A California-dominated group of eight teams will battle for two spots in the 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in this year’s USASA Region IV tournament. Seven of the eight teams hail from California with the eighth coming all the way from El Paso, Texas, and representing the state of New Mexico (we’ll explain later). The tournament begins with two groups of four playing a round robin with each group winner advancing to the First Round of the US Open Cup, which is scheduled to begin May 15.
The Region IV tournament will take place May 4-6 in Ontario, Calif., a week past the Open Cup qualifying deadline, but Mike Maloney, the region’s cup commissioner received permission from the United States Soccer Federation. Maloney cited scheduling challenges with the teams involved because of the federation’s decision to move the start date for the Open Cup from the first week of June to May 15.
Six of the eight teams are entering the tournament for the first time, with last year’s two Open Cup qualifiers returning. DV8 Defenders, a first-time entry last year and Doxa Italia, who will be competing for their fourth year in a row will look to qualify for the second straight year. Only three clubs have ever qualified in back-to-back years out of Region IV: Arizona Sahuaros (2008-11), Mexico SC (1999-2002), Sonoma County Sol (2005-06).
The teams that advance to the Open Cup will play away from home in the opening round, as was determined by the recent unveiling of the Round 1 matchups. One group winner will play at Jeld-Wen Field against the Portland Timbers U23s, while the other will play in Bremerton, Wash. against the Kitsap Pumas who are playing in a record fourth straight Open Cup. Who will play where will likely be determined by geography.
Here are the teams that will be competing, followed by the schedule:
Cal Football Club (California South)
Being a USASA team in the greater Los Angeles area is nothing new. Having Eric Wynalda as your head coach and technical director changes things, however. It means that when your local league team holds a tryout, the level of quality talent living in the area that comes out is unlike any other city. “This team is mainly formed from players in this local area –Thousand Oaks – that went to college and came back,” said team manager and president Michael Friedman. “Then we held a tryout recently and the players that came out surprised us. The talent is really high. Eric put all of his resources to work to put this together.” Players like Danny Barrera and Mike Randolph are among a group that have recently played or trained with MLS clubs that could be in the mix for the regional tournament along with a few players from Mercialagos, a lower division Mexican club. Though the squad is undergoing a makeover that is an ongoing process, with talent coming in via the exceptional sources of Wynalda, this one-year old club could very well be making headlines in June.
Doxa Italia (California South)
This Orange County-based club is the most experienced team in the field, in terms of participation in the USASA Region IV tournament. This is the fourth year in a row that Doxa Italia has entered, and are looking to replicate last year’s performance where they qualified for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup for the first time under the name “Doxa Italia.” They fell short in their Open Cup debut, losing 3-1 to the Ventura County Fusion of the PDL in the First Round. They formed in 1997, and later merged with the club Hollywood United in 2008. The two clubs, under the name Hollywood United, qualified for the Open Cup and combined for an historic First Round upset, eliminating the Portland Timbers (USL First Division – 2nd Division), 3-2. The merger was short-lived as Hollywood United pulled out to join the PDL, leaving the players and coaches to fend for themselves. Player/manager Derek Droze took a leadership position with the club and they pressed on under the name Doxa Italia.
This year, Doxa is competing in the Coast Soccer League, as well as the Los Angeles-based Angels Confrontational League. They are currently in first place in the CSL with two league games to play. One of those games is on April 22 against second place PSA Elite, a fellow Region IV entry. They finished runner-up in the ACL, losing the final game in overtime, 2-1.
[+] MORE: “2011 Meet the USASA: Doxa Italia”
OC Crew (California South)
OC Crew is another Orange County team that competes in the United Premier Soccer League. Last year, they played an exhibition schedule in the UPSL and finished undefeated, and early on in league play this year, they remain undefeated. Owner Robert Rake is very confident of his team’s chances, saying many of his players are ready to play at the next level and would match up very well against Major League Soccer opposition. First things first, they have to win their group which includes 2011 qualifier DV8 Defenders.
PSA Elite (California South)
PSA Elite plays in the Premier Division of the Coast Soccer League, based in Orange and eastern Los Angeles counties. PSA, based in Irvine, are league rivals with fellow qualifier Doxa Italia, and are looking to qualify for the Open Cup for the first time, much like the retooled Doxa did last year. Elite has proven to live up to their name in league play, capturing the championship three times since the 2006-07 season (2006-07, 2007-08, 2010-11), and finishing second to Italia in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
The Internationalists (Los Angeles Metro League)
The Internationalists, founded in 1992 as Arroyo ’92, play in the Los Angeles Metro League, after their former league (the Arcadia International Soccer League) folded in 2009. They had an excellent run through the Arcadia league in their 17 years, then won the LA Metro League’s Super Metro (top flight) division in their second year in the circuit. One of the key players on the team is former Galaxy player Ryan Shaw, and many players have played internationally or in the PDL. This will be their first time entering in the Open Cup qualifiers.
Pittsburg Galaxy FC (American National Soccer League)
The Galaxy were founded in 2006 and are based in Pittsburg, Calif., located just northeast of Oakland. They are the lone representative from the American National Soccer League (ANSL). They feature a strong attack with El Salvadorian striker Jorge Ruiz and former MLS player Julian Nash. Ruiz led the ANSL in scoring last year, and Nash, an Oakland native, played for the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo from 2005-07. Nash’s claim to Open Cup fame was in 2004 when he finished as the tournament’s top scorer as a member of the PDL’s Chicago Fire Reserves. He remains the only amateur player in the Modern Pro Era (1995-present) to win the scoring title outright.
EP Elite (New Mexico)
The El Paso Elite seems like a strange team name for a club representing the state of New Mexico, but it’s true. The El Paso, Texas-based club was given permission to compete in Region IV (Texas is Region III) due to the fact that El Paso is located so far away from the rest of the teams in their state. El Paso is located right next to the border of Texas and New Mexico, and they often compete in New Mexico-based competitions, so permission was given.
DV8 Defenders (California North)
The tournament’s other representative from Northern California, the Defenders are aiming to qualify for the US Open Cup like they did last year in their first attempt. Their run was short-lived, losing a road game at the PDL’s Real Colorado Foxes, 5-0, in the First Round. The team was founded in 1999 and competes in the Peninsula Soccer League, which is mostly made up of college-aged players. [+] MORE: 2011 Meet the USASA: DV8 Defenders
Group A (Eastern Time listed)
May 4: EP Elite vs. The Internationalists – 4 p.m.
May 4: Doxa Italia vs. Cal FC – 4 p.m.
May 5: The Internationalists vs. Doxa Italia – 11 a.m.
May 5: Cal FC vs. EP Elite – 11 a.m.
May 5: EP Elite vs. Doxa Italia – 6 p.m.
May 5: The Internationalists vs. Cal FC – 6 p.m.
Winner of Group A qualifies for the 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup
Group B (Eastern Time listed)
May 4: OC Crew vs. Pittsburg Galaxy FC – 6 p.m.
May 4: PSA Elite vs. DV8 Defenders – 6 p.m.
May 5: Pittsburg Galaxy FC vs. PSA Elite – 1 p.m.
May 5: DV8 Defenders vs. OC Crew – 1 p.m.
May 5: OC Crew vs. PSA Elite – 8 p.m.
May 5: Pittsburg Galaxy FC vs. DV8 Defenders – 8 p.m.
Winner of Group B qualifies for the 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup
Championship Game (Eastern Time listed)
May 6: Group A winner vs. Group B winner – 12 p.m.
Winner represents Region IV at the USASA National Finals