The 2021 National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) season has now finished with the Denton Diablos FC lifting the trophy by defeating Tulsa Athletic. With the entire season completed, we can take a look at which teams will have the highest priority of qualifying for the 2022 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
After years of either steady or increasing berth totals for teams between 2011 and 2018, the NPSL experienced its first decrease in tournament slots in 2019 going from 18 (22 after including last minute Play-in teams) to 14. This stayed steady for the 2020 tournament with 14 entrants before COVID-19 would cancel both the 2020 and 2021 tournaments. With expansion coming across the board from Major League Soccer (MLS), to USL League One (USL1), and the newly-created National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), it would seem likely that the number of berths for both NPSL and USL League Two would go down. Official announcements of preliminary allocations of each Open Division pool (USL League Two, NPSL, and Open Division local qualifying) will be coming in August according to the Open Cup calendar.
NPSL’s CLASSIFICATION RULES
Heading into the 2022 US Open Cup, the NPSL has 76 teams that are eligible for the competition divided into four regions: East (25), South (20), Midwest (18), and West (13). The West Region had two of its three divisions not participate in the main NPSL league competition this season because of the pandemic and restrictions in western states like California, Washington, and Oregon. As a result, NPSL moved one division, the Lone Star Conference, from the South Region to the West Region. Since tournament bids are staggered in a way to reward regions with more teams, this puts teams from the West at a significant disadvantage after the top eight.
The first eight possible berths are awarded to teams that advanced deep into the 2021 NPSL playoffs. Slots one and two are reserved for the champion and runner-up, respectively. Slots three and four are given to the teams that reached the semifinals and teams five through eight are held by the remaining quarterfinalists.
NPSL ranks largely by points per game, but prioritizes at least one Open Cup bid for every division. It’s important to consider where a team plays (conference and division) when you read the teams listed and take extraneous factors into consideration such as teams folding, declaring themselves ineligible, changing leagues, or more.
It’s near certain that teams listed in the top eight are all but guaranteed a spot in the 107th edition of the US Open Cup. After that, teams are ranked based on criteria that the NPSL has come up with in accordance with the Open Cup Committee. This information can be found inside the 2022 edition of the handbook (page 15).
With all that out of the way, here are the 2022 NPSL US Open Cup berth rankings:
1st – Denton Diablos FC (NPSL Champion – Lone Star Conference)
Number of US Open Cup appearances: None
The Denton Diablos are the first ever NPSL national champions from the state of Texas and they did it in only their second season. The 5-2 win in the title game against Tulsa Athletic, including a goal from West Ham product and team captain Eoin Wearen in front of front of 2,394 fans at home, capped off a hectic season and frustrating year and a half. Forward Trevor Amann, who scored six goals during the regular season for the fifth-most in the West Region, scored two more in the championship match to lead his side to it’s first major trophy.
After leading the Lone Star Conference with an 8-1-1 record, Denton cruised to the conference title beating No. 4 seed Katy 1895 FC and No. 2 seed Laredo Heat SC by a combined score of 10-1. Under normal circumstances, Denton would have advanced to the South Region playoffs following that win. However, with both the Golden Gate and Northwest conferences on hiatus due to COVID-19, the league decided to shift the Lone Star into the west. The Diablos dispatched Southwest champion FC Golden State, 4-2, before edging Cleveland SC on the road, 4-3, in a extra-time national semifinal thriller.
The title win follows the team after it had qualified for the 2020 tournament before it’s cancelation. When the 2021 tournament was shrunk down, including the elimination of the entire first round, the team openly voiced their displeasure on social media. Team co-founder Damon Gochneaur talked to TheCup.us last year and finished his remarks by saying:
“Put an asterisk next to this year, because it’s not an Open Cup, it’s a Closed Cup. But this isn’t at all surprising, we began working on our plans for 2022 qualification long ago, and this changes them none.”
In the end, those plans were successful as the club looks ahead to the 2022 US Open Cup.
— ELEVEN Global (@ElevenSportsHQ) August 8, 2021
2nd – Tulsa Athletic (NPSL Runner-up – Heartland Conference)
Number of US Open Cup appearances: 3 (2014, 2015, 2017)
Best Open Cup Finish: 2014 Second Round (2-0 loss vs Oklahoma City Energy FC of the USL Pro)
After an appearance in the South Region Final in 2019, Tulsa Athletic followed up their most successful season with a deep playoff run. While the team failed to take home the title against Denton it did secure the second highest priority allocation spot for NPSL teams wanting to make the 2022 US Open Cup.
