On The Radar: Second-Round U.S. Open Cup Matches To Watch

Which second-round games should you tune into this week for your U.S. Open Cup entertainment?

Image: Joe Craven

With the second-round matches of the U.S. Open Cup underway this week and the third-round matches on deck, Orange & Blue Press’s Connor Paquette and Geoff Tebbetts take a look at the higher-profile games you should be watching this week.

Las Vegas Lights FC (USLC) vs. Cal FC (UPSL)
Tuesday, May 7th, 10:30 PM

Welcome to the “WynalDerby”, ladies and gentlemen. (Okay, so that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.)

National Soccer Hall of Famer Eric Wynalda was one of the key figures that led amateur-squad Cal FC to immense success in 2012 as its head coach. After making it to the Open Cup tournament and knocking off Kitsap Pumas in the first round, Cal FC went on to slug the USL’s Wilmington Hammerheads, 4-0. They then outlasted Portland 1-0 in the next round, one of the biggest shockers by an amateur qualifier against an MLS squad to date. (Seattle would smother the dream run, 5-0, on their own path to the finals.)

Wynalda’s departure to Atlanta Silverbacks the next year derailed all that momentum, but Cal FC has qualified numerous times since then. Their return to the limelight was interrupted in qualification last year—literally—by the stadium’s lights going out before the game ended, but the replay win against Cal United brought them back to prominence. Their win over FC Mulhouse means they have their first advancement past the first round since that 2012 squad. Veteran midfielders from that 2012 team, Richard Menjivar and Danny Barrera, have rejoined the club, perhaps for one more run to USOC stardom.

It’s only fitting that the team has to go through Wynalda to get to the next round. Las Vegas managed to get to the third round last year, only to stumble against PDL squad FC Golden State. Now Las Vegas has hired Wynalda to retool its offense with ex-Cal FC forward Irvin Parra leading the squad in scoring. With so many common denominators between the teams, this matchup could be far from formulaic.

Orange County SC (USLC) vs. Orange County FC (NPSL)
Wednesday, May 15th, 10:30 PM

Place your bets! FC or SC—which pseudo-Americanized moniker for clubs of the beautiful game is truly the best? Despite calling the same pitch home in Irvine, California, Wednesday at sundown will be our first-ever chance to find out.

Both Orange County clubs were founded roughly one decade ago, but they have travelled much different paths leading to their own unique successes. Orange County FC has steadily risen from the sixth-tier SoCal Premier League in 2007 to the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) in 2017, earning Elite-Eight playoff finishes over the last two seasons. In 2018, the team accomplished an eyebrow-raising 3rd-place finish among the 94 teams.

Orange County SC, recently transitioned to the USL Championship, is helmed by 2018 MVP finalist and ex-FC Cincinnati midfielder Aodhan Quinn. Last season, they dominated their way to finish atop their conference table, tied for second overall in the league. Unfortunately, second place would become a theme as OCSC would eventually fall to Phoenix Rising FC in the Western Conference finals.

While both OC teams made it to the second round of the U.S. Open Cup last year, OCFC stumbled against USL-level Fresno, and OCSC were thumped at home by FC Golden State. Two sour endings to promising seasons. Two chips, one for either shoulder. One County to claim. A rivalry is born.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (USLC) vs. Dayton Dutch Lions (USL2)
Tuesday, May 14th, 7 PM

What year is it? No matter—you probably forgot that these two teams once were league competitors. (Don’t worry; we did too.)

Back in the day, when USL Championship was still known as USL Pro, Dayton and Pittsburgh were close rivals in the League’s National Division. Starting in 2011, Dayton specifically wasn’t much of a threat. They posted an abysmal two wins and 16 losses that year, but of the few teams they managed to overthrow, the elusive first win was against Pittsburgh. And yet surprisingly, it was Dayton who made it to the quarterfinals of the 2012 U.S. Open Cup, even going so far as to knock out the Columbus Crew along the way.

Since their last head-to-head meeting, Pittsburgh has reinvented their soccer identity; in 2018, they adopted a new crest, matched their colors to the city’s iconic yellow and black, and tagged an “SC” to the end of their name to cap it off. The hire of Bob Lilley has brought them back to a competitive level, but they’ve yet to make a significant impact in the Open Cup. The Riverhounds haven’t gotten past the 4th round since 2001, when they almost beat Chicago in the quarterfinals.

These two clubs have a brief but competitive history against one another. Amazingly, it’s Dayton who holds the head-to-head advantage, having a 4-2-2 record against the Riverhounds during their four-year USL Pro stint. Thus, if Pittsburgh wishes to continue their evolution and reach the pinnacle of lower division soccer, they must first smite their ancient rival.

