Newtown Pride, FC Golden State Force to represent amateurs in 2021 US Open Cup

Posted by | April 7, 2021

2019 USASA Amateur Cup champion Newtown Pride FC (left) and FC Golden State Force (USL League Two) will be the amateur representatives in the abbreviated 2021 US Open Cup.

After weeks of anticipation, the two Open Division sides taking part in the 2021 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup were announced today. 2019 USASA Amateur Cup champion Newtown Pride FC (Conn.) and USL League Two’s FC Golden State Force will represent the amateur field in the competition.

Following the cancelation of the First Round, which reduced the already abbreviated tournament from 24 teams to 16, both amateur teams will face yet-to-be-determined Major League Soccer sides in the Round of 16. These games are scheduled to take place between May 18-19. The draw for the tournament will take place May 4, the day after Major League Soccer completes its qualifying process.

Despite the announcement, the 2021 US Open Cup is still not set in stone. The US Open Cup committee is scheduled to meet on April 19 to determine if the 107th edition of the United States’ national championship will go ahead. The United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA), the country’s largest amateur soccer organization, recently sent a letter to the USSF calling for the cancelation of the very reduced competition. As of this article being published, US Adult Soccer Association president John Motta, the author of the letter, has not received a response from the federation.

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This will be Golden State Force’s fourth straight appearance in an Open Cup tournament. Since joining USL League Two in 2016, the team has performed well enough each season, including three straight Southwest Division titles, to directly qualify for the competition. In 2018, the team became one of the few amateur teams in the Modern Era to ever reach the Fourth Round by beating professional sides Orange County SC (USL) and Las Vegas Lights FC (USL). The latter match was won off of a 90th minute game-winner from Allisson Faramilio, which earned him TheCup.us Player of the Round honors.

The team eventually fell to the LA Galaxy of Major League Soccer, 3-1, but did take home $25,000 prize as the furthest advancing Open Division team that year.

Interestingly, the Force will not compete in the league they qualified from this year. The day prior to the draw, USL League Two announced the Southwest Division would forgo the 2021 season due to concerns centered around the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Force vice president and general manager Alex Lujan, his team had every intention of playing the 2021 league season, but none of the teams in the Southwest Division shared their view and the division voted down the plan to play this summer.

“We are very excited to have the opportunity to compete in this year’s US Open Cup,” said Lujan shortly after learning the news.

Under normal circumstances, a team that does not play their league season is not eligible for the US Open Cup. However, a source within the USSF told TheCup.us that since the cancelation of their league season was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Force are eligible to compete. While not participating in the 2021 league season will likely end their hopes of qualifying for the 2022 US Open Cup, Lujan plans to do whatever he can to have his team compete in league play.

This will be the first tournament appearance for Newtown Pride FC. The Connecticut-based club becomes the ninth team from the Nutmeg State to compete in the Modern Era (1995-present) and the first amateur, non-national league side to participate since Danbury United in 2007. Founded in 1999, the team won the 2019 USASA Amateur Cup to become just the second team to qualify for the US Open Cup via this method. The Amateur Cup champion was added as an automatic qualifier prior to the 2019 US Open Cup. 

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“We’re honored, we’re humbled – to be blunt we’re just really excited,” Newtown Pride FC GM and founder Matt Svanda said on Twitter. “For us, this is a dream. It’s why we play. It’s 20 years in the making. But don’t get us wrong – we’re in this to compete.”

Newtown first attempted to qualify for the US Open Cup back in 2013, back when Open Division Local teams had to get in through USASA state and regional tournaments. After losing their opening match with the New York Pancyprian Freedoms, they had their controversial protest upheld and a replay was ordered. Newtown would win the replay in a penalty kick shootout, but would lose the “Win and You’re In” match that followed, 6-0 to Mass Premier Soccer (now GPS Omens). After not qualifying in 2014, they returned in 2015 and lost their opening match to Lansdowne Bhoys.

Since the USSF launched the current qualifying tournament format in 2016, the Pride have attempted to qualify every year and have fallen short each time. Their best result was a Second Round appearance in 2017 (following a forfeit) where they lost to Massachusetts side GPS Omens in a “Win & You’re In” match.

While Connecticut clubs have been competing in the US Open Cup since it’s inaugural tournament in 1913-1914, in the Modern Era, Newtown will be just the sixth Open Division Local team to punch their ticket from the Nutmeg State.

Reactions from other Open Division teams have been mixed. FC Motown, whose streak of Open Cup appearances ends at three, expressed disappointment but wished both teams luck. Others are going through their own stages of grief like Denton Diablos (anger), the Des Moines Menace (bargaining), and Louisiana Krewe (acceptance). USASA president Motta posted on social media that he and the rest of the organization were excited to see Newtown compete.

The only remaining unknown clubs are which MLS teams will take part. Only eight teams from the top division will compete and those will be decided based on the top 8 teams in the regular season standings (based on points per game) after three weeks of games (May 3).

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