2016 Meet the Underdogs: APSL champ Boca Raton FC begin US Open Cup debut with rematch

Posted by | May 6, 2016
Photo: Twitter @BocaRatonFC

Photo: Twitter @BocaRatonFC

Boca Raton FC is a relatively recent addition to the APSL (American Premier Soccer League). The APSL is a small league comprised of amateur clubs in Florida. Boca Raton FC is a completely amateur team boasting plenty of local high school and college talents in its roster.

The club first began competing in May of 2015. Within its first year of existence, the club earned two titles from two APSL competitions and broke APSL attendance records.

In the APSL’s most recent fall season, Boca ended on top of the table four points ahead of its closest contenders. The club achieved an undefeated record, consisting of five wins and two draws, and maintained a 2.57 goals per game average with 18 goals in seven games.

Although Boca Raton FC is in an amateur league, the club has plenty of professional connections. During preseason, the club scrimmaged against Ukrainian giants Shaktar Donetsk FC and local NASL club Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

Boca Raton FC

Photo: Boca Raton FC

Colby Burdette and Gustavo Bergmann are two players that opposing teams should certainly keep an eye on. Burdette, a local soccer star, has been a dynamic force for teams around the city since high school. The 22-year-old has scored a career total of 12 goals for Boca Raton in league play. Bergmann has made contributions to the club with a total of eight assists.

This team has continued its record of trendsetting in open cup qualification. The club claimed the single APSL spot in the US Open Cup. In fact, Boca is the only amateur club in the state of Florida to advance past the qualifying rounds.

To qualify for round one, Boca Raton FC defeated fellow APSL competitors Real Miami Club of Football and Uruguay Kendall FC back in the fall of 2015. Boca defeated Miami 2-1 to kick off the competition, but drew 1-1 with Uruguay Kendall FC in the second round. This led to a thrilling 5-4 penalty kick shootout that would ultimately clinch a spot in the Open Cup for Boca for the first time.

The Open Cup journey continues for the club in a round one game against NPSL club Miami Fusion FC on May 11 at the North Miami Athletic Stadium. If Boca Raton FC advances, they will make a trip to the Carolinas to compete in the next round against USL side Wilmington Hammerheads FC. In between the two matches, the Floridian club will face its first match of the summer APSL season.

Boca Raton FC logoThe biggest factor that will impeded progression for Boca Raton FC within the Open Cup is a lack of familiarity with its opponents. Most of the competition Boca Raton has faced has been amateur APSL clubs that compete against each other multiple times per year. Fortunately, at least for the first few rounds, many clubs will be facing unfamiliar opposition.

As explained by Boca Raton managing partner Douglas Heizer, the club has a round one advantage in this regard.

“We played [Miami Fusion] in the fall tournament,” said Heizer. “We won all the times we played them.”

Although Miami Fusion is a NPSL club, the team also fielded a team in the APSL last season. In a semifinal match, Boca beat Miami 4-0. At the end of the season, Boca Raton finished seven points ahead of Miami. Heizer feels thise bodes well for his team’s Open Cup debut.

Miami Fusion FC boasts a better record within the NPSL. The club finished the 2015 NPSL season at the top of the Sunshine Conference with a 2.50 goal per game average and and 8-1-1 record. In only 10 regular season Sunshine Conference matches, the club scored 25 goals. The club went on to be knocked out of the NPSL playoffs during the southern semifinals. With two teams that score so often, the round one matchup could become a last goal wins situation.

HIGHLIGHTS: Boca Raton FC played an exhibition game vs. New York Cosmos

If Boca Raton advances to round two and faces the Wilmington Hammerheads, it will be defense rather than goal-scoring ability that will be put to the test. The USL club seems to be very skilled at keeping opposition out of the net in the early part of the league season this season with five goals allowed in the first six games.

Despite being rich with talent around the state, amateur teams from Florida have not performed well in the US Open Cup historically. Just one amateur team from the Sunshine State in the Modern Era (1995-present) has won multiple games in a single tournament. Orlando City U23s — now Kraze United — are the only team to advance beyond the Second Round when they reached Round 4 in 2014.

Will Boca Raton FC be the next small club to make it far, challenging professional teams, in this edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup? The bottom line is that in its short history Boca Raton has proven more than capable of scoring goals, and, needless to say, the team with the most goals wins. The beauty of the Open Cup is that anything can happen. Only time will tell.

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