Friday, December 26, 2014

Local lower-division teams drawn in U.S. Open Cup

The U.S. Soccer Federation has announced the schedule and format for this year's U.S. Open Cup, and a local amateur team will be part of the first round of competition.

Local lower-division teams drawn in U.S. Open Cup

D.C. United won last year´s U.S. Open Cup. (Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images file photo)
D.C. United won last year's U.S. Open Cup. (Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images file photo)

UPDATED May 8: The first round is complete. Instead of writing up a new post for the second round, I've just updated the matchups at the bottom. Congratulaions to FC Lehigh Valley United Sonic, which will host the Harrisburg City Islanders on May 14 at Whitehall High School in Whitehall, Pa. If you want to make the trip, get directions here. Tickets will be available at the gate on the day of the game.

You can read recaps of all of the first round games here via the excellent website TheCup.us. Click here to jump straight to the second round schedule at the bottom of the post.


The U.S. Soccer Federation has announced the schedule and format for this year's U.S. Open Cup, and a local amateur team will be part of the first round of competition.

FC Lehigh Valley United Sonic, based just outside of Allentown, will travel up the Northeast corridor to face GPS Portland Phoenix in Portland, Maine on May 7.

Lehigh Valley plays in the National Premier Soccer League, an amateur competition in the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid. Portland is part of the United Soccer Leagues' Premier Development League, another amateur competition that's also in the fourth tier.

Both leagues have multiple divisions that help keep competition regionalized. In Lehigh Valley's case, the eight-team Keystone Conference is composed almost entirely of teams from Pennsylvania, with just one of the eight in New York.

As for the PDL, you've likely heard of at least two of its teams, Reading United and Ocean City FC. The former is the Philadelphia Union's official PDL affiliate, and the latter played the Union in last year's Open Cup. Both teams play in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division, which stretches from northern Virginia to Long Island.

The winner of Lehigh Valley-Portland will host the Harrisburg City Islanders, a team in the third tier USL PRO. As many of you know, Harrisburg is affiliated with the Philadelphia Union through Major League Soccer's partnership with the USL.

I mentioned Reading United and Ocean City FC above. They'll both be hosting second round games. Reading will face the NPSL's Greater Binghamton FC Thunder, and Ocean City will face the fifth-tier U.S. Adult Soccer Association's New York Greek American Atlas.

That is a mouthful, isn't it. Much of the Open Cup is, which is part of the joy and and vibrancy of the tournament.

I've laid out the entire first and second round schedules at the bottom of this post.

On the whole, this year's Open Cup field has a tournament-record 80 teams from a total of eight leagues. Here's a quick rundown of how many teams will represent each league in the competition, and where those leagues stand in the pyramid:

Major League Soccer (1st division): All 16 United States-based teams enter in the fourth round

North American Soccer League (2nd division): All 8 United States-based teams enter in the third round

USL PRO (3rd division): All 14 teams enter in the second round

USL PDL (4th division): 19 out of the 56 total teams, based on 2013 regular season records; 5 enter in the first round and 19 in the second round

NPSL (4th division): 11 out of the 80 total teams; 5 enter in the first round and 6 in the second round

United States Adult Soccer Association (5th division): 10 out of the total 63 teams, based on regional qualifying competitions; 4 enter in the first round and 6 in the second round

U.S. Club Soccer (5th division): 1 out of 8 teams based on a a qualifying competition; it enters in the first round

U.S. Specialty Sports Association (outside the pyramid): 1 out of 8 teams based on a qualifying competition; it enters in the first round

You can read the full list of all 80 teams in this year's Open Cup is here.

The Philadelphia Union will enter the competition some time between June 10 and June 18. That is the window for fourth-round games. It is also during the World Cup, and specifically during Major League Soccer's two-week for the group stage. The fifth round will also take place during the World Cup break.

So yes, MLS teams will be fielding weakend teams in the Open Cup. But they have been for years, whether they'll admit it or not. You might think this way of doing things is more intellectually honest, or you might think that it's hurting the integrity and quality of the competition. Both sides have their share of validity.

