UPDATED RESULTS/STANDINGS BELOW (12:30 a.m. ET)
Cup tournaments have always held a special place for the underdog. Whether it’s England’s famous FA Cup or our own, slightly younger, Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, there’s a romance in the idea that any team from any level has a fair shot at a title.
The road to that dream begins for eight amateur teams this weekend at the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) nationals in Overland Park, Kan.
The USSSA added soccer to its list of sports in 2001 and was awarded a spot for one team in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup for the first time last year. That bid went to the Colorado Rovers, who are back this year with a former pro who has an Open Cup title on his resume, looking to qualify again.
The tournament’s format is a standard one with two groups of four playing a round-robin with the top two teams from each group moving on to the knockout stage. The only non-traditional aspect of the competition is the fact that the group stage games and the semifinals will be limited to 50 minutes (Two 25-minute halves), while the championship game on Sunday will be the full 90 minutes.
According to USSSA VP and National Director Craig Scriven, the tournament was originally scheduled to be played in Denver back in October, but flooding caused the event to be postponed. With the US Open Cup’s qualifying deadline fast approaching, the organization had to decide an Open Cup representative by Tuesday, March 18, so they found some fields to play on in Overland Park. Unfortunately, a youth tournament is going on this weekend, so the length of the games were reduced to fit the entire tournament in before the deadline.
The format for the 2014 US Open Cup has yet to be announced, so it is unclear if the USSSA will receive more than a single spot in the preliminary round as the Rovers did last year.
The rest of the field include some familiar faces, and one familiar team. The Kansas City Athletics, who have entered the USASA Region II qualifying tournament as Kansas’ only entry every year since 2010, and have qualified twice (2010, 2012), have joined the competition.
Here are the teams that will take part in the tournament, which begins Friday night:
One of the four Colorado-based teams that will attempt to qualify for the US Open Cup for the first time.
Boulevard, also known as ‘Bangu’, is one of the tournament’s hometown teams. They are an over-30 team who are one of the founding members of the Johnson County Adult Soccer League, based in Overland Park, Kan. Brad Likens and his three brothers have run the club for over 15 years, and according to Likens, have won more than 20 trophies during that time.
In addition to running and playing for Boulevard, Likens is also one of the owners of FC Kansas City of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and the Missouri Comets of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL). He will regretably miss Friday night’s tournament opener against Colorado Sporting Premier because he will be with his Comets as they are hosting the Baltimore Blast in Game 1 of the MISL championship series.
The team will be missing a few of their notable players, many of whom have played for the Comets or with Sporting Kansas City. Among the players who will be taking part in the tournament are: Ethiopian international Dani Jiregna, former MLS and MISL player Ibrahim Kante and former MLS and USL player Kyle Brown. Former Comets player Matt Iverson and Matt Gow, who spent time with the Southern California Seahorses of the USL’s Premier Development League.
There’s already plenty of silverware in FC Denver’s trophy cabinet. The club added to its proud tradition by winning the 2013 Colorado State Cup last July. Winning also qualified Denver for the USSSA nationals, where the club will attempt to claim its first-ever US Open Cup berth.
The Rovers got the USSSA’s Open Cup bid last year, but were knocked out in the preliminary round by the NPSL’s Georgia Revolution. The club was founded in 1992 and has a long history of success in Colorado’s top amateur league, as well as in amateur tournaments across the country. 2013 was no different for the Rovers, as the team was the fall champion of the Colorado Amateur Soccer League. They bring some serious experience into this year’s USSSA tournament with former US Open Cup champion Ritchie Kotschau, who lifted the cup in 1998 while playing for MLS’ Chicago Fire.
Comets Express is one of three Kansas City-area teams competing in the USSSA nationals and plays in the Johnson County Adult Soccer League alongside Boulevard. The roster features a wealth of experience at the college level, including alums from the University of Raleigh and Rockhurst University in Kansas City. Coach Brad Geraldi says he is excited to face new completion in the tournament.
CO Sporting Premier
Just like the other Colorado teams in the tournament, CO Sporting Premier boasts plenty of trophies with success at the league, state and national level. The club competes yearly in the Las Vegas Sliver Mug Invitational and trains players at all levels in the state of Colorado.
Kansas City Athletics
Player/coach Kyle Perkins thought he had his team qualified for its second straight Open Cup last year when his 90th minute goal knocked off Dearborn Stars FC. It was later revealed the field for the match was 62 yards wide, not the 65 yards required by the USASA. A protest by the Stars was upheld and the Athletics were forced to withdraw when they couldn’t make the scheduled replay in Chicago. This year’s USASA Region II campaign ended on a sour note for KC when it was bounced in the quarterfinal round of US Open Cup qualifying. The USSSA Nationals is a second chance for the team to qualify for the Open Cup. The Athletics have one Open Cup win under their belt (2012: 3-1 at Real Colorado Foxes of PDL) in their two previous tournament experiences and there’s enough talent on the squad with a mix of college players and former pros to try to qualify for a third time.
Performance Soccer enters the USSSA nationals out of the Central Iowa Amateur League as the 2013-2014 league champions. Founded in 2009, the club includes seven current collegiate players and is coached by former Kansas City Wizards player Terry Konchalski.
2014 USSSA Open Cup qualifying tournament
Overland Park Soccer Complex – Overland Park, Kan.
All times CT
Note: Group stage, Semifinals are 50-minute games
Note: We apologize for the formatting problems below
|CO Sporting Premier||3||1||0||0||+5|
Friday, March 14
Colorado Rovers 2:0 Comets Express
CO Sporting Premier 5:0 Boulevard
Saturday, March 15
Boulevard vs. Colorado Rovers (Field 1, 10 a.m.)
CO Sporting Premier vs. Comets Express (Field 2, 10 a.m.)
Colorado Rovers vs. CO Sporting Premier (Field 1, 2 p.m.)
Comets Express vs. Boulevard (Field 2, 2 p.m.)
Friday, March 14
FC Denver 3:0 Performance Soccer
KC Athletics 4:0 Azteca Mojos
Saturday, March 15
Performance Soccer vs. KC Athletics (Field 1, 11:15 a.m.)
Aztexa Mojos vs. FC Denver (Field 2, 11:15 a.m.)
FC Denver vs. KC Athletics (Field 1, 3:15 p.m.)
Performance Soccer vs. Azteca Mojos (Field 2, 3:15 p.m.)
Tiebreakers: (1) Head to head (2) Fewest goals allowed (3) Goal difference (Max +/- 4) (4) Most shutouts (5) Most goals scored (no maximum) (6) Fewest red cards (7) PKs or coin flip
Sunday, March 16
Semifinals (9:30 a.m.)
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up
Final (12 p.m.)