journey required of Chicago House AC. American soccer pioneer, and former GM and President of MLS’ Chicago Fire, Peter Wilt’s new team boarded a plane for the second Round in a row.
And the hardships didn’t end there. They went down early to Brockton FC United at the Boston-area Randolph High School. And with the score tangled 1-1, and the day dying away and no sign of the field lights coming on, the extra-time periods were shortened and the game decided via a penalty shootout conducted in something just shy of total-darkness.In the end, goalkeeper Tony Halterman made a pair of saves (and scored his kick) as the visitors from Chicago House prevailed in a tense and entertaining game – and now move on to their first-ever Open Cup Proper. “I love the Open Cup,” said Wilt, who won four of them with the Fire (and has the rings to prove it). “Reaching the Open Cup Proper means a lot to the club and its fanbase.”
That wasn’t the only penalty shootout of the Fourth Round – and not even its most dramatic. Azteca FC of Colorado were heavy favorites up against UDA Soccer of Las Cruces, New Mexico. But after a back-and-forth 120 minutes of play that saw eight goals tumble in (4-4), the post-game shootout required nine rounds to settle the affair (8-9) in favor of the New Mexicans.
Goals Galore for Beaman United
Nashville side Beaman United FC, who hold the distinction of being the only team in Open Division Qualifying founded this very year, brought all the attacking-play and verve they’ve become famous for since Gift Ndam started the club.
Oscar Ocampo of Texas-based visitors D’Feeters Kicks SC opened the scoring after eight minutes. And from there, the lead changed hands time and again before, finally, in extra-time, Joseph Omondi hit home the winner (4-3) for the Nashville-area side. Beaman, who boast two ex-pros in Kwadwo Poku and Michael Reed, now move through to a first Open Cup Proper in their short history.
“We like to keep the ball,” said Poku, formerly of MLS’ New York City FC and an Open Cup Quarterfinalist with Miami FC in 2017. “And sometimes that means we concede more goals than we like – but we’re confident going the other way too.”
In their three Qualifying games, Beaman – who reached last year’s UPSL national final – scored 11 goals and conceded eight. If you like entertaining soccer, do keep an eye on these swashbucklers from Nashville when the Open Cup Proper kicks off in March.
Florida’s Three Become Two
Two of the Sunshine State’s three representatives squared off in Hialeah. Miami United FC, founded by Roberto Sacca back in 2012 and regulars in the Open Cup proper since first qualifying back in 2015, edged neighbors Naples City FC to return for a second-straight stint in the tournament.
The home side took the lead 2-1 early in the second half from a sensational free-kick, dispatched from a near-impossible angle. They managed to ride it all the way to the end – despite the best efforts of their visitors and near neighbors.
There will be another Florida side in the Open Cup Proper, as the previously free-scoring Club de Lyon were given a tough test on the road by SCU Heat in Columbia, South Carolina. Ignacio Ten Lopez scored late in an extra-time period that saw Lyon reduced to ten men – and it eventually stood up as the winner (2-1).
Orange County FC, reigning champions of the UPSL, were in good shape heading into a final Qualifying game at home in Irvine. Having scored seven times in the Third Qualifying Round it came as quite a shock that they were unable to find the net against a stingy Capo FC through 120 minutes of play.
And the visitors made them pay in the shootout – pulling clear 3-2 to keep the Orange County regulars out of a second Open Cup Proper on the trot.
Inter San Francisco had no such scoring troubles. For the third time in their four Qualifying games, Dr. Amir Darabi’s team put five goals on the board on a frozen pitch in Minden, Nevada. The 5-1 result over Battleborn FC was more than enough to see the Bay Area side cruise through to their first-ever Open Cup Proper, where they’ll harbor hopes beyond just making a decent showing.
“This is the only path to be seen and we’ll have the chance to play professional teams,” said the club founder, coach and sometimes player Darabi – who’s assembled a powerful side in a short space of time. “We can shine in the Open Cup and really show who we are.”
FOURTH Round Qualifying Results
Brockton FC United 1 - 1 (7 - 8 PKs) Chicago House AC
South Carolina United Heat 1 - 2 Club de Lyon
Azteca FC 4 - 4 (1 - 4 PKs) UDA Soccer
BattleBorn FC 1- 5 Inter San Francisco
Nova FC 1 - 2 West Chester United SC
SC Vistula Garfield 0 - 2 Lansdowne Yonkers FC
Beaman United FC 4 - 3 D'Feeters Kicks Soccer Club
Miami United FC 2 - 1 Naples City FC
Orange County FC 0 - 0 (2 - 3 PKs) Capo FC
The nine Fourth Round winners will join 1983 Open Cup runners-up and 2019 participants Bavarian United, out of Glendale, Wisconsin, who earned a direct place in the 2023 Open Cup Proper by winning the U.S. Adult Soccer Association (USASA) National Amateur Cup this summer.
The 2023 Open Cup Proper is scheduled to kick off in late March – where the nine Open Division participants (plus the Bavarians) will have the chance to compete directly against the country’s pro sides.Fontela is editor-in-chief of usopencup.com. Follow him at @jonahfontela on Twitter.