Players from NTX Rayados huddle up before the club’s Fourth Round match against FC Maritsa in the Open Division Local qualifying tournament for the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Mirco Daniel
What started with 94 teams has been whittled down to seven. The fourth and final round for the Open Division Local qualifying tournament for the 2019 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup took place over the weekend of April 6-7 with six matches playing out.
The mix of winners includes three first time participants in the tournament as Virginia United FC, Florida Soccer Soldiers, and Academica SC will all be making their tournament debuts when the competition begins the first week of May. It came down to the wire for all the first timers that actually played a game since both VAU and ASC needed late-game heroics and penalty kicks to make the tournament.
While the new kids get adjusted, the slate of returning teams features years of tournament experience and history.
After going on hiatus in 2016, Cal FC makes its’ return to the Open Cup after cruising past Santa Ana Winds FC on the road, 4-1. The team is making its’ fourth trip to the tournament and is best known as the first Open Division Local club to beat a Major League Soccer team without needing penalty kicks when it advanced past the Portland Timbers, 1-0, back in 2012.
Both FC Denver and West Chester United are going to take part in their second US Open Cup after defeating Southwest FC and Safira FC respectively. For the Colorado side, their comeback win this round may go down as one of the club’s greatest accomplishments in its’ 10+ year history.
NTX Rayados’ win over St Louis’ FC Maritsa earned the team its’ eighth straight tournament berth, the most by an Open Division Local team in the Modern Era (Reading United AC of USL League Two holds the overall Open Division record with an active record of 11). Last year, the team reached the Open Cup’s Fourth Round after defeating NPSL sides Fort Worth Vaqueros FC, FC Wichita, and USL’s Oklahoma City Energy FC before falling to the eventual champion Houston Dynamo of MLS.
The draw for the First Round will take place on April 10, with the subsequent Second Round possible pairings coming out a week later on April 17. The first round of the Open Cup itself is scheduled to take place during the weekend of May 7-8. The 19 matches will be contested between eight local qualifiers, 14 NPSL teams, 10 USL League 2 teams, and six USL League 1 teams.
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West Chester United Predators (USASA – United Soccer League of Pennsylvania – West Chester, PA)
Safira FC (USASA – UPSL – Sommerville, MA)
West Chester United are heading back to the US Open Cup for the first time since 2016 after denying Boston-area side Safira FC. A back-and-forth first half ended with WCU’s Chad Poarch scoring the winning goal for his team in stoppage time. Two more goals by Peter Nolan put the game out of reach for West Chester, who were playing their fourth straight road game of the competition. [+] FULL MATCH REPORT
World Class Premier Elite FC (USASA – Maryland Major Soccer League – Boyds, MD)
2:2 (5:4 PK)
Virginia United FC (ANFUSA – Woodbridge Soccer League – Woodbridge, VA)
While another team from its’ state was the favorite to win their basketball tournament earlier this week, the underdog run for Virginia United FC is only just beginning as the team celebrates qualification into their first US Open Cup. Luis Aguilar’s two penalty kicks late in the second half and late in the second half of extra time, kept United alive and forced a penalty kick shootout. Goalkeeper Manuel Medrano became the hero for VAU when he made the critical block on WCP’s fifth attempt, leaving his team the chance to advance with the subsequent kick – which they did. United will not only make their US Open Cup debut in 2019, but they will be the first club from the recently formed Asociacon Nacional Futbol en USA (ANFEEU) to qualify for the competition. [+] FULL MATCH REPORT
Florida Soccer Soldiers (USASA – United Premier Soccer League – Hialeah, FL)
ASC America SC (USASA – United Premier Soccer League – Jacksonville, FL)
The second entrant from the local qualifying punched their ticket to the U.S. Open Cup without taking the field. The Florida Soccer Soldiers advanced into the tournament proper because their Fourth Round opponent, America SC, left the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) due to financial reasons. This is the Soldiers’ first trip to the US Open Cup. [+] FULL STORY
FC Maritsa (USASA – United Premier Soccer League – St. Louis, MO)
NTX Rayados (USASA – North Texas Premier Soccer Association – Dallas, TX)
NTX Rayados is heading to its’ eighth straight US Open Cup tournament after making team history by reaching the Fourth Round of last year’s competition. The team’s win over FC Maritsa on the road ends a qualification run that included two games decided by penalty kicks including an 11-round thriller against Motagua of New Orleans in the third round. Sergio Lara’s two goals in the game helped extend the team’s Modern Era (1995-present) tournament qualifying record while Maritsa falls in its’ attempt to become the first Open Division Local team from Missouri to qualify since the KC Athletics in 2010. [+] FULL MATCH REPORT
FC Denver (USSSA – Colorado Premier League – Aurora, CO)
Southwest FC (USASA – United Premier Soccer League – El Paso, TX)
After letting in three goals to Southwest FC in the first half, FC Denver came back to force overtime and win in what the team described as “the best match of (their) 13 year history.” The team will take part in its second US Open Cup after debuting last year and reaching the Second Round. Southwest’s three-goal lead was chipped at during the first half stoppage time before Denver scored twice later on to extend the game. Two minutes before the halfway point of extra time when Cesar Castillo’s low shot reached the back of the net to give his team the win in one of the most unexpected comebacks this qualifying cycle. [+] FULL MATCH REPORT
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA REGION
Cal FC (USASA – United Premier Soccer League – Thousand Oaks, CA)
Santa Ana Winds FC (USASA – United Premier Soccer League – Lake Forest, CA)
In the battle between UPSL foes, Cal FC punched its’ ticket for the U.S. Open Cup with a win over Santa Ana Winds FC. Three second half goals, including a contender for best goal of the qualifying tournament by UC Riverside star Romario Lomeli, stunted the possible comeback from Santa Ana. The future NPSL Founders Cup member will be entering its fourth Open Cup tournament and first since 2015. The qualification also comes after the team recently returned from a two year hiatus last year, which caused some stir after the club’s First Qualifying Round opponent, San Nicolas FC, filed a complaint to USSF. [+] FULL MATCH REPORT
IPS/Marathon Taverna (USASA – Oregon Premier League – Portland, OR)
3:3 (1:3 PK)
Academica SC (US Club Soccer – LIGA NorCal – Turlock, CA)
120 minutes, 15 cards, and three goals in stoppage time all added up as an eight-manned Academica SC survived past the nine-player IPS/Marathon Taverna to qualify for its first ever Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Manuel Villegas’ goal, his third and probably most important during USOC qualifying, came late in stoppage time for ASC to forced overtime. Marathon’s Borce Atanasov gave the home team hope when he sunk a goal in the 98th minute to retake the lead, but another late stoppage time equalizer by Academica’s Gerardo Cazares forced penalty kicks where the visitors would clinch advancement. [+] FULL MATCH REPORT