The 1993 US Open Cup Champions will not get a chance at a second title this year as El Farolito, a San Francisco-based amateur club, has been disqualified on account of moving leagues. After decades of thriving in the famed San Francisco Soccer Football League (SFSFL), El Farolito decided to take its talents to the continually-growing National Premier Soccer League (NPSL).
Minneapolis City SC suffered a similar fate last year as they transitioned from the Premier League of American to the NPSL. However, while last year’s Minneapolis City disqualification resulted from a miscommunication, El Farolito seems like they knew exactly what they were getting into.
“Yes, we understand the rule and it is unfortunate that we, like other amateurs clubs in the past years, have been eliminated,” Santiago Lopez, El Farolito general manager and head coach told TheCup.us.
After qualifying in 2017 for the first time since the club won the tournament under the name CD Mexico in 1993, El Farolito will miss out on the competition due to the rule spelled out in this year’s Open Cup Handbook. Section 202c1i reads: “To remain eligible throughout the tournament, a team must remain a playing member in good standing within its club/league competition, starting from the Open Division entry deadline (which was last summer) and continuing until the Open Cup Final for the competition year.”
Some teams have gotten around this rule by keeping a team in their previous league while also playing in their new league. For example, Boca Raton FC continued to compete in the American Premier Soccer League to maintain their Open Cup eligibility when they joined the NPSL.
This was a non-starter for El Farolito.
“SFSFL is one of the toughest amateur leagues in the country and having two clubs at the same time is extremely difficult,” Lopez said. “The President decided to just focus on NPSL.”
Further, that regulation would have forced the Open Cup team to continue in the SFSFL, meaning El Farolito would either have to field two teams or play their first team twice each weekend.
So while the regulation is clear, the purpose behind the regulation is less so. TheCup.us reached out to USSF for comment but received no response as of Thursday morning. Lopez implied that the regulation existed to prevent teams from qualifying and simply moving to unsanctioned leagues to focus on the Open Cup and other tournaments.
Further complicating matters is that, according to Lopez, El Farolito didn’t yet know whether they’d be accepted into NPSL once the Open Cup Qualifying deadline rolled around. But that uncertainty didn’t deter the former champions from applying for, and eventually winning three games in, the open division qualifying tournament.
“We wanted to play and show everyone we are an Open Cup team,” Lopez said.