How’d you all like our big, flashy Final on Wednesday?
It was watched by millions, including a few notables in person like Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham and James Harden. Well, we got more games – 44 more in fact – and some of them only a few miles away from DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, where the Houston Dynamo beat Inter Miami 1-2 in that 108th Open Cup Final.
The connections are more than just circumstantial. Dynamo man Corey Baird, 2018 MLS Rookie of the Year, came through these very same Qualifying Rounds in 2015 with a PSA Elite team made up of college kids on summer break – and they earned the right to meet MLS’ LA Galaxy in the Tournament Proper.
Just days ago, the hybrid striker and winger lifted the oldest prize in American soccer into the hot humid Florida air. “It was the only time I ever cried after a soccer game,” the young man who knows all angles of the Open Cup’s magic told usopencup.com.
Roberto Insua and Auner Cobon Escobar, captains of nearby Miami United FC and City Soccer FC who are both in Qualifying action this weekend, were also on hand at the 2023 Final to bring out the historic trophy that the Dynamo ended up lifting at the conclusion of a thrilling night.
Might we have another future Open Cup winner in the mix this weekend among the 88 amateur teams playing out on high school fields and public parks across this great country? Maybe. But it doesn't matter, because The Dream is the journey and the goal in one.
Amateurs in Action Across the USA
Among Saturday’s 17 games are several worth digging in on. First up, the Bay Area meeting between International San Francisco and The Olympic Club.
Inter SF successfully navigated the Qualifying Rounds last year, capping off four wins in a row with a 5-1 rout of BattleBorn FC on the road on a frozen pitch in Minden, Nevada in the Fourth Round. In all, Inter scored 24 goals and conceded just one in that campaign before losing out to local amateur powers El Farolito – who won the Open Cup in 1993 under their then-name CD Mexico – in their first trip to the Open Cup Proper.
Inter was started in 2022 by player-coach Dr. Damir Arabi who had hopes of creating a soccer start-up culture in the Bay Area. He assembled a squad with a few ex pros – former Chicago Fire man and Open Cup Semifinalist Matt Fondy among them – and some up-and-coming local talent.
While the SFSFL-based Inter is only a few years old, the Olympic Club has bags of history going back to the years of the U.S. Civil War. Founded way, way back in 1860, the magnificent old club is a vision of mid-19th Century fitness principles – and its men’s soccer team actually qualified for the 2020 Open Cup Proper before Covid-19 saw that year’s tournament canceled.
The very same Matt Fondy (now of Inter) was in that year’s Olympic Club side – so we’ll have a reunion of sorts.
Some 2000 miles east, Chicago House AC tangle with Wisloka Chicago in a Windy City Derby.
Wisloka play out of the UPSL’s Midwest Central Division and will have their work cut out against House, who reached as far as any other amateur team in this 2023 Open Cup Proper after successfully navigating last fall’s marathon 2023 Open Division Qualifying Rounds.
House, owned and operated by former Chicago Fire President, GM and four-time Open Cup winner Peter Wilt, will rely again on the outstanding play of captain AR Smith and goalkeeper Tony Halterman as they hunt a second straight berth in the Open Cup Proper. They’ll aim to reach as far (or farther) than they did last year when they earned the right to take on hometown MLSers Chicago Fire.
- READ: No Place Like Home for House’s AR Smith
- READ: Meet Tony Halterman – Chicago House’s Handyman
- READ: Open Cup Evangelist Peter Wilt Goes Home Again
The Mountain Region will host a classic contest between Denver-area rivals Azteca FC and Harpos FC – both recent qualifiers for the Open Cup Proper who play in the same league and always serve up a battle.
Also on Saturday, Pennsylvania’s historic Vereinigung Erzgebirge are in action against Philadelphia Heritage SC.
Sunday’s Nationwide Offerings
Day Two of the Second Round is a marathon of Qualifying with 27 games on the menu.
