When US Soccer announced the format for the 2013 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, a new name caught the eye of many a soccer fan—the United States Specialty Sports Association. The organization was awarded a spot in the tournament, beginning play in the Qualifying Round, and TheCup.us has confirmed that the Colorado Rovers will be their representative.
While Specialty Sports may not be a household name, it is actually quite a large organization. Specialty Sports is a national organization, featuring 13 different sports and about 3.5 million members. Baseball and softball account for most of that number, but soccer has made large strides since its inclusion into Specialty Sports in 2001.
By 2008, 11 states were holding championships, and the first Specialty Sports National Championship took place in Las Vegas. This year, 18 teams got together in Denver to determine who would become the first ever Specialty Sports club to participate in the US Open Cup.
A Specialty Sports club in the US Open Cup is new, but the Colorado Rovers are anything but. Founded in 1992, the Rovers have gradually become a force in Colorado soccer. According to Erick French, the Adult Director of Specialty Sports, the Rovers began in a league’s second division, eventually moved to the top division, and have been winning consistently ever since.
“It’s really good for the team to have this kind of an opportunity. It helps with our recruiting, it helps with everything we do,” said French. “Regardless of how we do in the cup, it’s a fantastic opportunity for us. We’re really excited.”
Before moving to Specialty Sports, Colorado was a member of the USASA. The Rovers never attempted to qualify for the Open Cup, but they were successful in the amateur tournaments, winning the Region IV Amateur Cup in 2009. Currently, they play in the Colorado Amateur Soccer League.
Last year saw a US Club Soccer enter their first team into the US Open Cup and the Fresno-based Stanislaus United Turlock Express were victorious in their tournament debut. The Rovers hope to do the same as they begin play in the Qualifying Round on May 7 against an National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) team that has yet to be determined.
Regardless of what happens, it will be a great experience for the Specialty Sports side, and a stepping stone for the organization.
“My motivation was for our adult member leagues. I wanted to be able to give them the opportunity to compete at a national level in the most prestigious soccer tournament in the country,” said Craig Scriven, the National Director for USSSA Soccer, about applying to add USSSA to the tournament field. “The Open Cup is a great tournament which allows all teams and players the chance to test themselves against other federation members. In speaking with the representatives from Colorado Rovers I’m already excited about the game ahead.”
“For me we have reached our goal this year, which is acceptance into the event. It’s a great moment for USSSA and Colorado Rovers who will not only be representing themselves and their league, but also an entire organization for the very first time. Any further progression will be the icing on the cake.
“Going forward, I am excited to see our member leagues and tournaments grow stronger. By having an avenue into the Open Cup our top divisions throughout the country will have another step in their seasons which will make for some great games.”
The Rovers will be the first non-PDL amateur club to qualify for the US Open Cup in the Modern Professional Era (1995-present).
2013 US Open Cup Qualifying Round (May 7)
Colorado Rovers (USSSA) vs. NPSL team TBA
US Club Soccer team TBA vs. NPSL team TBA
*Winners advance to Round 1 on May 14