Which NPSL teams will qualify for the 2017 US Open Cup?

Posted by | July 18, 2016


UPDATE (7/21): New Jersey Copa FC upset New York Cosmos B 1-0 and Clarskburg SC Eagles defeated Legacy 76 1-0 to reach the NPSL Quarterfinals, pushing Fredericksburg FC, Legacy 76, New York Cosmos B, and Boston City FC down.

UPDATE (7/25): AFC Cleveland and Grand Rapids FC advanced to the quarterfinals in Friday’s matches.

UPDATE (2/7/2017): Myrtle Beach Mutiny, listed at #11 below, has moved to the PDL. This makes it unlikely that they would occupy one of NPSL’s Open Cup slots, which would move the Atlanta Silverbacks up to #11 and leave the #18 slot to Jacksonville Armada U-23.

With the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) playoffs already underway, let’s take a look at the probable and possible qualifiers to next year’s Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.

According to the 2017 US Open Cup Handbook, the qualifying process for the NPSL, which are based on the previous season’s results, will be very similar to last year’s.

The number of NPSL teams that will be invited to the tournament is still up in the air, but a good estimate would put the number in the same neighborhood as 2016. Since the NPSL started receiving its own dedicated spots in the tournament in 2011, the league has slowly received more and more entries beginning with four in 2011, and last year 15 teams punched their ticket to the tournament.

Estimates aside, the eight NPSL quarterfinalists are guaranteed a spot if they want it (Note: Some teams have declined invitations in the past).

Here is a quick rundown of what we know so far with the NPSL teams we will likely see in #USOC2017:


The NPSL’s qualifying process is somewhat less straightforward. Unlike the PDL, playoff results do matter, and the teams that make the quarterfinals (aka the Regional Finals) are slotted 1-8. Beyond that, Open Cup berths are awarded based on region size, points-per-game (unlike the PDL, teams do not play an equal amount of games across NPSL), and whether a team from your conference made the quarterfinals.

A word of advice to NPSL teams: try to make the quarterfinals. If you don’t, whether you make the Open Cup or not will be based on some pretty complex criteria. Thankfully, USSF invited 15 NPSL teams last year, and they’re not usually one to curtail amateur participation.

That said, these teams have made the quarterfinals:

Chattanooga FC (Semifinalist, Southeast Conference Winner)

It will be Chattanooga’s fifth consecutive Open Cup appearance, where they’ve made a living off beating the Wilmington Hammerheads in the Second Round. They received their first-ever bye to the Second Round this year after losing last year’s championship game to New York Cosmos B, who decided not to participate in this year’s competition (or were removed because they are a pro team owned by a higher division pro team — New York Cosmos — which is now outlawed by the federation, depending on your viewpoint).

Chattanooga still have a lot on their to-do list and adding to their Open Cup resume is right up there with winning an NPSL title after finishing runner-up four times.

AFC Cleveland (Semifinalist, Winner, Great Lakes East Conference)

AFC Cleveland will make their 2nd consecutive US Open Cup appearance next year after persevering in penalties against AFC Ann Arbor on Friday. They continue their run in the NPSL season after winning in penalties again, this time over Grand Rapids FC, to reach the NPSL semifinals.

They’ll hope to improve on their Open Cup run from this year, where they defeated GPS Portland Phoenix (PDL) before falling to Saint Louis FC (USL) in the second round.

Sonoma County Sol (Semifinalist, Golden Gate Conference Winner)

Albion’s opponent in the Western Region Final advanced to the NPSL quarterfinals after narrowly topping teams like CD Aguiluchos USA and the Sacramento Gold in this year’s Golden Gate Conference. Sonoma County Sol seeks their sixth Open Cup appearance and their second NPSL title. Their first title came in an eventful 2009 for Sonoma County, as they advanced to the Second Round of the Open Cup after beating Orange County Blue Star (PDL).

Clarkstown SC Eagles (Semifinalist, Keystone Conference Winner)

The Eagles qualified for their second consecutive US Open Cup after defeating Legacy 76 1-0 in the Northeast Region semifinals. The club, formerly known as the Jersey City Eagles, will look for their first-ever US Open Cup win next year, as they fell to Jersey Express (PDL) 2-1 this year.

5. Miami United FC (Quarterfinalist, Sunshine Conference Winner)

Miami United will be invited to their second Open Cup in three years after dominating the Sunshine Conference (winning by nine points after a 9-1-0 record) and beating the Atlanta Silverbacks in the Southern Region semifinals. They beat the Southwest Florida Adrenaline (PDL) in the first round of the 2015 competition before succumbing to USL’s Charleston Battery.

6. Albion SC Pros (Quarterfinalist, Southwest Conference Winner)

A nerve-wracking penalty shootout win over Conference rival SoCal SC and a 2-1 victory over the newly-named OSA FC were enough to get this San Diego-based expansion team into its first-ever US Open Cup, should they choose to accept the invitation.

7Grand Rapids FC (Quarterfinalist, Winner, Great Lakes West Conference)

The team qualified for their first-ever US Open Cup in just their second season of play, and their first season in the NPSL, with a 1-0 Midwest playoff victory over Indy Eleven NPSL. Their season was cut short at home later in the weekend by AFC Cleveland, but the performance was likely enough to earn them a berth. The club will enter the 104th edition of the US Open Cup as one of the best supported amateur clubs in the country. They averaged more than 4,000 fans per game during the regular season.