After finishing second in the Heartland Conference regular season, Tulsa needed two narrow wins in the playoffs to reach the regional stage. A narrow penalty-kick win over expansion side OKC 1889 FC and a narrow 2-1 win over the top seed Demize NPSL gave the team it’s second straight conference title. Midfielder Joe Garcia led the team in goals with seven in the regular season and three more during the playoffs. Meanwhile, the backline and players like goalkeeper Bryson Reed kept the team’s goals allowed to just nine during the regular season, one of the lowest in the league.
Athletic will be hoping to finally make it’s fourth Open Cup appearance next year after it’s 2020 entry was stopped due to COVID.
3rd – FC Baltimore Christos (NPSL Semifinalist, East Region Champion – Mid-Atlantic Conference)
Number of US Open Cup appearances: 1 (2018)
Best Open Cup Finish: 2018 First Round (1-1 (4:5 pk) loss vs West Chester United SC of USL of Pennsylvania)
Following a year of ineligibility after not playing enough regular season games, the Mid-Atlantic Conference powerhouse FC Baltimore Christos completed their most successful season since their founding in 2018. A third straight conference title, East Region Championship, and a first trip to the national semifinals (and hosting) earned the group a top priority slot in USOC allocations.
The team went undefeated regular season (8-0-2) as one of the most dangerous dual threat forces in the league. A defense that allowed only eight goals during the regular season was run by committee most of the season. Former Clemson player Michael Zierhoffer and current University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) keeper Jailon Gillespie each played one half during most of the season, and it worked. Combined with an offense lead by England native Kelan Swales and University of Maryland player Ben Bender, who each lead the team with six goals each, and you have a force of young talent. The reshaped conference, which now included Open Cup regular Philadelphia Lone Star FC, never felt like much of a threat.
A bye to the conference final allowed Baltimore to cruise to it’s third straight trophy, 3-0, over Lone Star with one goal coming from Guam National Team player Alex Lee. An early second half goal against Hartford City in the East Region semifinals and a penalty kick shootout in the final against FC Motown made sure that Christos’ first regional title did not come easy. The team could not carry the momentum into the national semifinals, even as hosts, as Tulsa Athletic escaped with a 1-0 win following an early first half goal.
While Baltimore is hoping to make it’s second tournament appearance, the Christos name has become synonymous with the competition. Oddly enough, Christos FC and FC Baltimore Christos have never qualified for the same tournament including the cancelled 2020 edition.
4th – Cleveland SC (NPSL Semifinalist, Midwest Region Champion – Rust Belt Conference)
Number of US Open Cup appearances: None
Fun times in Cleveland again! A second straight trip to the national semifinals, including conference and regional titles, has solidified Cleveland SC as one of the top tier teams in the NPSL. Multiple players stood out this season but goalkeeper Conor Cable stood out earning the 2021 Renegade GK NPSL Golden Glove award from the league. In all, his 12 appearances in 2021 saw him allow just 13 goals including postseason matches. Meanwhile head coach Lewis Dunne earned a second straight spot in the Conference XI selections.
After only winning the Rust Belt Conference by two points over Pittsburgh Hotspurs, Cleveland needed to win in the regional quarterfinals as the lowest ranked conference champion. Former AFC Cleveland star and current team leader Vincent Bell struggled to find the net in the playoffs after leading the team in the regular season (6). Instead, players like Admir Suljevic needed to step up. The Bosnia native scored five goals in the postseason, including both penalty kicks in the regional semifinals against FC Milwaukee Torrent (2-1 win), to help push his team to a second year of Midwest silverware.
Despite losing to Denton Diablos in extra time, 4-3 (the second time the team has lost to the eventual champs), Cleveland is once again in prime position to be The Forest City’s representative in the 2021 tournament.
