Starting XI Confirmed: #USOC2024 Fourth & Final Qualifying Round Review

The 11 winners from the Fourth and Final Qualifying Round of the 2024 U.S. Open Cup stamped tickets to the Tournament Proper – where they’ll harbor hopes of causing some major underdog mayhem.
By: Angelo Maduro

The Open Division Qualifiers for the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are now known, following a Fourth and Final Qualifying Round on November 18 and 19. The 11 winners of those single-elimination games – played at high schools and public parks across the country – now move on to make up the field of amateur underdogs taking aim at glory (and Houston Dynamo’s crown) next year.

Two teams will return for a second-straight Open Cup (Chicago House AC and Miami United FC) while five (SCU Heat, FC America CFL Spurs, FORO SC, FC Folsom and Irvine Zeta FC) make their debuts in the 109th edition of U.S. Soccer’s national championship and this country’s most-historic tournament. 

The 11 Open Division Qualifiers for #USOC2024:

  • Azteca FC (Colorado)
  • Chicago House AC (Illinois)
  • Christos FC (Maryland)
  • FC America CFL Spurs (Florida)
  • FORO SC (Texas)
  • SCU Heat (South Carolina)
  • Brockton FC United (Massachusetts)
  • Vereinigung Erzgebirge (Pennsylvania)
  • Miami United FC (Florida)
  • FC Folsom (California)
  • Irvine Zeta FC (California)

Saturday's games were full of drama as five of the seven away teams pulled off wins on their travels.

Road Warriors Prosper to Open Final Round

Azteca FC, out of Denver and the all-amateur Colorado Premier League, were first to claim a place in the Tournament Proper when two goals inside the opening ten minutes from Jovany Herrera and Anthony Miranda saw them return to the Open Cup big’s stage for the first time since 2022 (their fourth trip overall). A late goal wasn’t enough to see UDA Soccer – thae college club out of Las Cruces – through to their second-straight Open Cup as they lost 1-2 on home soil in New Mexico.

Led by captain AR Smith and club president Peter Wilt, Chicago House AC played the decisive Qualifying Round away from home for a second year on the trot – and they were given a rough go of it by hosts Valhalla FC near Cincinnati, Ohio. With the score tangled at 1-1, and with extra-time looming, Elias McCloud and Pau Mateo Chacon had their say with goals in the dying seconds to send the Windy City amateurs through to a second-straight Open Cup. They’ll hope to go one step farther than they did last year when they earned a game against local MLS side Chicago Fire in the Third Round.

Despite the home side setting the Tempo in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, SCU Heat – from Columbia, South Carolina – had more in the tank. Two late goals from Alejo Binaghi were enough to see the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) club reach the Tournament Proper with a convincing 4-2 win.

Baltimore’s Christos FC are back in the Open Cup

The last game of the first day of Fourth Qualifying Round action was packed with late drama. After 90-plus minutes of goalless play at Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University, a converted penalty kick from former Cape Verde international and UMass-Lowell standout Wuilito Fernandes looked to have sent Massachusetts side Brockton FC United through to the Tournament Proper. And they did eventually get there, but only after former champions NY Pancyprian-Freedoms drew level through Rafael Bustamante and the boys from Brockton – the so-called City of Champions and birthplace of boxing legend Rocky Marciani – scored twice more through Ramon Mendoca to seal a return to the Open Cup on the right side of a 3-1 scoreline.

Christos FC – playing in Leesburg, VA, not far from their Baltimore-area home – we’re still technically the road team. And, like Brockton, they needed late heroics to seal the deal and make a return to the Open Cup, where they caused a sensation as underdog heroes of the 2017 edition with a win over local pros the Richmond Kickers. An opportunistic lone goal eight minutes from full-time was the only difference between the visitors and their impressive hosts NoVa FC, who miss out on the Tournament Proper at the final hurdle for the second year in a row.

Saturday’s other deciders saw FORO SC of Dallas win out simply over Alamo City Soccer Club by a score of 4-0 (a pair of goals came from Nigel Katawa and Alex Molano and Hector Romero also scored). In Florida, FC America CFL Spurs also scored four against their opponent Leg AZ-World FC in a 4-1 victory that sent them through to a debut Open Cup.

Home Sides Back to Form

The four games of Sunday, November 19 saw the host teams back to winning ways.

And while it took Pennsylvania’s Vereinigung Erzgebirge 90 minutes, plus extra-time and a penalty shootout, the near-100 year-old club finally stamped a return to the Open Cup in the fading light of late autumn. At their sprawling compound in Warminster, the club known to most as VE (for obvious reasons) held firm to a goalless draw through regular and extra-time against visitors New Jersey Alliance FC before sealing it on penalties (4-2).

Irvine Zeta will make their Open Cup debut next year

The 2024 Open Cup will be VE’s first time in the Tournament Proper since 2002 (despite reaching the 2020 edition of the tournament which was eventually canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Miami United FC are regular attendees at the Open Cup’s big party – and 2024 will be no exception. They faced local rivals City Soccer FC (of West Palm Beach) in Hialeah and their first goal came via a familiar source: Robertino Insua. The Argentina-born striker scored again late in the 3-1 win with his fifth goal of the last two Open Cup Qualifying Rounds.

International San Francisco hadn’t lost an Open Cup Qualifier in two years leading up to their meeting on the road with FC Folsom near Sacramento. But Amir Darabi’s men did taste defeat this time after being reduced to ten players in the tenth minute and eventually capitulating 4-2. The goals for the home team came from Kody Duff, Moshi Wilondja, Joe Restani and Gabe Padilla.

The Fourth and Final Round of 2024 Qualifying concluded with Irvine Zeta FC booking a place in their first Open Cup Proper (they join fellow Californians FC Folsom as debutants) with a 3-1 win over Temecula Football Club.

All 11 Fourth Round winners move through to the 2024 U.S. Open Cup alongside this year’s USASA National Amateur Cup Champions SC MesoAmerica and AS Frenzi – the springtime national champions of the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL).

2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Tournament Proper

First Round          Tuesday, March 19 - Thursday, March 21        
Second Round     Tuesday, April 2 - Wednesday, April 3            
Third Round         Tuesday, April 16 - Wednesday, April 17        
Round of 32          Tuesday, May 7 - Wednesday, May 8               
Round of 16          Tuesday, May 21 - Wednesday, May 22           
Quarterfinal         Tuesday, July 9 - Wednesday, July 10              
Semifinal              Tuesday, Aug. 27 - Wednesday, Aug. 28          
Final                      Wednesday, Sept. 25                                       

Maduro is a senior reporter at large for