8. New Jersey Copa FC (Quarterfinalist, Keystone Conference 2nd Place)

It has already been an exciting run for the expansion team based out of Metuchen, New Jersey. First, they qualified for the Northeast Regional Playoffs by only two points over Junior Lone Star FC. In the first round of those playoffs, they outlasted Mid-Atlantic Conference Champion Fredericksburg FC in a 9-8 penalty shootout. Then on Wednesday, they went on the road to dispatch the defending NPSL Champions, one of NPSL’s few professional teams, New York Cosmos B.

They will naturally be making their first-ever US Open Cup appearance.


As for how the NPSL invitee list will shake out, teams 9-30 will be ordered first by region, then by if a particular conference has received a bid yet, then by points-per-game. It’s convoluted but the large team disparity between regions makes it necessary (the South Region has 31 teams, the Northeast 22, the West 14, and the Midwest just 13).

It only took me three hours to figure it out, but here’s the definitive bid order list. The bolded teams with histories will be invited if USSF again invites 15 teams:

  1. Tulsa Atheltics (South Region, Winner, South Central Conference)

Founded: 2005

Open Cup Appearances: 2

Last Appearance: 2015

Best Finish: Second Round (2014)

Notable wins: None (winless in the competition)

  1. New York Cosmos B (Northeast Region, Winner, Atlantic Conference)

Founded: 2015

Open Cup Appearances: 0 (refused entry to 2016 edition, more on this later)

NOTE: Since the Cosmos B are a professional team owned by a higher division pro team (NY Cosmos), then based on the new rules, they aren’t eligible. However, the federation has never officially announced that they are ineligible. We are awaiting confirmation.

  1. Atlanta Silverbacks (South Region, 1.9 ppg)

Founded: 1998

Open Cup Appearances: 13 (Including many as a professional team)

Last Open Cup Appearance: 2016

Best Finish: Quarterfinals (2014)

Notable wins: 2014 over Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids (while part of NASL)

  1. Houston Dutch Lions (South Region, 2.42 ppg)

Founded: 2011

Open Cup Appearances: 0

  1. Fredericksburg FC (Northeast Region, Mid-Atlantic Conference winner)

Founded: 2013

Open Cup Appearances: 1

Last Appearance: 2016

Best Finish: First Round (2016)

Notable wins: None

  1. OSA FC (West Region, Winner, Northwest Conference)

Founded: 2014

Open Cup Appearances: 1

Last Open Cup Appearance: 2015

Best Finish: First Round (2015)

Notable wins: None

  1. FC Wichita (South Region, 2.33 ppg)

Founded: 2013

Open Cup Appearances: 1

Last Open Cup Appearance: 1

Best Finish: First Round (2016)

Notable wins: None

  1. Indy Eleven NPSL (Midwest Region, 1.9 ppg)
  2. Legacy 76 (Northeast Region, 2.00 ppg, +7 goal difference)
  3. Jacksonville Armada U-23s (South Region, 1.8 ppg, 1-1 tie with Miami Fusion FC, 5 wins, +13 goal differential in Sunshine Conference)
  4. Boston City FC (Northeast Region, 2.00 ppg, +3 goal difference)
  5. Miami Fusion FC (South Region, 1.8 ppg, 1-1 tie with Armada U-23, 5 wins, +12 goal differential in Sunshine Conference)
  6. North County Battalion (West Region, 2.00 ppg)
  7. AFC Ann Arbor (Midwest Region, 1.75 ppg)
  8. Memphis City FC (South Region, 1.7 ppg)
  9. Virginia Beach City FC (Northeast Region, 1.8 ppg)
  10. Dallas City FC (South Region, 1.58 ppg, 2-1 regular season win over Liverpool Warriors)
  11. Deportivo Coras USA (West Region, 1.92 ppg)
  12. Junior Lone Star FC (Northeast Region, 1.75 ppg)
  13. Liverpool Warriors (South Region, 1.58 ppg)
  14. FC Buffalo (Midwest Region, 1.7 ppg)
  15. Rhode Island Reds (Northeast Region, 1.56 ppg)

Now there’s a little more flexibility in the NPSL than there is in the PDL. Last year, four teams couldn’t make the Open Cup. Cosmos B declined their invitation, the San Diego Flash folded, the Madison 56ers left for the Premier League of America, and New York Athletic Club forfeited their spot after forfeiting an NPSL playoff game. In all, the NPSL invite list stretched all the way down to 19 last year.

One quick note: if someone does back out of the Open Cup, like the Cosmos are likely to again, the open spot would not go to the next team in the Region. Last year, it went to the next team in the master list. So if USSF invites 15 teams again, and Cosmos B backs out, the open bid would not go to Legacy 76, it would go to Indy Eleven NPSL. This is indeed the exact situation that allowed Detroit City FC entry this year.

(Addendum, July 21st) However, last year it was announced in November that Cosmos B would withdraw, implying that they went through the application process last July. Every team’s inclusion is predicated on their application to the Open Cup, which is due on August 1st. So if Cosmos B doesn’t bother to apply in the first place then USSF, who prioritizes representation from each conference, may bump up Boston City FC to “Conference Champion” status.

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