5th – FC Motown (NPSL Quarterfinalist, East Region – Keystone Conference)
Number of US Open Cup appearances: 4 (2016-17 as Clarkstown Eagles*, 2018, 2019)
Best Open Cup Finish: 2018 Round 2 (3-1 loss vs Penn FC of USL)
*Additional appearance in 2017 as local qualifier playing under FC Motown name
FC Motown will be looking to reach the Open Cup for the fourth straight year as an organization. It’s a feat not many national league teams can hold themselves to in a world where players move on so regularly. But for Motown, the team’s 2021 roster is filled with familiar names, both from their own history and locally. Both defender Roy Boateng and forward Dilly Duka have played professionally within the New York Red Bulls organization. Meanwhile, forward Ryan Peterson made his presence known after he joined the team following a fall championship with Detroit City FC in NISA. After leading the team in goals he was named to both the conference and region XI selections.
After going 0-1-1 in the regular season against Atlantic City FC (following a win being overturned due to a roster infraction), Motown upset the No. 2 seed Aces on the road and held off a late-game comeback, 3-2. In the conference final at home against an unexpected foe, Peterson and former New Amsterdam FC striker Michael Bello each scored a goal to send Celtic to the regionals. What followed in Baltimore was truly both ends of the spectrum when it comes to results; Boateng headed in a 90th minute game winner in the semifinals against Georgia Revolution before three straight missed penalties allowed FC Baltimore Christos to reach the national semifinals.
Motown is still hoping to make a deep run in the tournament to face a professional side. The team’s last appearance ended in 2019’s First Round to the New York Red Bulls U-23s (USL League Two) in one of the tournament’s most exciting matches.
6th – Southern States Soccer Club (NPSL Quarterfinalist, South Region – Gulf Coast Conference)
Number of US Open Cup appearances: None
In a season filled with first-year clubs, Southern States SC is the only one to break the top 15. Despite a three-game scoreless skid midseason , the Stars finished their inaugural year third in the Gulf Coast conference with a record of 9-1-4. Coached by Chelsea Academy product and former Chattanooga FC player Carl Reynolds, the unit is a true mix of local southern talent and overseas players. This includes Oxford, England native and 2020 Seattle Sounders SuperDraft selection Danny Reynolds who led the team with four goals in the regular season.
In the playoffs, a mild upset over No. 2 seed Pensacola FC set up a battle of the underdogs in the conference final. However prior to the match multiple players from No. 4 seed New Orleans Jesters tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the game to be postponed and eventually called off. With one win separating them from the South Region Final, the Stars easily handled Sunshine Conference champion Naples United FC, 5-1, to secure a top eight allocation spot.
If selected for the tournament the Stars could clash with fellow Magnolia State side Mississippi Brilla FC of USL League Two, who also finished their season with a high priority allocation spot.
7th – Minneapolis City SC (NPSL Quarterfinalist, Midwest Region – North Conference)
Number of US Open Cup appearances: None
Going by points-per-game Minneapolis City SC was the regular season champion of the NPSL in 2021. The Crows had the longest winning streak in the league (10 games), scored the most goals of any team during the regular season (44), and had the highest points per game of any team in the league (2.75). Overall the North Conference champions and Midwest Region finalists could be viewed as the most well rounded teams in the country right now.
Their 11-0-1 record was not due to one star player. The team’s leading scorer in the regular season, Mohamed Youssef, only netted six goals which tied him for ninth most in the Midwest Region alone. College players like Eli Goldman and local teenage rising star Kevin Andrews, whose played professionally in Portugal with S.U. Sintrense, are only a two of a wide field of rotating names that kept the Crows atop the standings. This was even seen during the playoffs when three different players scored in Minneapolis’ 3-0 win over Carpathia FC (including Goldman who scored the game winner).
The most successful season in City’s history has put them in the best position to qualify for the tournament that they’ve ever had. But sufficed to say we’ve been here before.
When it comes to the US Open Cup the Crows are best known for not taking part in increasingly heart breaking ways. During the 2017 Open Division Local qualifying tournament they violated tournament rules by switching leagues (from the Premier League of America to the NPSL) in the middle of the qualifying process and were disqualified. In 2018, a top seeded Minneapolis was ranked 16th in NPSL Open Cup rankings but the federation reduced the number of entries to 14, leaving them on the outside looking in. Finally, in 2020, the team finally qualified for a tournament and paired to play Chicago FC United (USL2) in the First Round before COVID-19 brought the tournament, and much of the sports world, to a screeching halt.
