Professional soccer has a long history of ups and downs in the United States. There has been one constant in the U.S., the Open Cup. The first Open Cup competition was held in 1914 and has been held every year since. This makes the tournament not only the oldest cup competition for soccer in the United States but also the country’s oldest annual tournament for team sports.
In its current form, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, as it’s formally called, is a single-elimination tournament comprised of 80 teams. What makes this tournament unique is that teams come from all levels. Tune into the Open Cup and you might find an MLS team with a budget exceeding $22 million facing a team that plays on the similar field as your son/daughter and whose star striker bears a striking resemblance to your bartender at Sticky Rice.
Amateur teams are usually weeded out in the early rounds but nearly every year one or two make a push deep into the tournament. Last year Christo’s FC was the Cinderella of the Open Cup Ball. Christo’s FC defeated the Richmond Kickers along the way much to the embarrassment of the local supporters.
As you’d expect the MLS has dominated this tournament in recent history. No lower division team has won since the Rochester Rhinos in 1999. The Rhinos managed to beat four MLS teams to claim the prize. The Charleston Battery managed to get into the final in 2008 but lost to semi-local D.C. United.
The Richmond Kickers own a bit of Open Cup history as well. In 1995, a year before MLS formed, the Kickers an amateur team went on an amazing run and captured the Open Cup. They are the last amateur team to achieve that feat.
USSoccer.com has an excellent article on the run titled OPEN CUP REWIND: ’95 KICKERS – ‘LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE’. If you’re at all familiar with MLS and/or the current Kickers team you’ll recognize a few names including current Kickers’ coach Leigh Cowlishaw. Even if you don’t follow soccer you’ll recognize the last name of striker Rob Ukrop.
Chemistry was fostered off the field as well as on. After all, these were young men in the prime of their lives. They were out of school and away from home for the first time. “We all lived together in the same apartment complex – the whole team – and we had a lot of fun that year,” said Causey, a future MLS goalkeeper who was given the nickname Tex by Bruce Arena during his UVA days. “We all knew each other, either as teammates or opponents,” added Williams. “We had a lot of fun hanging around the pool in the complex where we all lived.”
Ukrop doesn’t remember the nightlife getting in the way of their play. “We’d go to dinner, go to the bars, go dancing,” he said. “But when it was time to play, we were all business.”
On the field, the 1995 Kickers were indomitable. They won the USISL Premier League (today’s Premier Development League – PDL), edging Florida-based Cocoa Expos in the League Final. As momentum began to pick up, talk of a ‘Double’ began to seep into training and among the boys out by the pool. “We knew it would be a challenge to win two titles,” Williams said. “But we wanted to win trophies and everything that was out there to be had.” And those Kickers also had a little chip on their shoulder, according to Causey: “We knew we’d be mixing in with the pro players from the A-League in the Open Cup and we were excited to take on the big guys. We wanted to show them up.”
This is what makes the Open Cup worthy of your attention. It’s a tournament in which a group of guys hanging out at the pool can take on the pros and win. In the 2nd Round of a total of seven amateur teams pulled off upsets. Only one of those upsets was on the East Coast where Ocean City defeated Charlotte Independence 3-1. There are still a few East Coast amateur teams in the mix but they haven’t face any pro opponents yet.
It’s also worth noting that the Kickers made another strong run in 2011 and knocked off two MLS sides, the Columbus Crew in the third round, and Sporting Kansas City in the quarterfinals. Both those games were on the road which makes the wins all the more impressive.
On Wednesday the Richmond Kickers which play in the United Soccer League (USL) will take on USL rival Penn FC. The Kickers got to this point by barely beating amateur team Reading United in penalty kicks. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at RichmondKickers.com.
A more complete preview will be up on the site tomorrow.
If you’d like to learn more about the US Open Cup and follow along in future rounds head to the US Soccer website.
No Soccer but Richmond Kickers and Fans take to the Digital Pitch
Tune into ESPN.com for some hot 3 on 3 car soccer action.
The USL1 soccer season was set to start last weekend. Obviously that didn’t happen. Sports junkies have been reduced to watching reruns of games and marble racing. USL is attempting to fill that live sports void slightly with a Rocket League tournament. Rocket League is a cross-platform 3 on 3 game of car soccer. The cars are turbocharged and the field is enclosed so there are spins, flips, and all sorts of skill maneuvers that talented digital jockeys can pull off.
The worldwide leader in sports, ESPN is set to broadcast the USLeCup on its digital platforms. The Kickers’ Rocket League team consists of one member from the Front Office – Taylor Bostic, one from the youth squad – Aiden Hendricks, and one from the Red Army (the Kickers supporters group) – Mike Dillion. They’ll will be representing the city and its charity partner, Feed More in the tournament.
The United Soccer League (USL) announced today that its relationship with ESPN will extend to the esports realm, with the organization becoming the official streaming platform for USL eCup: Rocket League Edition, which will kick off on Wednesday afternoon on the ESPN app and ESPN.com.
The 32-team World Cup-style tournament features clubs from across the USL Championship and League One competing for bragging rights in the digital arena, and will also benefit local charities nominated by each club to receive donations from fans tuned into the broadcasts and the tournament over the next month.
The Kickers team takes the field on Thursday at 3PM against North Texas.
Some hot Rocket League action to whet your appetite.
Richmond Kickers Delay Start of USL1 Season by Two Weeks
Any scheduled pro club events taking place prior to the start of the season will be postponed to later dates.
The Richmond Kickers were set to take the field on March 28th. That has now been pushed back by at least two weeks. They released a statement that will look all to familiar in the coming weeks.
Kickers Announce Stadium Improvements
Mayor Stoney and City Stadium’s councilwoman, Stephanie Lynch were on hand along with other city leaders to announce stadium upgrades.
The Richmond Kickers are pleased to announce a number of enhancements to the nearly century old City Stadium. Built in 1929, City Stadium is seeing the first major renovations since 1994. Since 2018, the Kickers have put in close to $2 million of upgrades to the facility.
“Mayor Stoney and City Stadium’s councilwoman, Stephanie Lynch, have been incredible advocates for the Richmond Kickers as we look to rehabilitate Richmond’s oldest and most iconic sports facility,” said Richmond Kickers Chairman, Rob Ukrop.“Built in the 1920’s, the last time major upgrades were made to the City Stadium was in 1994 in preparation for hosting the 1995 College Cup, the NCAA Men’s Soccer Final Four.”
Ahead of the 2020 USL League One season, the major upgrades will include new field lighting from Musco Lighting, fiber installed inside the stadium from Segra in order to bring Wi-Fi into the stadium to enhance the fan experience, and a new field irrigation system. The project manager for the upgrades has been Justin Cornwell of Draper Aden Associates. E.J. Wade Construction are the general contractors.
“The Kickers are valuable partners who not only contribute to the development of our professional sports economy but also promote wellness and engagement in the beautiful game throughout our community,” said Mayor Stoney.“We appreciate the Kickers’ contributions to City Stadium and the City of Richmond, and we’re pleased to be able to provide upgrades to this venerable venue, which will enhance the fan experience and support the team’s commitment to excellence on and off the field.”