Here's the full schedule of when rounds will be played, courtesy of U.S. Soccer. Matchups for rounds from the third on will be drawn as the competition progresses.

First round: Games will be played on Wednesday, May 7. A total of 16 amateur teams enter at this stage: 5 from the PDL, 4 from the USASA regional qualifiers, 5 from the NPSL, and the 1 each from U.S. Club Soccer and the USSSA. Teams from the same qualifying pool cannot be paired with each other.

Second round: Games will be played on Tuesday, May 13 or Wednesday, May 14. The 8 first round winners will be joined by the 40 remaining amateur teams: 14 from the PDL, 6 from the USASA regional qualifiers, 6 from the NPSL, and all 14 from USL PRO. Teams from the same qualifying pool cannot be paired with each other.

Third round: Games will be played on Wednesday, May 28. The 24 second round winners will be joined by all 8 NASL team. Each NASL team will be paired up geographically (as best as possible) with the winner of a specific second round pairing. The remaining second round winners will play each other.

Fourth round: Games will be played between Tuesday, June 10 and Wednesday, June 18. The 16 third round winners will be paired up geographically (as best as possible) with the 16 MLS teams.

The exact date for each game will be determined by the club selected as the home team. There are two requirements: the visiting team must not have a league game already scheduled, and the visiting team must get at least two rest days before and two rest days after after the match date.

Fifth round: Games will be played on Tuesday, June 24 and/or Wednesday, June 25. The 16 fourth round winners will be paired up geographically (as best as possible).  

Quarterfinals: Games will be played on Tuesday, July 8 and/or Wednesday, July 9. The eight fifth round winners will be paired up geographically (as best as possible). 

Semifinals: Games will be played on Tuesday, August 12 and/or Wednesday, August 13. The four quarterfinal winners will be paired up geographically (as best as possible).

Final: The championship game will be played on Tuesday, September 30 or Wednesday, October 1. The winner gets a $250,000 cash prize and a place in the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League.

The runner-up gets a $60,000 cash prize, and the team from each lower division that advances the farthest gets a $15,000 cash prize.

In case you were wondering, there are no MLS league games currently scheduled in the windows for the quarterfinals, semifinals or final. There is one game on an adjacent Thursday: Chicago at Philadelphia on October 2. It is a national TV game on ESPN2, so it likely won't be movable if either team makes the final. I'd think the final would be played on September 30 in that case, or they'd find a way to move it to another date.

As for Open Cup viewing arrangements, all games involving MLS teams are streamed online free of charge. Lower-division teams that have the resources to set up online streaming also do so.

U.S. Soccer will offer a "Game of the Round" live stream throughout the tournament. The first two games have been announced: Mass Premier Soccer at Western Mass. Pioneers in the first round and Richmond Kickers at RVA FC in the second round.

The only full-blown TV broadcast is the final. Gol TV is in the final year of a three-year deal to show it.

Here's the schedule for all of the first and second round games. Matchups are listed in chronological order of kickoff time. All times listed are Eastern. Games involving local teams are italicized.

First Round

Wednesday, May 7

1. FC Lehigh Valley United Sonic (NPSL) at GPS Portland Phoenix (PDL): Deering High School, Portland, Maine (7:00 p.m.)

2. RWB Adria (USASA) at Detroit City FC (NPSL): Stevenson High School, Livonia, Mich. (7:00 p.m.)

3. Mass Premier Soccer (USASA) at Western Mass. Pioneers (PDL): Lusitano Stadium, Ludlow, Mass. (7:30 p.m.)

4. Vermont Voltage (PDL) at New York Red Bulls U-23s (NPSL): Red Bull Training Facility, Whippany, N.J. (8:00 p.m.)

5. Red Force (USASA) at Colorado Rovers (USSSA): Shea Stadium, Highlands Ranch, Colo. (10:00 p.m.) 

6. CD Aguiluchos (NPSL) at Ventura County Fusion (PDL): Ventura College, Ventura, Calif. (10:00 p.m.)

7. Corinthians (U.S. Club Soccer) at San Diego Flash (NPSL): Mira Mesa High School, Mira Mesa, Calif. (10:00 p.m.)

Corinthians forfeited this game because of a lack of eligible players.

