U.S. Soccer

Open Cup Rewind: ‘99 Rhinos - If You Can’t Join ‘em, Beat ‘em!

The 21st century hadn’t even dawned the last time a team that wasn’t in Major League Soccer won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. But back in 1999 the Rochester Raging Rhinos carved out a place in history with attitude, ego and a big chip on their shoulder. “Swagger is a good way to put what we had,” coach Pat Ercoli told ussoccer.com. “We were borderline out of control with it!” agreed Rhinos goalkeeper Pat Onstad.

The Rochester Rhinos began life in 1996, the same year MLS was founded as the pinnacle of the American soccer pyramid. With a squad of seasoned professionals, most of whom played upwards of 80 games a year – both outdoor and indoor – the second-division Rhinos seemed like prime contenders for a place in the fledgling top-flight. The city had soccer in its veins and a rich history going back even before the Lancers of the old NASL. Hordes of fans, often hovering around the 15,000-mark, steamed through the turnstiles every weekend at the tiny Frontier Field.

“It was like,look what we’re doing here!’” said Scott Schweitzer, Rochester defender from 1998 to 2003. “We thought we should be in MLS. We’re sold out every week. We had more fans coming out than a lot of the MLS teams did.” 

 

Can’t join ‘em? Beat ‘em
But economic factors, calculators, accountants and spreadsheets conspired to keep the Rhinos and their legions of fans from the big-time. When the 1999 Open Cup rolled around, they had a new and potent slogan. It was printed on stickers, t-shirts and banners, and chanted in the stands: If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em!

“It was our rallying cry,” said Onstad, the Canadian legend who went on to a long and distinguished career in MLS. “We were a bunch of misfits. We worked harder for each other than any team I’ve ever played on and everyone had something to prove. A lot of the guys felt like they should be in MLS, but that call never came.”

Schweitzer was one of those swaggering misfits, perhaps chief among them. He was 11 the first time he kicked a soccer ball around inner city New Jersey and he remembers being tagged a “commie” for his quick interest in the game. “I didn’t care,” he recalled. “I knew the first day I played that I was going to be a pro. I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew it.”

The Rhinos went on a run for the ages in the 1999 Open Cup, slaying four straight MLS sides. “We always thought we had a chance no matter who we were playing,” said Schweitzer, who credits soccer for seeing him through a rough childhood. He speaks of the city of Rochester with the kind of affection reserved for a family member. “I understood the city and the city understood me,” he said, remembering living downtown in an old brick building and seeing his own face, 50 feet up over the highway, plastered on a billboard.

“We were big on being boisterous,” said Schweitzer. “Maybe cocky is a better word. But we wanted to show people something, show them what we could do and what soccer in Rochester was all about.”

Home-field advantage
The Rhinos played their first two games against MLS opposition at their tiny Frontier Field, an improvised home designed for baseball. “OK, so the field was 69 yards wide and maybe 110 long – so you do that math,” said Ercoli. Onstad remembers the pitch too, with an attention to detail befitting a goalkeeper. “The dirt infield ran right through the middle of the pitch. And somehow, the field always seemed to be slanted!”

The Rhinos beat Bob Bradley’s Chicago Fire at home with what can politely be described as a “physical” approach. Rochester committed nearly 50 fouls in the game and did a similar number in their next: A 2-1 golden-goal win over 1997 Open Cup champs Dallas Burn. After the game, Dallas’ star striker Jason Kreis wasn’t interested in playing diplomat when he said Rochester would “get their butts beat on a real field.”

The trash talk and the sour grapes of their beaten opponents didn’t bother Ercoli and co. In fact, it was just the kind of motivation the jilted Rhinos needed to swell that chip on their shoulder. Their semi-final was on the road, on a real pitch, against a Columbus Crew side led by stars like Brian McBride and Thomas Dooley. The heavens intervened.

“We played down in Virginia on the edge of a hurricane,” said Onstad, recalling the first game away from their wild fans and compact home. “It was like no wind I’d ever seen,” added Ercoli, who instructed captain Tommy Tanner to go against it in the first half. “He looked at me like I was crazy! We’re talking 50 mile-per-hour winds here!”

The first half ended goalless and “we celebrated like we just won the Cup!” said Onstad. But in the second, the game broke open. Big striker Darren Tilley leveled for the Rhinos after a sensational free-kick by Robert Warzycha. When the Crew went up again with 12 minutes to go, the Rhinos’ charge looked over. But two goals in the last four minutes, with a little help from the wind at their backs, sent the men from Rochester through to the final. “We were the kind of team that always found a way to win,” Ercoli said. “And in the end, the Crew petered out while we rode the wind, and a little bit of luck.”