8th – FC Golden State (NPSL Quarterfinalist, West Region – Southwest Conference)
Number of US Open Cup appearances: None
FC Golden State is the only team from the West Region proper to break the top 15. Since the much larger Lone Star Conference was added to the west in order to make up the numbers following two conferences going on hiatus, the five teams in the Southwest have almost become afterthoughts. Even still, the benefit of a region only having two conferences is that at least one from each has to make the national quarterfinals.
FCGS finished second in their conference with a record of 5-4-1, one point behind the Las Vegas Legends FC. The team’s 37 goals scored was helped by the influx of talent from the organizations professional outfit, the Los Angeles Force. Four days after falling in the National Independent Soccer Association championship. striker Cristian Gordillo scored four goals for Golden State against Temecula FC. The Mexican national stuck around the squad and played in all three of the team’s playoff matches, scoring two goals in the regional stage. Since this isn’t open division local qualifying, players like Gordillo won’t be cup-tied come the 2022 tournament.
Of note, sister club FC Golden State Force was unable to play last season in USL League Two due to it’s conference going on COVID-19 hiatus. The Force have their own Cup history and were even selected as one of the two open division teams for the 2021 tournament prior to it’s cancelation.
9th – Georgia Revolution (East Region – Southeast Conference, 2.5 points per game)
Number of US Open Cup appearances: 2 (2012, 2013)
Best Open Cup Finish: 2012 Second Round (1-0 loss vs Atlanta Silverbacks of NASL)
The Georgia Revolution completely reinvented themselves in the new look Southeast Conference. With the departure of heavyweight Chattanooga FC last year and the fact that the Revs were the only non-expansion side in the six team conference, the team earned it’s first winning season since 2013 and won it’s first ever conference title. The roster was anything short of familiar however with four-year veteran Sagi Hirsch being the most senior name on the roster on a squad of new faces.
The 8-1-1 record saw Georgia enter the playoffs as the top seed in the conference. A penalty kick win over LSA Athletico Lanier (Louisiana) and a narrow 2-1 win over in-state rival Georgia Storm secured head coach Ricky Davey’s side it’s biggest accomplishment in team history. The trip to Baltimore for the regional playoffs was short however as a second half comeback by FC Motown knocked the Revs one game short of a top eight allocation.
The east’s high team count put the Revolution as the first team on the outside which could mark the end of a near decade tournament doubt.
10th – Miami United (South Region – Sunshine Conference, 2.2 points per game)
Number of US Open Cup appearances: 3 (2015, 2017, 2018)
Best Open Cup Finish: 2018 Fourth Round (3-0 loss vs Orlando City SC of MLS)
Following the departure of two-time league champion The Miami FC, the other Miami club stepped up its game. Miami United finished first in the highly-competitive conference with a record of 7-1-2 and forward Nicolas Micoli scored the six most goals in the whole league (11). But for the third straight season United’s campaign came to an end in the conference final after a huge 4-1 upset by Naples United.
Prior to the 2020 tournament’s cancelation the team’s Under 23 side earned a spot as an open division local qualifier.
11th – Hartford City FC (East Region – North Atlantic Conference, 2 points per game)
Number of US Open Cup appearances: None
Almost as a follow up to the success of 2019 National Amateur Cup champion Newtown Pride FC, Hartford City FC is looking to become the first open division national league team to qualify since 2010 (Elm City Express). With a 6-2-2 record and North Atlantic Conference title City has a fine resume despite it’s relatively early playoff exit.
Every playoff match for Hartford was decided by one goal. A conference semifinal win over expansion side Valeo FC only came thanks to a lone Noah Silverman goal midway through the first half. Against rival Kingston Stockade FC, with a spot in the regional final four at stake, both teams battled with City barely nudging a 3-2 win. The game was 2-2 after 45 minutes but Cooper Knecht’s second goal of the night was the only one to find the back of the net in the second half. Even the team’s loss in the East Region semifinals was 1-0.
12th – FC Milwaukee Torrent (Midwest Region – Great Lakes Conference, 2.7 points per game)
Number of US Open Cup appearances: None
FC Milwaukee Torrent is hoping to become the first non-open division local side from its city to qualify for the tournament since 2003 (Milwaukee Wave United). After a two year hiatus, the first being self imposed in 2019, Torrent returned to the field and only lost one game in the Great Lakes Conference (9-0-1) regular season. German native Alexander Filian helped lead the team on offense with six goals.
