Hooray!! It’s cup season in the United States. Today kicks off the 99th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The first round begins with teams from the PDL, NPSL, and USASA taking on one another to see who will play the NASL/USL teams. MLS teams won’t enter until Round 3 on May 29th, but that isn’t a reason for MLS teams and fans to ignore the first two rounds.
As the level of play improves in MLS, there is a natural trickle down effect to the rest of the U.S. soccer pyramid. Scanning through the lower divisions shows that there is plenty of talent that has had success on the MLS level. Pablo Campos and Ryan Cochrane are playing with the San Antonio Scorpions, Jamie Watson is playing with Orlando City, and Austin de la Luz is playing with the Carolina Railhawks.
The player movement goes the other way as well. Plenty of MLS players have come from the lower leagues. Real Salt Lake’s Jonny Steele has bounced around the lower leagues but has shown he belongs in MLS. Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso spent a year with the Charleston Battery, as did Lamar Neagle. Brian Ching spent time with the USL Seattle Sounders. Additionally, every year young MLS players go on loan to NASL/USL clubs and gain great experience. D.C. United’s Conor Shanosky is with Fort Lauderdale and Bright Dike is with the LA Blues.
There is plenty of talent out there and the best place to see that talent on showcase is in the U.S. Open Cup. For players in the lower leagues, this is their opportunity to show that they belong. The eyes of the soccer community will be on them and if a player can turn in a big performance, it may eventually lead to a trial elsewhere or even a contract. While the scouting structure in this country is getting better for identifying talent, it isn’t perfect. Many players slip through the cracks or even develop later. The Open Cup gives these players a chance to show the scouts they made a mistake and that they deserve a chance.
The first round, featuring purely amateur teams (Kitsap Pumas excluded) offers a great chance to discover some hidden gems. Many of the teams, especially the USASA and NPSL teams, have a strong ethnic tie to their teams. Many players from the local community, who were never plugged into the system in this country find their way to these teams. Similarly, some of the best college talent is on display in the PDL and NPSL teams. Many of the current MLS stars have gotten their first experience in a professional environment at the PDL level.
Some teams to watch out for in the first round include the Chicago Fire Premier, perennially a strong team in the PDL; the Carolina Dynamo and the Michigan Bucks, two strong PDL teams that draw in top collegiate talent; and USASA’s Agean Hawks and PSA Elite that have players with plenty of higher level experience.
Apart from a developmental standpoint, these games offer pure excitement. Because there is a lot parity in American soccer, these games are typically close and feature teams hungry for a win. This produces well-played, intense soccer that is extremely enjoyable. However, the greatest thing about cup play are the upsets. Upsets may not happen in Round 1, but some of these amateur teams will knock off the pros in Round 2 and then earn the chance to play against MLS sides. After that, maybe they catch the MLS reserves on a bad day and then the amateur team picks up the upset. You never know with this tournament and that is what makes it so exciting.
So, if you are near one of the matches taking place today, get out and support your local teams. Who knows, maybe you’ll be watching the next MLS star. For more information about the matches and to follow the action, go to http://thecup.us/.
The USA will wear their blue away jersey against Jamaica in their World Cup qualifier on Friday night.
Germany is one of the top teams ever and they will play the US on Sunday.
The adidas Nitrocharge is the most talked about new cleat in years. It was released on May 15 and will take your pitch by storm.
The Nike Hypervenom is the latest cleat silo from Nike. It will change your game and is worn by the game's top players.
Barcelona will wear this new home soccer jersey next season. They also have a new away jersey. Get them both.
Manchester City will try and win back the Premier League title with this new soccer jersey from Nike!
Support the USA national team with an official 2013 Centennial soccer jersey from Nike. Its Official.
Neymar's move from Santos to Barcelona is no doubt the biggest summer transfer.
The hoop soccer jersey is classic and cool. The USA hooped jersey is perfect for every fan. Get in the Gear.
England will debut their new away jersey against Brazil at the Maracana Stadium on Sunday. Get in the Gear