 

Team of destiny
That game in the blustery gales, on the ragged edges of a tropical storm, was the moment when a reality hit home in the team. “I started to have this feeling,” said Onstad. “Ok, we’re going to do this.” Ercoli’s gut told him the same. “We went to Columbus, Ohio for the final with the attitude of: This is destiny.”

The final was at the brand-new Crew Stadium against the Colorado Rapids. And with their own team gone, the Columbus fans adopted the traveling underdogs. They joined the chorus led by busloads of traveling supporters that rolled in from Rochester. “They were there to greet us in Ohio when we got off the bus,” Schweitzer recalled. “They had their banners – if you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em and all that. You didn’t want to let these people down.”

And they didn’t. A goal mid-way through the second-half from Doug Miller and a late one from Yari Allnutt saw the unfancied Rhinos win out 2-0. “I don’t remember having to do that much work on the day either,” said Onstad. “What I remember most is the pride at the end, being there with this great team of crazy guys, holding the trophy.”

“Maybe someday another non-MLS team will do it again, but it’s not easy,” said Ercoli, now Chief Soccer Officer of the Rochester Rhinos who play, to this day, in the second tier. “It was an amazing thing,” added Schweitzer. But the last word went to Onstad, who fought his MLS coaches when they wanted to rest him for Open Cup games. “I’d insist they put me in for the Cup.” said the man who went on to win three MLS titles. Twice he was named MLS’ goalkeeper of the year, but he never got his hands on the Open Cup again. “It always mattered to me.”  

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U.S. Open Cup Apr 20, 2017

Chattanooga FC’s Big-Tent Revival

“Downtown Chattanooga was just a place you didn’t go,” said native son and Chattanooga FC head coach Bill Elliot ahead of the side’s fourth straight U.S. Open Cup. The city’s economy tanked in the 1980s, people moved away in droves, and crime filled the spaces left behind. The Tennessee River was poisoned by generations of heavy industry and a gray blanket settled over the valley. “Downtown hadn’t been fun for a long time,” added club General Manager and founder Sean McDaniel.
Fast-forward a few decades and it’s night and day. Folks flock downtown now. There’s a revival underway, and the local amateur soccer team is at the heart of it. When Chattanooga FC play home games, the turnstiles at Finley Stadium need extra grease for all the spinning they do. “We didn’t play in front of less than 4000 last season,” said Eliot, who lined up alongside GM McDaniel in the old Chattanooga Express of the USISL. “And we got as high as 13,000 a few times.” Chattanooga FC have the highest average single game and average attendance in the National Premier Soccer League. In 2015, against New York Cosmos B, more than 18,000 filed in to the once-abandoned stadium in the heart of a downtown where no one used to go. 

“It’s not just the numbers,” said Andrew Bresee, an avowed Chattahooligan just like El Conductor, who dresses in super-hero mask and train conductor uniform, harking back to the city’s roots as a railway hub. Like many in Chattanooga, Bresee is a cheerleader for his hometown. “You’ve got food trucks around the stadium. There’s good beer. You can’t beat the vibe here.” 

In the stands and on the pitch
“Tailgating starts four or five hours before kick-off,” said Eliot, who’s also head coach at the University of West Florida. He returns from Pensacola to his hometown during the summer to take the reins of this seven-year-old amateur side, comprised mainly of former and current Division Two and NAIA collegiate players. “The fans are amazing,” said Luke Winter, the club’s English-born top-scorer and current coach at his alma mater Tennessee Wesleyan University. “The banners they have on game-day and the effort they put in, the costumes -- it’s fantastic. People want to be a part of what we’re doing here.”

Coach Eliot is eager to point out that it’s not just the drums and fun in the stands bringing people to the stadium. “We’re putting some good stuff on the field,” insisted the coach who’s overseen five straight NPSL Southeast Division titles. “Maybe at first they came to cheer for Chattanooga the city, which is just the way people are around here,” added Eliot, who played in the preliminary rounds of the Open Cup back in the early 90s with the now defunct Mobile Revelers. “But it’s the soccer that keeps them coming. We have to hold up our end. It’s on us to play the right way.”

 

The Open Cup has a special place in the hearts of FC Chattanooga players and fans. They open their 2017 account on the road against Charlotte Eagles, unable to use their sizable home-field advantage until the second round, should they reach it. “In the Open Cup, it’s us against the world,” said Bresee, who sells beer to area supermarkets and helps organize the local chapter of the American Outlaws. He caught the soccer bug as an exchange student in Florence, Italy and never quite recovered. “It’s our team and our town and a way for us to show our pride and measure ourselves against what’s out there.”     

So far Chattanooga FC have measured up just fine, reaching the third round of the Open Cup three years straight. In 2015 they were seconds away from the fourth round, and a date with MLS’ New York Red Bulls, only for a last-gasp extra-time loss to the Atlanta Silverbacks to crush their dreams. Last year, they went out in the same round by one thin goal to Harrisburg City Islanders.  

