Final Rounders on Cup’s Cusp: #USOC2024 Third Qualifying Round Review

The Third Qualifying Round of the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup sent 22 teams from across the country through to the Fourth & Final Round – a win away from a place on next year’s big stage.
By: Angelo Maduro

The 44 games of the Third Qualifying Round for the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup played out across high school fields and public parks between October 21 and 22. There were blowouts and tight contests as 22 teams – all hopefuls from the amateur, Open Division ranks – now step up to a winner-take-all Fourth and Final Round in November with a place in the 2024 Tournament Proper on the line.

The second day of Third-Round day play opened with a pair of lopsided results.

Sahara Gunners – a club tied into Buffalo, NY’s middle eastern refugee community – had their hopes of becoming the Queen City’s first representative in the Open Cup for over 50 years dashed. On the wrong end of a 10-1 hammering, Kovan Dalil and his side will have to look to next year as outstanding victors Valhalla FC of Ohio will hope they saved a few goals for the Final Round (November 18th and 19th).

The other notable blowout saw four-time Open Cup champions the Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals hammered 6-0 at their home base in Horsham, PA by a fearsome New Jersey Alliance FC. Former Stumptown AC and New Amsterdam FC striker Isimohi Bello was on fire with five goals in the rout.

With the Ukrainians out, only one former Open Cup champion remains in Qualifying. It’s the Queens, NY-based Pancyprian Freedoms, three-time toppers from 1980, 1982 and 1983. Three must be their magic number too – as it’s also how many goals they scored without reply before their game with NY Renegades FC was abandoned in the 76th minute due to player misconduct.

Oghenerobo Ominiabohs scored twice in a 4-0 win for South Carolina United Heat over Majestic Soccer Club that has the team from Columbia, SC now on the verge of a second trip to the Tournament Proper in the space of three years. Down in the Sunshine State, Miami United FC – old campaigners in these Qualifiers– rode a Roberto Insua hat-trick to a 4-0 win and yet another Final Round berth.

Some Tight-Run Contests

On the other side of the ledger there were a number of tension-fuelled games that were decided – as is so often the case – by the odd bounce of the ball or a slim piece of luck.

Christos FC – the Baltimore-area side some will remember from their heroics in the 2017 Open Cup where they beat pro side Richmond Kickers and briefly led MLS’ D.C. United – were tangled with league mates Steel Pulse FC 1-1 through extra-time. And it all came down to the last penalty kick of a shootout with the score tangled 4-4. Yami Nono – who was the hero for Stee Pulse when he opened the scoring after five minutes – was denied by the woodwork.

Vereinigung Erzgebirge took a similar route to see off 1977 Open Cup runners-up United German Hungarians in Warminster, PA. Regulation and extra-time ended one-all and a shootout (4-3) was all that separated the two historic sides.

One other game of the 44 needed a shootout to settle the score. And this one was a memorable marathon ten-rounder. California side Irvine Zeta FC beat out local SoCal powers Escondido FC 10-9 after the tight contest finished 1-1 through regular and extra-time.

Brockton FC United didn’t need a shootout, but they did need a heroic second-half fightback to see off fellow Massachusetts outfit CD Faialense of Cambridge.

Down by two at the half, the Brockton side – drawing talent from the large Cape Verdean community of Southern Massachusetts – hit three in the second period (including an 86th-minute winner from Wuilito Paulo Tavares Fernandes) to move through to the Final Qualifying Round for a fourth straight time.

Looking to Make it Two in a Row

While Seattle’s colorful Sharktopus FC caught the imagination – and grabbed the headlines – in these Qualifying Rounds, it was International San Francisco who faced down the 800 miles of air travel and an early morning kick-off to win 4-2 (one of 13 away teams to win out in the Round). The final goal came from 2014 Open Cup Semifinalist Matt Fondy (then of MLS’ Chicago Fire).

A win in the Fourth and Final Round would see Amir Darabi’s outstanding side from the City by the Bay (undefeated in two years of Open Cup Qualifying) reach the Tournament Proper for the second consecutive time. A win for Miami United FC would do the same – as would one for Chicago House AC.

Three-time champions NY Pancyprian Freedoms are through to the Final Qualifying Round

The club from the Windy City – operated by former Chicago Fire President and GM (and four-time Open Cup-winning executive) Peter Wilt – braved horrendous weather to knock off familiar rivals Edgewater Castle Football Club 3-1.

UDA Soccer – a UPSL club team affiliated with New Mexico State University – are also now one step away from a second straight berth in the Open Cup Proper. They were able to stay dry as their Third Round result came via forfeit when Sporting Arizona FC pulled out late (one of two forfeits this Round).

Tennessee Tempo FC
qualified for last year’s Open Cup Proper as Beaman United. And they’re still flying high under their new name – with a simple 2-0 win over a Kalonji Pro-Profile reduced to ten men in the first half of their game.

The 11 games of the Fourth & Final Qualifying Round will take place on November 18 and 19. The winning teams will move through to the 2024 Open Cup Proper alongside this year’s USASA National Amateur Cup Champions SC MesoAmerica and AS Frenzi – the Springtime national champion of the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL).

Third Qualifying Round Results

Saturday, October 21

CD Faialense 2 vs. 3 Brockton FC United
Sharktopus Football Club 2 vs. 4 International San Francisco
Vereinigung Erzgebirge
1 vs. 1 United German Hungarians (4-3 PKS)
Athletic Katy FC 0 vs. 1 FORO SC (Athletic Katy withdrew from competition)
Leg-AZ World FC 4 vs. 0 Florida Premier FC
Harbor City FC 0 vs. 1 FC America CFL Spurs
Miami United FC
4 vs. 0 Miami Soccer Academy
Edgewater Castle Football Club 1 vs. 3 Chicago House AC
Austin Thunder 1 vs. 2 Alamo City Soccer Club
Temecula Football Club
3 vs. 1 Santa Monica Surf

Sunday, October 22

Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals 0 vs. 6 New Jersey Alliance FC
Sahara Gunners FC 1 vs. 10 Valhalla FC
Steel Pulse FC 1 vs. 1 Christos FC (4-5 PKs)
South Carolina United Heat 4 vs. 0 Majestic Soccer Club
Parkland Soccer Club 0 vs. 2 City Soccer FC
UDA Soccer
1 vs. 0 Sporting Arizona FC (Sporting Arizona FA withdrew from competition)
Kalonji Pro-Profile 0 vs. 2 Tennessee Tempo FC
Escondido FC 1 vs. 1 Irvine Zeta FC (9-10 PKs)
FC Folsom 5 vs. 3 Valley 559 FC
Yinz United 1 vs. 2 NOVA FC
New York Pancyprian Freedoms
3 vs. 0 NY Renegades FC
FC Denver 0 vs. 2 Azteca FC

Maduro is a senior reporter at large for