Bay Area Ambassadors FC, 2010 USASA Region IV champions, make their U.S. Open Cup debut June 15 against Kitsap Pumas SC of the PDL.
It’s a momentous occasion for the club from Hayward, Calif., a member of the NPSL Northwest Division. The Bay Area Ambassadors were in fifth place in the six-team NPSL Northwest heading into their opening round Lamar Hunt US Open Cup game, but overcame adversity and emerged as the winner of the Region IV tourney in Sacramento last month and thus earned a spot in the 97th edition of the tournament.
Not bad for a franchise in only its third year of existence. BAFC was started in 2008 by former Nigerian Olympic team member Tony Igwe and local businessman and real-estate broker Arif Khan to bring the highest level of amateur/semi-pro soccer to the Bay Area, Khan said.
Igwe, the team’s technical advisor, and Khan, the general manager, chose the NPSL for their club because there were several other teams in Northern California. The Ambassadors practice and play at Chabot College in Hayward.
While goalkeeper Sergio Valle is the main player to watch, the Ambassadors feature a mix of local college and non-college players. Coach Mohammed Mohammed has several players he’s developed from his youth club, including Yusuf Samy, Stefan Clemens and Pedro Osorio.
BAFC didn’t have it easy at the Region IV tournament. Three of its players were injured in the tournament opener. But the club made the regional final and won it with no substitutes, playing two games with only 10 men due to the injuries and two players unable to get international clearance.
Even with the obstacles, the Ambassadors cruised through group play, only allowing one goal in three matches. They defeated San Diego Boca FC, 2-0, Arizona Pros, 1-0, and the French Soccer Academy, 5-1. In the semifinals, it was a battle of unbeatens as Bay Area knocked off the Sacramento Gold 1-0 to qualify for the Open Cup. With the tournament berth already in place, Bay Area carried the momentum into the Region IV Open Cup final and booked a spot in the USASA National Cup Finals with a 2-0 win over fellow qualifier Arizona Sahuaros.
The Ambassadors fly into Seattle-Tacoma Airport on June 15 and play that evening at 7 p.m. in nearby Bremerton, home of the Kitsap Pumas, the Premier Development League qualifier from the Northwest Division.