“Growing up in England I know all about the excitement and passion the FA Cup brings out,” said Winter, now 26, who came to Tennessee from Norwich and has no reason to return. “We want to keep being matched against the big teams and have big Cup days. There’s nothing like it.”

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U.S. Open Cup Apr 18, 2017

A Day at the Beach with Boston City FC

In a few months, Revere Beach will be packed with lazy sunbathers and day-trippers. The smell of fried clams and Bianchi’s Pizza will hang thick in the salty air. But in the freezing rain of late March, only the brave and the crazy are out. And Boston City FC, running hard on the wet sand in their socks, are a little bit of both.

“Training on the beach is the best thing you can do for your body,” Palhinha, head coach and president of the two-year NPSL club, told ussoccer.com from under the hood of a puffy coat, shivering away the chill. “It’s even better than Copacabana Beach here, because of the incline in the sand!”

Even without his hood and the extra layers, it’s unlikely Palhinha would be mobbed by fans on the streets of Greater Boston. But in his native Brazil, where he won two Copa Libertadores titles with Sao Paulo in the early 90s, he’s still a star, and hounded for selfies and signatures. An elegant playmaker and passer of uncommon skill, he is considered by many back home, Paulistas especially, a frail genius who paid the price for his slight build and dreamer’s vision. He earned only 16 caps with the national team in a time when the bulkier frames of Dunga and Mauro Silva held sway in the Seleção.

Boston City FC

A preseason conditioning session on an empty Revere Beach, dirty winter snow still piled along Route 1A, is a long way from the adoration of more than 70,000 fans at the Morumbi, who chanted Palhinha’s name during his glory days. But when the 49-year-old coach gets to talking about the U.S. Open Cup, in which Boston City will take part for the first time this year, his eyes light up with a kind of mischief. He might as well be talking about the Copa Libertadores. Hell, even the World Cup.

“For us, this Open Cup is our World Cup,” he said through a translator, greeting his young players, mostly amateurs. “Sure, it’s a dream. But we all need to believe this is possible because dreams come true. And to be clear, I’m not talking about getting a few rounds in, I’m talking about winning the whole tournament,” he adds, gesturing to the gray sky and lapping ocean behind him. “There’s a way to do this and it begins here.”

Little teams & big dreams

Boston City FC

It’s been almost two decades since a non-MLS team has won the 103-year-old Open Cup, and longer still since an amateur team hoisted the trophy. But Palhinha’s big dreams are contagious, and so is his focus on keeping the ball and playing attacking soccer. “I want, most of all, for my players to love the ball. To enjoy the game. I tell them all the time – ‘you need to sleep with the ball, wake up with the ball, have lunch with the ball.’”

“My classmates always joke with me because I dribble a soccer ball between buildings on my way to classes,” said striker Kevin Herrera (above, second from left). The 20-year-old hails from Lynn, Massachusetts, a few miles up the Parkway.

Herrera gets about as close to his coach’s mantra of living life with the ball as you can. “My stomach churned when I found out we’re playing in the Open Cup,” said Herrera, who keeps an image of the Dewar Cup, the historic trophy that used to be awarded to the Open Cup winner, as screensaver on his laptop. “I want to see it all the time,” said the compact No. 9, a former member of the New England Revolution Academy. “I want to be reminded of it and to keep focused on it.”

Eyes on the horizon

It’s a rough session for the boys in the sand. Palhinha works them hard. He even drags some of the laggers with a rough hand from the back of the pack, craving preseason pain in exchange for future glory. Each of these players, most of them on amateur contracts, has a dream. Alone on the cold sand with only the gulls for company, these players are chasing a taste of the big-time.

Yao Addow is nearly 30 years old, but he still talks about “taking the next step.” You can’t help but root for him. He scored the first goal in City’s history and was sent off later in the game. He has a welcoming smile and wide eyes.

“I’m from Ghana, so this is a little cold to be at the beach for me,” Addow said with a grin. He’s known for giving away game tickets to fans via social media and when he’s injured or suspended he stands with supporters on the bleachers at Brother Gilbert Field behind Malden Catholic High School. “But this is the work we need to do to be ready for the Open Cup.”

The rain never lets up. The boys peel off their soaked clothes at the end and know the worst is behind them until next Saturday when, with luck, it will feel a little more like spring. The bag of soccer balls Palhinha brought along was never untied. It sits against the cement wall of the boardwalk like a promise. Of a new season. An Open Cup debut. A bigger stage.

On April 12, they learned they would visit the PDL's Western Mass Pioneers in the First Round of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The first game in what they hope will be a dream run in the tournament. 

They might be crazy, but Boston City FC will be ready. “We’ve got nothing to lose,” said young Herrera who sat on the wall at the end of the session staring out over that same horizon he’s considered since he was a little boy growing up on the shore. “We believe we can beat the big teams. We’re hungry for this and just talking about it gets me excited.”   


