The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup saw it’s second round of play last night as amateur and professional teams around the country sought their piece of rich soccer tradition. The US Open Cup is the longest running soccer competition in the United States and at 104 editions it is the third longest running open football tournament in the world. In stages 1-3 amateur, semi-pro and lower level professional teams battle to advance to stage 4 when MLS teams enter the fray. The winner of the tournament qualifies to enter the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League so it’s more than bragging rights on the line. The winner of the Champions League qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup so playing in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup can propel a team to the highest levels of football.
Two Arizona teams entered the Cup this year. FC Tucson is a Premiere Development League team in Tucson. The PDL is seen as the top level of amateur play in America and many players that enter the PDL go on to play professionally. Phoenix Rising FC is a USL (United Soccer League) professional team in Phoenix. The Rising have made waves this year when they announced a new name and branding (formerly Arizona United), a new soccer complex in Scottsdale, successfully submitted an application to MLS for an expansion opportunity and just last month brought on world football superstar Didier Drogba.
Both Teams Have Been Here Before
Neither teams are strangers to US Open Cup success. In 2013 FC Tucson made it to the third round when they lost to former MLS Cup champions the Houston Dynamos. FC Tucson, known by fans as the “Men in Black”, was the first ever PDL club to defeat pro teams in back-to back matches. Tucson won a $15,000 prize awarded to the PDL club with the best finish in the US Open Cup that year. The Rising have gone even deeper into the Cup tournament advancing to the 4th round in their inaugural season as Arizona United Soccer Club. After defeating a PDL and USL Pro team in rounds 2 and 3 the AZ team faced the powerhouse and eventual champions of the MLS, LA Galaxy. Although winning at half time 1-0, Arizona fell to Galaxy 2-1 to give Arizona it’s best ever performance in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
And Now There is One
Last night FC Tucson traveled to Colorado Springs to face USL (United Soccer League) Switchbacks FC. This was their first ever meeting. The first half would be a defensive battle with both teams seeing chances but no goals. A 0-0 tie looked promising for Tucson as they entered the break. But that was not to be the case. The Switchbacks must have gotten a fiery speech in the locker room as they found the net less than a minute into second half play. Jung-Yeong Park of South Korea beat two Tucson defenders to lay down the goal. Less than two minutes later Diego Gutierrez would find Kevaughn Frater who was the leading scorer for Red Stripe Premier League side Harbour View based in Kingston, Jamaica. And just like that, in less than 3 minutes of the second half of play, the game was over. FC Tucson regained their composure but the damage was done. Their US Open Cup run would end on a 2-0 loss to Switchbacks FC.
Phoenix Rising will advance to Round 3 of the Cup after a win over PDL team Fresno Fuego. The game also began with defense on point with 30 minutes of scoreless play. But back to back goals seemed to be the theme as Eric Avila followed Kody Wakasa to put Phoenix up 2-0 in the 33rd minute. Matthew Hurlow-Paonessa and Mike Seth teamed up for the clubs third goal as Hurlow-Paonessa sent a precision pass into the center of the box, giving Seth an easy tap in in the 54th minute. Fresno’s only threat would come from a Felipe Souza goal in the 59th minute.
Rising advance to the 3rd round of the Cup and face SF Deltas of the NASL (North American Soccer League). Good news for us, this game is at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex in Scottsdale on May 31st. Check the AZSoccer Events Calendar for all of the detals.
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