It was an incredible weekend of soccer across the country, especially at the amateur level. With the dust settled, we now know the first two amateur teams to officially qualify for the 2024 U.S. Open Cup: SC MesoAmerica (California) and AS Frenzi (Florida).On Saturday, SC MesoAmerica defeated Newtown Pride FC 2-1 to win the 2023 National Amateur Cup. The game in Bettendorf, Iowa was the culmination of a two-day tournament, featuring the champions of the four United States Adult Soccer Association regions.
As champions of the USASA the team, based in Los Angeles, directly qualified for the First Round of next year’s Open Cup tournament.
They are the first west coast team to claim the National Amateur Cup since Open Cup qualification was granted to the tournament’s winner back in 2018. The accomplishment comes four years after MesoAmerica last reached the national finals in 2019, where they finished third.
After winning Friday’s semifinal over Tobacco Road FC, MesoAmerica began the final with a bang. A goal by Bryan Medina in the first minute put Meso ahead of Newtown. The Pride, who won the national title in 2019, responded with a goal a minute later courtesy of Erik Lorent.
“I’m very proud of these guys,” said MesoAmerica head coach Jimmy Pineda afterwards. “We’ve been [practicing] for months and preparing. They act like a real family. They put all they have, all their power, all their energy to make this happen.”
The two teams traded chances until early in the second half. German Alfaro, making his fourth nationals appearance since 2018, scored the game-winner in the 46th minute.
Newtown were unable to equalize and saw two players get double yellow cards to finish the game with nine men. MesoAmerica won the Fritz Marth Trophy and $8,000 in prize money to go along with their debut berth in the Open Cup – the USA’s oldest soccer tournament and National Championship.
“This is the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” said Pineda, holding emotions back as he talked. “We’ve been fighting for this for many years. We tried the first time in 2019 and things [didn't] go well… In the end we keep fighting and today is our moment thank God.”
Florida’s Frenzi Follow Suit
On Sunday AS Frenzi became the first team to qualify for the U.S. Open Cup as Spring United Premier Soccer League champions. The Sanford, Florida club won the 2023 UPSL Spring Championship over Sporting Wichita SC 2-1 AET.
Ivory Coast youth national team striker Yan Diomande scored both of Frenzi’s goals at Segra Field in Loudoun, Virginia (8’ 115’).
Teams from both USASA and UPSL that did not win national titles still have a chance to qualify for the 2024 Open Cup. Those that applied for the qualifying tournament will be announced by U.S. Soccer (and on usopencup.com) within the next few weeks.
Games for the First Qualifying Round of the 2024 Open Cup are scheduled to take place between September 9-10.
Meso and Frenzi weren’t the only champions crowned over the weekend. Tulsa Athletic defeated Apotheos FC 1-1 (8:7 in penalty kicks) to win the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) championship. This comes a few months after the club played Major League Soccer originals Sporting Kansas City in the 2023 U.S. Open Cup and won $25,000 as the farthest reaching Open Division/Amateur side.
A few thousand miles to the northwest, Ballard FC beat Lionsbridge FC 2-1 in dramatic fashion to win the USL League Two championship. Both teams have secured the top priority slot from their respective national leagues for the 2024 Open Cup.
Michael Battista is an award-winning journalist and regular contributor to TheCup.us, Hudson River Blue, & New York Sports Nation. Follow him at @MichaelBattista on Twitter.