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U.S. Open Cup Apr 12, 2017

U.S. Soccer Releases Pairings, Host Scenarios for 2017 Open Cup First and Second Rounds

CHICAGO (April 12, 2017) - U.S. Soccer today announced the pairings and host scenarios for the First and Second Rounds of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The First Round, which will commence with one game on May 9 followed by 27 matches on May 10, marks the opening stage of the tournament for 21 Premier Development League (PDL) teams, 18 National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) sides, and 17 Open Division local qualifiers. The Second Round follows on May 16-17 and introduces six North American Soccer League (NASL) teams and 18 United Soccer League (USL) clubs.

Home teams are determined by a random selection process among those clubs that have applied to host and whose venues meet the minimum tournament requirements. 

In other news, the Open Cup Committee has determined the teams that are not permitted to be matched to each other throughout the tournament (e.g. a non-professional Open Division team and a parent club; a team who receives material technical support from another club) except in the unlikely event that both sides reach the Final. These pairings are: Jacksonville Armada (NASL) and Jacksonville Armada U-23 (NPSL); OKC Energy (USL) and OKC Energy U23 (PDL); San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) and Reno 1868 FC (USL); Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) and Sounders FC U-23 (PDL). Professional teams who are majority-owned or otherwise controlled by higher division professional clubs are expressly excluded from Open Cup competition.

This year's winning team will receive $250,000, a berth in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions' League and have its name engraved on the historic Dewar Challenge Trophy, one of the oldest nationally contested trophies in American team sports. The runner-up will earn $60,000, while the team that advances the furthest from each lower division will take home a $15,000 cash prize.

FC Dallas is the defending U.S. Open Cup champion, having earned the club’s second tournament title thanks to a 4-2 victory against the New England Revolution on Sept. 13, 2016, at a sold-out Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, recognized as U.S. Soccer's National Club Championship, is an annual competition open to all amateur and professional soccer teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. The tournament has crowned a champion for 103 consecutive years dating from 1914. In 1999, the competition was renamed to honor American soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt.

2017 LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP SCHEDULE

First Round

Date

Game

Time

Venue

May 9

Red Force FC (Fla.) vs. South Florida Surf (PDL)

8:30 p.m. ET

Tropical Park; Miami, Fla.

May 10

Fredericksburg FC (NPSL) vs. Christos FC (Md.)

5 p.m. ET

Univ. of Mary Washington Battleground Stadium; Fredericksburg, Va.

May 10

Atlanta Silverbacks (NPSL) vs. SC United Bantams (PDL)

5 p.m. ET

Atlanta Silverbacks Park; Atlanta, Ga.

May 10

El Farolito (Calif.) vs. Burlingame Dragons FC (PDL)

3 p.m. PT

Boxer Stadium; San Francisco, Calif.

May 10

GPS Portland Phoenix (PDL) vs. GPS Omens (Mass.)

8 p.m. ET

Memorial Field; Portland, Maine

May 10

Western Mass Pioneers (PDL) vs. Boston City FC (NPSL)

7 p.m. ET

Lusitano Stadium; Ludlow, Mass.

May 10

New Jersey Copa FC (NPSL) vs. FC Motown (N.J.)

7 p.m. ET

Saint John Vianney High School; Holmdel, N.J.

May 10

Charlotte Eagles (PDL) vs. Chattanooga FC (NPSL)

7 p.m. ET

Charlotte Christian School; Charlotte, N.C.

May 10

Carolina Dynamo (PDL) vs. Legacy 76 (NPSL)

7 p.m. ET

Macpherson Stadium; Greensboro, N.C.

May 10

Miami United FC (NPSL) vs. Boca Raton Football Club (Fla.)

7 p.m. ET

Ted Hendricks Stadium; Hialeah, Fla.

May 10

Jacksonville Armada U-23 (NPSL) vs. The Villages SC (PDL)

7 p.m. ET

Patton Park; Jacksonville, Fla.

May 10

Ocean City Nor'easters (PDL) vs. Junior Lone Star FC (Pa.)

7:30 p.m. ET

Carey Stadium; Ocean City, N.J.

May 10

Reading United AC (PDL) vs. Clarkstown SC Eagles (NPSL)

7:30 p.m. ET

Exeter Township Senior High School; Reading, Pa.

May 10

Michigan Bucks (PDL) vs. AFC Ann Arbor (NPSL)

7:30 p.m. ET

Ultimate Soccer Arenas; Pontiac, Mich.

May 10

Derby City Rovers (PDL) vs. Tartan Devils Oak Avalon (Pa.)

7:30 p.m. ET

Woehrle Athletic Complex; Jeffersonville, Ind.

May 10

Chicago FC United (PDL) vs. Grand Rapids FC (NPSL)

7 p.m. CT

Martin Stadium (Northwestern Univ.); Evanston, Ill.