Let’s start in the Northeast – one of the strongest region’s for amateur soccer in this country. Among the area’s contests are some crackers worth considering more closely.
FC Omens are one of the top teams in the Boston-area Bay State Soccer League, and they reached the 2013 and 2017 Open Cup Proper. They’ll be up against a powerful Brockton FC United side, who also play in the BSSL and won two games in last year’s Open Division Qualifying before losing in the Fourth and Final Round.
Brockton FC, founded in 2006, have historically cultivated players from the area’s large Cape Verdean Community and have grown into a regional power in recent years.
A little farther south in New York City’s Metro Area, New Jersey Alliance will host SC Vistula Garfield – who partook in the Qualifying Rounds last fall in the club’s 70th year. The Oldest Polish-American club in the country, Vistula will be led out again by player-coach Chris Karcz.
We’ve also got two former Open Cup Champions in the mix, if you can believe it.
The Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals – who won the tournament three times in a row in the 1960s (and four times in all) – take on Colonial SC in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. And the New York Pancyprian Freedoms – winners in 1980, 1982 and 1983 – go up against 2017 and 2021 National Amateur Cup champions and regular participants in the Open Cup Proper, Lansdowne Yonkers FC.
We also have the return of a famous name to Amateur Qualifying in Baltimore-area Christos FC, the side that shook the establishment in 2017 when they beat pros the Richmond Kickers and briefly led D.C. United before falling to the MLS originals. They’ll meet the Aegean Hawks, the Arlington, Virginia-based side founded in 1996 who survived this year’s First Qualifying Round.
Saturday September 31st
Houston FC vs. Athletic Katy FC
Vereinigung Erzgebirge vs. Philadelphia Heritage SC
Villarreal CF Virginia vs. Steel Pulse FC
Azteca FC vs. Harpos FC
Mint Hill FC vs. South Carolina United Heat
Leg-AZ World FC vs. Royal Palms Soccer Club
Florida Premier FC vs. Clearwater Chargers SC
Orlando FC Wolves vs. Harbor City FC
Hodler Miami FC vs. City Soccer FC
Chicago House AC vs. Wisloka Chicago
Valley 559 FC vs. Bay Area United FC
Austin Thunder vs. Daggers CTX
Edgewater Castle Football Club vs. Berber City FC
International San Francisco vs. The Olympic Club
Temecula Football Club vs. Murrieta Soccer Academy
Santa Monica Surf vs. Trojans FC
Arlington SA vs. Yinz United
Sunday October 1st
Terminus FC vs. Kalonji Pro-Profile
Majestic Soccer Club vs. North Georgia United
FC Omens vs. Brockton FC United
Colonial SC vs. Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals
United German Hungarians vs. Real Central NJ Soccer
UDA Soccer vs. Coronado Athletic Club
Sahara Gunners FC vs. IASC Boom
Soccer Paradise FC vs. Miami United FC
SC Union Maricopa vs. Sporting Arizona FC
Valhalla FC vs. Chicago Strikers
Austin Longhorns vs. Alamo City Soccer Club
FC Birmingham vs. Tennessee Tempo FC
Florida Brothers vs. Miami Soccer Academy
FORO SC vs. Tenfifteen FC
DCFC vs. NOVA FC
Boston Street FC vs. CD Faialense
New Jersey Alliance FC vs. SC Vistula Garfield
Deportivo Lake Mary FC vs. CFL GOSA Spurs
NY Renegades FC vs. Zum Schneider FC 03
FC Folsom vs. UC Davis Club Soccer
Irvine Zeta FC vs. Capo FC
New York Pancyprian Freedoms vs. Lansdowne Yonkers FC
Aegean Hawks FC vs. Christos FC
FC Denver vs. Provo Athletic Club
Rebels Soccer Club vs. Escondido FC
Sharktopus Football Club vs. Holac FC
Sunday October 3rd
O’Shea’s FC vs. Parkland Soccer Club
Fontela is editor-in-chief of usopencup.com. Follow him at @jonahfontela on X/Twitter.