It’s strong record earned it a bye into the Midwest Region semifinals but the team still fell to Cleveland SC, 2-1.
13th – Jacksonville Armada FC U-23 (South Region – Gulf Coast Conference, 2.57 points per game)
Number of (Modern Era) US Open Cup appearances: 3 (2012 & 2014 as Jacksonville United FC*, 2017)
Best Open Cup Finish: 2017 Round 2 (3-0 loss vs Tampa Bay Rowdies of USL)
Despite being a reserve side with no first team Jacksonville Armada U-23 dominated the newly created Gulf Coast Conference in 2021. Lead by Armada/Jacksonville United regular Tommy Križanović, the team broke double digit wins in the regular season going 12-0-2. Players like forward Jovoney Brown (9) and Alexandros Lerides (6) were part of an offensive unit that that used younger talent to great effect.
An upset to No. 4 seed New Orleans Jesters in the conference semifinals and the fact that the Sunshine Conference needed a team listed, lowers Armada’s ranking into the teens.
14th – West Chester United SC (East Region – Keystone Conference, 2.7 points per game)
Number of US Open Cup appearances: 2 (2016*, 2019*)
*As an Open Division Local qualifier
Best Open Cup Finish: 2016 Round 2 (2-0 loss vs City Islanders FC of USL)
West Chester United finished the Keystone Conference regular season with a record of 9-0-1, enough for the top seed in the playoffs and with one of the highest points per game marks in the league. United was able to accomplish this despite the organization pulling double duty with seasons in both the NPSL and USL League Two. However, a conference semifinal upset to No. 4 seed FC Monmouth crushed any hopes for the team’s first deep run in the NPSL playoffs.
There is an interesting situation however. Since West Chester finished atop the Mid Atlantic Division in USL2 they are in line for the third tournament spot from that league. Meaning the team could put both squads in the tournament (with neither being able to face one-another until the final) or they could decline an allocation from one league which would open up a spot for a new team.
15th – Laredo Heat SC (West Region – Lone Star Conference, 2.3 points per game)
Number of US Open Cup appearances: 6
Best Open Cup Finish: 2014 Round 4 (1-0 loss vs Houston Dynamo of MLS)
When the topic of Texas non-professional teams pops up the Laredo Heat are bound to be brought up. The team’s six appearances in the tournament makes them one of the most successful open division sides in the Modern Era. This season in the NPSL, the team’s 7-2-1 record was bolstered behind one of the best defenses in the league with only eight goals allowed.
However a poor playoff showing and a region switch has severely crippled the Heat’s chance to return to the tournament. Since the Lone Star Conference was shifted to the 13 team West Region, the at-large slots are few and far between. Two draws in the regular season kept Laredo out from the first seed in the conference playoffs, and a loss to Denton in the conference final kept the team away from a top eight guaranteed spot.
With the last two tournaments, including 2020, only having 14 NPSL teams take part the Heat are right on the edge of making it.