May 10

Dutch Lions FC (NPSL) vs. NTX Rayados (Texas)

7 p.m. CT

Dutch Lions FC Soccer Facility; Conroe, Texas

May 10

FC Wichita (NPSL) vs. Azteca FC (Colo.)

7 p.m. CT

Stryker Soccer Compex; Wichita, Kan.

May 10

Des Moines Menace (PDL) vs. AFC Cleveland (NPSL)

7:30 p.m. CT

Valley Stadium; West Des Moines, Iowa

May 10

Tulsa Athletic (NPSL) vs. Oklahoma City Energy U23 (PDL)

7:30 p.m. CT

Hurricane Soccer & Track Stadium; Tulsa, Okla.

May 10

Sonoma County Sol (NPSL) vs. Anahuac FC (Nev.)

7 p.m. PT

Casa Grande High School; Petaluma, Calif.

May 10

Albion SC Pros (NPSL) vs. Chula Vista FC (Calif.)

7 p.m. PT

Mission Bay High School; San Diego, Calif.

May 10

FC Golden State Force (PDL) vs. Outbreak FC (Calif.)

7 p.m. PT

Citrus College; Glendora, Calif.

May 10

Fresno Fuego (PDL) vs. La Máquina FC (Calif.)

7 p.m. PT

Chukchansi Park; Fresno, Calif.

May 10

Ventura County Fusion (PDL) vs. Moreno Valley Fútbol Club (Calif.)

7 p.m. PT

Ventura College Sportsplex; Ventura, Calif.

May 10

FC Tucson (PDL) vs. Colorado Rush (Colo.)

7:30 p.m. MST

Kino North Stadium; Tucson, Ariz.

May 10

OSA FC (NPSL) vs. Sounders FC U-23 (PDL)

7:30 p.m. PT

Seattle High School Memorial Stadium; Seattle, Wash.

May 10

L.A. Wolves FC (Calif.) vs. San Diego Zest (PDL)

7:30 p.m. PT

Bell Gardens John Anson Ford Park; Bell Gardens, Calif.

Second Round

Date

Game

Time

Venue

May 16

Red Force FC (Fla.) vs. Miami FC (NASL)

8:30 p.m. ET

Tropical Park; Miami, Fla.

   -or-

May 17

South Florida Surf (PDL) vs. Miami FC (NASL)

TBD

Home Team TBD

May 17

Fredericksburg FC (NPSL) vs. Richmond Kickers (USL)

5 p.m. ET

Univ. of Mary Washington Battleground Stadium; Fredericksburg, Va.

   -or-

May 17

Richmond Kickers (USL) vs. Christos FC (Md.)

7 p.m. ET

City Stadium; Richmond, Va.

May 17

Atlanta Silverbacks (NPSL) vs. Charleston Battery (USL)

5 p.m. ET

Atlanta Silverbacks Park; Atlanta, Ga.

   -or-

May 17

Charleston Battery (USL) vs. SC United Bantams (PDL)

7 p.m. ET

MUSC Health Stadium; Charleston, S.C.

May 17

Rochester Rhinos (USL) vs. FC Motown (N.J.)/New Jersey Copa FC (NPSL) winner

7 p.m. ET

Capelli Sport Stadium; Rochester, N.Y.

May 17

Boston City FC (NPSL) vs. GPS Omens (Mass.)/GPS Portland Phoenix (PDL) winner

7 p.m. ET

Brother Gilbert Stadium; Malden, Mass.

   -or-

May 17

Western Mass Pioneers (PDL) vs. GPS Omens (Mass.)/GPS Portland Phoenix (PDL) winner

7 p.m. ET

Lusitano Stadium; Ludlow, Mass.

May 17

Miami United FC (NPSL) vs. Jacksonville Armada (NASL)

7 p.m. ET

Ted Hendricks Stadium; Hialeah, Fla.

   -or-

May 17

Jacksonville Armada (NASL) vs. Boca Raton Football Club (Fla.)

7 p.m. ET

Southern Oak Stadium (Jacksonville Univ.); Jacksonville, Fla.

May 17

Carolina Dynamo (PDL) vs. North Carolina FC (NASL)

7 p.m. ET

Macpherson Stadium; Greensboro, N.C.

   -or-

May 17

Legacy 76 (NPSL) vs. North Carolina FC (NASL)

7 p.m. ET

Wanner Stadium; Williamsburg, Va.

May 17

Charlotte Eagles (PDL) vs. Charlotte Independence (USL)

7 p.m. ET

Charlotte Christian School; Charlotte, N.C.

   -or-

May 17

Chattanooga FC (NPSL) vs. Charlotte Independence (USL)

7:30 p.m. ET

Finley Stadium; Chattanooga, Tenn.

