The National Premier Soccer League, the fourth tier of American soccer, announced Tuesday that four of its 2011 conference champions have been selected as entrants for the 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Allotted by US Soccer with a total of 6.5 berths, the league’s remaining two guaranteed spots will come out of the western conference with the third team, the half-berth, facing the yet to be determined sole selection from US Club Soccer in a play-in contest.
The winners of the Southeast Division, Jacksonville United, will be joined by the Northeast Division’s Atlantic Conference champion, Brooklyn Italians, the Midwest winner Milwaukee Bavarians and the Erie Admirals, who claimed the Northeast’s Keystone Conference title.
The NPSL Western Conference teams will conduct qualifying during the month of March, however, no details of the format have been announced.
Jacksonville United (6-4-0) tied Georgia (5-2-3) for the Southeast Division title last year but won the tiebreaker to advance to the NPSL Final Four, where they beat the Erie Admirals 4-2 in the semifinals and Hollywood United 3-2 in the final.
The Midwest champion Bavarians (8-2-2) are the Under-23 team from Bavarian SC, a club that has been one of the most successful amateur teams during the Modern Pro Era of the Open Cup and date back to 1929.
Brooklyn went 7-2-1 win the Northeast Division’s Atlantic Conference last summer then lost to Erie in the divisional final. The Admirals (10-1-1) have moved into the new Great Lakes Conference of the Midwest Division.
As for the West, San Diego is the top returning team this season, going 10-3-1 to finish on top of the Southwest Flight in the regular season before being upset by the Sacramento Gold 2-1 in the divisional semifinals. Meanwhile, Hollywood United (11-2-1) are not returning to the league in 2012.
Last year, the NPSL received four Open Cup berths: the Italians, Chattanooga FC, Madison 56ers and Hollywood United represented the league.
The 56ers beat Illinois amateur side AAC Eagles 4-0 before losing to the PDL’s Chicago Fire Premier 2-0 in the Second Round; Brooklyn dropped a 2-1 decision to amateur entry New York Pancyprian-Freedoms; Chattanooga took USL PRO club Pittsburgh Riverhounds to extra time before a 3-2 loss; and Hollywood United lost to USL PRO team Los Angeles Blues 3-1.
Before 2011, NPSL teams advanced to the Open Cup through US Adult Soccer Association regional qualifying. Five teams joined the 56ers in advancing to the Second Round: the Sacramento Knights (2004), Salinas Valley Samba (2005), Sonoma County Sol (2006 and ‘09) and the Arizona Sahuaros (2010).