16th – Pittsburgh Hotspurs (Midwest Region – Rust Belt Conference, 2.4 points per game)
17th – Atlantic City FC (East Region – Keystone Conference, 2.6 points per game)
18th – Demize NPSL (South Region – Heartland Conference, 2.4 points per game each)
19th – Duluth FC (Midwest Region – North Conference, 2.25 points per game)
20th – New York Shockers (East Region – North Atlantic Conference, 1.9 points per game)
21st – Las Vegas Legends FC (West Region – Southwest Conference, 2 points per game)
22nd – Pensacola FC (South Region – Gulf Coast Conference, 2.07 points per game)
23rd – Kingston Stockade FC (East Region – North Atlantic Conference, 1.9 points per game)
24th – Med City FC (Midwest Region – North Conference, 2 points per game)
25th – Miami Dutch Lions FC (South Region – Sunshine Conference, 1.9 points per game)
26th – Georgia Storm SA (East Region – Southeast Conference, 1.7 points per game)
27th – Midland-Odessa Sockers FC (West Region – Lone Star Conference, 1.8 points per game)
28th – Carpathia FC (Midwest Region – Great Lakes Conference, 2 points per game)
29th – Naples United FC (South Region – Sunshine Conference, 1.8 points per game)
30th – Valeo FC (East Region – North Atlantic Conference, 1.7 points per game)
31st – FC Buffalo (Midwest Region – Rust Belt Conference, 1.4 points per game)
32nd – Northern Virginia United (East Region – Mid-Atlantic Conference, 1.7 points per game)
33rd – OKC 1889 FC (South Region – Heartland Conference, 1.7 points per game)
34th – FC Arizona (West Region – Southwest Conference, 1.7 points per game)
35th – Appalachian FC (East Region – Southeast Conference, 1.6 points per game)
36th – FC Columbus (Midwest Region – Great Lakes Conference, 1.4 points per game)
37th – New Orleans Jesters (South Region – Gulf Coast Conference, 1.43 points per game)
38th – Katy 1895 FC (West Region – Lone Star Conference, 1.4 points per game)
39th – LSA Athletico Lanier (East Region – Southeast Conference, 1.3 points per game)
40th – Boca Raton FC (South Region – Sunshine Conference, 1.4 points per game)
41st – Joy St. Louis Park (Midwest Region – North Conference, 1.17 points per game)
42nd – FC Monmouth (East Region – Keystone Conference, 1.2 points per game)
43rd – Irving FC (West Region – Lone Star Conference, 1.4 points per game)
44th – Central Florida Panthers SC (South Region – Sunshine Conference, 1.2 points per game)
45th – Philadelphia Lone Star FC (East Region – Mid-Atlantic Conference, 1.2 points per game)
46th – Dakota Fusion FC (Midwest Region –North Conference, 1 point per game)
47th – First State FC (East Region – Keystone Conference, 1 point per game)
48th – Arkansas Wolves SC (South Region – Heartland Conference, 1.2 points per game)
49th – Panathinaikos Chicago (Midwest Region – Great Lakes Conference, 0.9 points per game)
50th – Coyotes FC (West Region – Lone Star Conference, 1.2 points per game)
51st – Boston City FC (East Region – North Atlantic Conference, 1 point per game)
52nd – AFC Mobile (South Region – Gulf Coast Conference, 1.07 points per game)
53rd – Sioux Falls Thunder FC (Midwest Region – North Conference, 0.75 points per game)
54th – Electric City Shock (East Region – Keystone Conference, 1 point per game)
55th – Port City FC (South Region – Gulf Coast Conference, 0.93 points per game)
56th – ASC San Diego (West Region – Southwest Conference, 0.9 points per game)
57th – Torch FC (East Region – Keystone Conference, 0.9 points per game)
58th – Erie Commodores FC (Midwest Region – Rust Belt Conference, 0.7 points per game)
59th – Tallahassee FC (South Region – Gulf Coast Conference, 0.93 points per game)
60th – Virginia Beach City FC (East Region – Mid-Atlantic Conference, 0.8 points per game)
61st – Rochester Lancers (Midwest Region – Rust Belt Conference, 0.7 points per game)
62nd – FC Brownsville (West Region – Lone Star Conference, 0.8 points per game)
63rd – North Alabama SC (East Region – Southeast Conference, 0.7 points per game)
64th – Reign FK (South Region – Heartland Conference, 0.9 points per game)
65th – Syracuse FC (Midwest Region – Rust Belt Conference, 0.6 points per game)
66th – FC Frederick (East Region – Mid-Atlantic Conference, 0.7 points per game)
67th – Florida Roots FC (South Region – Gulf Coast Conference, 0.36 points per game)
68th – Temecula FC (West Region – Southwest Conference, 0.4 points per game)
69th – Metro Louisville FC (East Region – Southeast Conference, 0.7 points per game)
70th – LC Aris FC (Midwest Region – North Conference, 0.25 points per game)
71st – Storm FC (South Region – Sunshine Conference, 0 points per game)
72nd – Hershey FC (East Region – Keystone Conference, 0 points per game)
73rd – Fort Worth Vaqueros FC (West Region – Lone Star Conference, 0.1 points per game)
74th – FC Indiana (Midwest Region – Great Lakes Conference, 0.2 points per game)
75th – Dallas City FC (South Region – Heartland Conference, 0 points per game)
76th – Greater Lowell Rough Diamonds (East Region – North Atlantic Conference, 0 points per game)
Michael Battista contributed to this article.