May 17

AFC Ann Arbor (NPSL) vs. Indy Eleven (NASL)

7 p.m. ET

Scicluna Field (Eastern Michigan Univ.); Ypsilanti, Mich.

   -or-

May 17

Michigan Bucks (PDL) vs. Indy Eleven (NASL)

7:30 p.m. ET

Ultimate Soccer Arenas; Pontiac, Mich.

May 17

Tartan Devils Oak Avalon (Pa.) vs. Louisville City FC (USL)

7 p.m. ET

Rooney Field; Pittsburgh, Pa.

   -or-

May 17

Louisville City FC (USL) vs. Derby City Rovers (PDL)

7:30 p.m. ET

Woehrle Athletic Complex; Jeffersonville, Ind.

May 17

New York Cosmos (NASL) vs. Clarkstown SC Eagles (NPSL)

7 p.m. ET

Rocco B. Commisso Stadium; New York, N.Y.

   -or-

May 17

Reading United AC (PDL) vs. New York Cosmos (NASL)

7:30 p.m. ET

Exeter Township Senior High School; Reading, Pa.

May 17

FC Cincinnati (USL) vs. AFC Cleveland (NPSL)

7 p.m. ET

Nippert Stadium (Univ. of Cincinnati); Cincinnati, Ohio

   -or-

May 17

Des Moines Menace (PDL) vs. FC Cincinnati (USL)

7:30 p.m. CT

Valley Stadium; West Des Moines, Iowa

May 17

Tampa Bay Rowdies (USL) vs. The Villages SC (PDL)/Jacksonville Armada U-23 (NPSL) winner

7:30 p.m. ET

Al Lang Stadium; St. Petersburg, Fla.

May 17

Ocean City Nor'easters (PDL) vs. Harrisburg City Islanders (USL)

7:30 p.m. ET

Carey Stadium; Ocean City, N.J.

   -or-

May 17

Junior Lone Star FC (Pa.) vs. Harrisburg City Islanders (USL)

TBD

Home Team TBD

May 17

Grand Rapids FC (NPSL) vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL)

7:30 p.m. ET

Pat Patterson Field (Crestwood Middle School); Kentwood, Mich.

   -or-

May 17

Chicago FC United (PDL) vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL)

7 p.m. CT

Martin Stadium (Northwestern Univ.); Evanston, Ill.

May 17

FC Wichita (NPSL) vs. Saint Louis FC (USL)

7 p.m. CT

Stryker Soccer Compex; Wichita, Kan.

   -or-

May 17

Saint Louis FC (USL) vs. Azteca FC (Colo.)

7 p.m. CT

WWT Soccer Park; Fenton, Mo.

May 17

Dutch Lions FC (NPSL) vs. San Antonio FC (USL)

7 p.m. CT

Dutch Lions FC Soccer Facility; Conroe, Texas

   -or-

May 17

San Antonio FC (USL) vs. NTX Rayados (Texas)

7:30 p.m. CT

Toyota Field; San Antonio, Texas

May 17

Tulsa Roughnecks FC (USL) vs. Oklahoma City Energy U23 (PDL)

7 p.m. CT

Hurricane Soccer & Track Stadium; Tulsa, Okla.

   -or-

May 17

Tulsa Athletic (NPSL) vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC (USL)

7:30 p.m. CT

Hurricane Soccer & Track Stadium; Tulsa, Okla.

May 17

OKC Energy FC (USL) vs. Moreno Valley Fútbol Club (Calif.)

7 p.m. CT

Taft Stadium; Oklahoma City, Okla.

   -or-

May 17

Ventura County Fusion (PDL) vs. OKC Energy FC (USL)

7 p.m. PT

Ventura College Sportsplex; Ventura, Calif.

May 17

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (USL) vs. Colorado Rush (Colo.)/FC Tucson (PDL) winner

6 p.m. MT

Weidner Field; Colorado Springs, Colo.

May 17

Fresno Fuego (PDL) vs. Phoenix Rising FC (USL)

7 p.m. PT

Fresno State Soccer & Lacrosse Stadium; Fresno, Calif.

   -or-

May 17

La Máquina FC (Calif.) vs. Phoenix Rising FC (USL)

7 p.m. PT

Santa Ana Stadium; Santa Ana, Calif.

May 17

FC Golden State Force (PDL) vs. Orange County SC (USL)

7 p.m. PT

Citrus College; Glendora, Calif.

   -or-

May 17

Outbreak FC (Calif.) vs. Orange County SC (USL)

7 p.m. PT

Long Beach State Univ.; Long Beach, Calif.

May 17

Albion SC Pros (NPSL) vs. San Diego Zest (PDL)

7 p.m. PT

Mission Bay High School; San Diego, Calif.

   -or-

May 17

Chula Vista FC (Calif.) vs. San Diego Zest (PDL)

7 p.m. PT

Eastlake High School; Chula Vista, Calif.