8. L.A. Misioneros FC (PDL) at PSA Elite (USASA): StubHub Center Training Field; Carson, Calif. (10:30 p.m.)

Second Round

Tuesday, May 13

1. Arizona United SC (USL) at Portland Timbers U-23s (PDL): Providence Park, Portland, Ore. (10:00 p.m.)

Wednesday, May 14

2. Jacksonville United FC (NPSL) at Orlando City U-23s (PDL): Seminole Soccer Complex, Sanford, Fla. (4:30 p.m.)

3. Dayton Dutch Lions (USL) at Schwaben AC (USASA): Schwaben Athletic Club, Buffalo Grove, Ill. (5:00 p.m.)

4. Icon FC (USASA) at Baltimore Bohemians (PDL): UMBC Stadium, Catonsville, Md. (7:00 p.m.)

5. New York Greek American Atlas (USASA) at Ocean City Nor’easters (PDL): Carey Stadium, Ocean City, N.J. (7:00 p.m.)

6. Greater Binghamton FC Thunder (NPSL) at Reading United A.C. (PDL): Gurski Stadium, Reading, Pa. (7:00 p.m.)

7. Harrisburg City Islanders (USL) at FC Lehigh Valley United Sonic (NPSL): Whitehall H.S. Soccer Stadium, Whitehall, Pa. (7:05 p.m.)

8. New York Red Bulls U-23s (NPSL) at Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL): Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pa. (7:00 p.m.)

9. Richmond Kickers (USL PRO) at RVA FC (NPSL): Sports Backers Stadium, Richmond, Va. (7:00 p.m.)

10. Carolina Dynamo (PDL) at Charlotte Eagles (USL PRO): Queens University Sports Complex, Charlotte, N.C. (7:00 p.m.)

11. RWB Adria (USASA) at Michigan Bucks (PDL): Ultimate Soccer Arenas, Pontiac, Mich. (7:30 p.m.)

12. Ocala Stampede (PDL) at Orlando City (USL PRO): Seminole Soccer Complex, Sanford, Fla. (7:30 p.m.)

13. Panama City Beach Pirates (PDL) at Charleston Battery (USL): Blackbaud Stadium, Charleston, S.C. (7:30 p.m.)

14. Wilmington Hammerheads (USL PRO) at Chattanooga FC (NPSL): Finley Stadium, Chattanooga, Tenn. (7:30 p.m.)

15. Western Mass. Pioneers (PDL) at Rochester Rhinos (USL PRO): Sahlen’s Stadium, Rochester, N.Y. (7:35 p.m.)

16. Brooklyn Italians SC (NPSL) at Jersey Express (PDL): NJIT Soccer Stadium, Newark, N.J. (8:00 p.m.)

17. Oklahoma City Energy FC (USL) at Tulsa Athletics (NPSL): Tulsa Athletics Stadium, Tulsa, Okla. (8:30 p.m.)

18. Real Colorado Foxes (PDL) at Des Moines Menace (USASA): Valley Stadium, West Des Moines, Iowa (8:30 p.m.)

19. NTX Rayados (USASA) at Austin Aztex (PDL): House Park, Austin, Texas (8:30 p.m.)

20. Orange County Blues (USL PRO) at Fresno Fuego (PDL): Chukchansi Park, Fresno, Calif. (9:00 p.m.)

21. Red Force (USASA) at Laredo Heat (PDL): Texas A&M International University Soccer Complex, Laredo, Texas (9:15 p.m.)

22. Sacramento Republic (USL PRO) at Ventura County Fusion (PDL): Ventura College, Ventura, Calif. (10:00 p.m.)

23. PSA Elite (USASA) at San Diego Flash (NPSL): Mira Mesa High School, Mira Mesa, Calif. (10:00 p.m.)

San Diego forfeited this game because of a venue conflct.

24. Cal FC (USASA) at LA Galaxy II (USL): StubHub Center Track & Field Stadium, Carson, Calif. (10:30 p.m.)

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