   -or-

May 17

L.A. Wolves FC (Calif.) vs. Chula Vista FC (Calif.)/Albion SC Pros (NPSL) winner

7:30 p.m. PT

Bell Gardens John Anson Ford Park; Bell Gardens, Calif.

May 17

Sacramento Republic FC (USL) vs. Anahuac FC (Nev.)/Sonoma County Sol (NPSL) winner

7:30 p.m. PT

Papa Murphy's Park; Sacramento, Calif.

May 17

San Francisco Deltas (NASL) vs. Burlingame Dragons FC (PDL)/El Farolito (Calif.) winner

7:30 p.m. PT

Stanford University; Stanford, Calif.

May 17

OSA FC (NPSL) vs. Reno 1868 FC (USL)

7:30 p.m. PT

Starfire Sports Complex; Tukwila, Wash.

   -or-

May 17

Sounders FC U-23 (PDL) vs. Reno 1868 FC (USL)

7:30 p.m. PT

Sunset Stadium (Sumner H.S.); Sumner, Wash.

First Round                  May 9-10 (PDL, NPSL, Open Division clubs enter)
Second Round             May 16-17 (NASL and USL clubs enter)
Third Round                 May 31 (Winners of 26 Second Round games play each other)
Fourth Round               June 14* (Major League Soccer clubs enter)
Round of 16                 June 28* (matches determined by Round of 16 Draw on June 15)
Quarterfinals                July 11 (window of July 7-16 available for consideration)
Semifinals                    Aug. 9*
Final                             Sept. 20

* Games in this round may be moved up a day

2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Participating Teams

Division I and II Professional Teams Eligible to Participate (43 total):

Division I (19 teams, entering in the Fourth Round) - Major League Soccer: Atlanta United FC, Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew SC, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, Minnesota United FC, New England Revolution, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Orlando City SC, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Sporting Kansas City

Division II (24 teams, entering in the Second Round) - North American Soccer League (6): Indy Eleven, Jacksonville Armada, Miami FC, New York Cosmos, North Carolina FC (formerly Carolina RailHawks), San Francisco Deltas; United Soccer League (18 teams): Charleston Battery, Charlotte Independence, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, FC Cincinnati, Harrisburg City Islanders, Louisville City FC, OKC Energy FC, Orange County SC (formerly Orange County Blues), Phoenix Rising FC (formerly Arizona United), Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Reno 1868 FC, Richmond Kickers, Rochester Rhinos, Sacramento Republic FC, Saint Louis FC, San Antonio FC, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Tulsa Roughnecks FC

Open Division Teams (56 total, entering in the First Round):

Local Qualifiers (17 teams, listed alphabetically by state): California (6): Chula Vista FC, El Farolito, La Máquina*, LA Wolves FC*, Moreno Valley Fútbol Club, Outbreak FC*; Colorado (2): Azteca FC, Colorado Rush; Florida (2): Boca Raton Football Club*, Red Force FC; Maryland (1): Christos FC; Massachusetts (1): GPS Omens; Nevada (1): Anahuac FC; New Jersey (1): FC Motown; Pennsylvania (2): Junior Lone Star FC, Tartan Devils Oak Avalon; Texas (1): NTX Rayados

Premier Development League (21 teams): Division Winners: Charlotte Eagles* (N.C.), Des Moines Menace* (Iowa), FC Tucson* (Ariz.), Fresno Fuego (Calif.), GPS Portland Phoenix* (Maine), Michigan Bucks*, OKC Energy U23 (Okla.), Reading United AC* (Pa.), The Villages SC* (Fla.); At-Large Berths: Burlingame Dragons* (Calif.), Carolina Dynamo (N.C.), Chicago FC United (formerly Chicago Fire U-23), Derby City Rovers (Ky.), FC Golden State Force (Calif.), Ocean City Nor’easters (N.J.), San Diego Zest (Calif.), SC United Bantams (S.C.), Sounders FC U-23* (Wash.), South Florida Surf, Ventura County Fusion* (Calif.), Western Mass Pioneers. The PDL is a nationwide league affiliated with the U.S. Adult Soccer Association and opted to use 2016 league results to determine its qualifiers for the 2017 Open Cup.

National Premier Soccer League (18 teams): Qualified via 2016 NPSL playoffs: AFC Cleveland* (Ohio), Albion SC Pros (Calif.), Chattanooga FC* (Tenn.), Clarkstown SC Eagles* (N.Y.), Grand Rapids FC (Mich.), Miami United FC (Fla.), New Jersey Copa FC (N.J.), Sonoma County Sol (Calif.); At-Large Berths: AFC Ann Arbor (Mich.), Atlanta Silverbacks*, Boston City FC (Mass.), Dutch Lions FC (Texas), FC Wichita* (Kan.), Fredericksburg FC* (Va.), Jacksonville Armada U-23 (Fla.), Legacy 76 (Va.), OSA FC (Wash.) Tulsa Athletic (Okla). The NPSL is a nationwide league affiliated with the U.S. Adult Soccer Association and opted to use 2016 league results to determine its qualifiers for the 2017 Open Cup.

* Participated in 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup 
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U.S. Open Cup Apr 12, 2017

Open Cup Rewind: Club España - The Best Team You Never Heard Of

The late 1980s looked like autumn for soccer in America. The U.S. National Team had missed out on nine straight World Cups and the collapse of the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1984 left top players without clubs, paychecks, or professional options. But for those who remember Club España of Washington DC, those days were full of style, youthful exuberance and the promise of soccer’s survival.

“That team was loaded,” Phillip Gyau, Club España striker and current head coach at Howard University, told ussoccer.com. “It was like a hand-picked all-star team from the DC area.”

The man who did the picking was Julio Piñon, a local businessman and immigrant from Spain. He kitted his side out in the red, yellow and blue of his beloved Spanish national team. “He had this amazing ability to make every kid in the team feel like his own son,” said Keith Trehy, a London-born defender and former England schoolboy who helped unlikely American University reach the 1985 NCAA final.

Making sure a slippery bunch of college kids and orphaned ex-pros showed up at the field on time and ready to play wasn’t always easy. “But Julio had a really good system,” said Trinidad-born defender Ronnie Simmons, now a housing inspector for the City of Baltimore. “He’d send his friends around to pick us up and eventually bought a school bus, painted it our colors, and bang we had a team bus!”

A Soccer melting pot

A host of top players pulled on the Club España jersey during the team’s short life at the top of the heap, when they went on a 33-game undefeated run and won both the National Amateur Cup in 1985 and the U.S. Open Cup, then the crown jewel of American soccer, in 1987.

Gyau went on to play for the U.S. National Team between 1989 and 1992, and so did Mike Brady, currently on the coaching staff at Duke University. Burly target-man Jean Harbor, though born in Nigeria, also went on to line up for the Stars and Stripes and was unlucky not to be included in the side that reached the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Versatile in attack or defense, Darryl Gee was a seasoned pro who once shared a locker-room with World Cup-winners Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto at the old New York Cosmos.

There were 12 nationalities represented in the side. Paul Emordi, a 6-foot 4-inch defender, was from Lagos. Dennis Ponce and Leonel Suazo both earned caps for the Honduran national team. Fernando Iturbe played in his native Spain, while coach Hugo Berly featured at the 1966 World Cup with Chile. “We even had a guy from Saudi Arabia; we called him Wabi (Abdulwhab al-Khaldi),” said big man Simmons, who recalls a few times when opposing fans dug too deep, suggesting he and his Club España teammates might go “back where we came from.”

“But we had a special chemistry,” said Trehy, who still plays in the over-40 leagues near his home in Nashville. “It was an interesting mix.”

“We gave each other a hard time - nothing was off limits: religion, race, anything,” said Simmons, who played a season as placekicker for Howard University’s football team. “And it was cool because it was like a real family that way. But on the field, we came together. No one could mess with us.”

Open Cup crown brings the curtain down

The contest that put Club España in the last four of the 1987 Open Cup was a heated one against four-time champions New York Greek-American. The second leg ended in a massive brawl that caught the attention of the local police. “That happened now and then with pride on the line, but it wasn’t a big deal,” said Gyau, whose family spans three generations of soccer in America. His father Nana won two African Cup of Nations titles with Ghana and played with the Washington Darts, while his son Joe, an American youth international, currently plays professionally in Germany.

The final-four was played in St. Louis’s Busch Stadium, the same ground where Club España won the Amateur Cup two years before, a result that led then-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry to declare a Club España Day in the city. After beating Mean Green of Dallas 3-0 in the semi-final, they faced off with a familiar foe in Mitre FC of Seattle, a side full of ex-pros from the then-defunct Seattle Sounders, who folded with the NASL.

The game was tense and decided by the first penalty shootout in the history of the Open Cup after 120 minutes of scoreless play. “It wasn’t the best game,” said Simmons, who remembers being dragged to the ground and breaking his collarbone. “It was the second season in a row I did that,” he chuckled.

Marcos Casas-Cordero, Emordi and Daniel Betancor scored from the spot to seal the title for the D.C. side, who lifted the trophy to bring the curtain down on a soccer supernova adapted to changing and challenging times. They never again played under the name Club España, a team Gyau calls “one of the best American clubs you never heard of.”

“There wasn’t really a professional outlet for us then like there is today. We couldn’t really make a living at it,” said Simmons, sighing on break from his work, the same every day, and remembering the time he was a champion. “We did it because we loved it.” 
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U.S. Open Cup Apr 12, 2017
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