Greenville Triumph SC (USL1) vs. Charleston Battery (USLC)
Wednesday, May 15th, 7 PM

There hasn’t been much competition in South Carolina over the past few decades. Charleston has enjoyed a healthy 25 years as the preeminent soccer club in The Palmetto State. The Battery have arguably been the strongest lower-tier team in the U.S. Open Cup during the MLS Era, twice making it as far as the semifinals and finishing as runners-up to D.C. United in 2008. The last time they faced another South Carolina team in the U.S. Open Cup was back in 2002 when they beat the Greenville Lions, 3-0.

Speaking of Greenville, when the Triumph joined USL League One this year, the team rolled high to hire former FC Cincinnati head coach John Harkes to the same position. It probably was the biggest splash in a league that has started a little like a ripple. But while Greenville itself is in the middle of the table after ten games, the Triumph’s big win against rival South Georgia last week set up an interesting matchup.

Picture it—Cincinnati, 2016. Harkes had just led upstart FC Cincinnati to the USL playoffs. In the team’s first ever playoff game, the Orange & Blue were dealt a devastating 2-1 loss to…the Charleston Battery, the same team Harkes faces this week.

Perhaps both sides wouldn’t consider this to be a revenge game, but this is the first USL Championship squad Harkes has faced since then. In addition, he’s brought in a few players from that 2016 FCC team (goalkeeper Dallas Jaye, defenders Evan Lee and Tyler Polak) who probably still remember that loss pretty well too.

OKC Energy FC (USLC) vs. NTX Rayados (North Texas PSA)
Tuesday, May 14th, 8:30 PM

There could arguably be bigger games this week between beefier USL squads, but none are as intriguing as this David and Goliath battle in which you don’t know who is who.

Surprisingly, the local qualifier teams have done well to get past the first round this year. Five of the eight qualifiers won their matchups last week, but the Rayados possibly had the hardest route to get there. Due to heavy rains, the Rayados found their flight cancelled, forcing the team to drive 320 miles to play the Little Rock Rangers. Despite an early lead, the Rayados were down 2-1 at halftime to the Rangers. After going down to 10 men from a late red card, the Rayados pulled off a miracle equalizer in stoppage time, then won the shootout to advance.

The miracle stoppage-time equalizer is exactly how these two teams played their game last year. Down 2-1 to the Energy, the Rayados managed a 90th-minute penalty kick to save their tournament, then pounded three extra-time goals to stun the USL squad 5-2. The second-round loss was OKC’s earliest exit ever in the tournament, so it’s pretty evident the Energy will want to exact revenge on their own turf this time.

Phoenix Rising (USLC) vs. New Mexico United (USLC)
Wednesday, May 15th, 9:30 PM

Phoenix has taken their name to heart and lit the lower division soccer world on fire in recent years. As a player-owner, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba showed the good people of Arizona an electrifying atmosphere that most sports can’t imagine reaching at this level. They continued their charge in atmosphere on the field, making the 2018 USL finals only to fall to the defending Champions, Louisville City FC. But although successful in the community and in their own league, the squad has yet to do serious damage in Open Cup play; they’ve only made it to the 4th round once, back in 2014 when they were Arizona United SC.

To spite Phoenix further, the hottest story in the Southwest now resides in New Mexico United. One of seven expansion teams in USL Championship, NMU have taken the league by storm, bringing in over 12,000 fans per game at Isotopes Field in Albuquerque. The newest team sporting yellow and black has come out swinging, dropping only one game on the season. They’re led by the high-octane forwards Kevaughn Frater and Santi Moar; each of whom are tied for the Western Conference lead in goals scored possess both Player-of-the-Month and Goal-of-the-Month honors to start the season.

How will their neighbors respond? For the most part, Phoenix has enjoyed isolation of marketplace in the Southwest, as their closest true rivals were in the distant lands of Texas and California. But with Phoenix’s slow start to the season and New Mexico rising to the East, a new threat has emerged. Yellow and Black versus Red and Black—the border war begins.

Third-round matchups will be played on or around May 29th, with fourth-round matchups (and FC Cincinnati’s game) announced the following Thursday, May 30th.

And They’re Off: 6 Possible U.S. Open Cup Dark Horses

The U.S. Open Cup begins again. What lower-tier teams are expected to go far this year?

Source: Ryan Meyer Photography

It has been almost one year since FC Cincinnati was accepted into Major League Soccer’s grandest stage. There have been perks from the call to the expanded field—scintillating match-ups against deeper talent, travel to bigger cities, the meaty prospects of a “Hell Is Real” Derby rematch twice a year—but a major downgrade is the fact that the Orange & Blue are no longer the underdogs. That also means we’ll have to wait before we see a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match that matters.

Fans in the Queen City owe a lot to the tournament that shined a light on the underdogs the brightest. FCC’s miracle run in 2017 was amplified even more by teams such as Miami FC blazing through Orlando and Atlanta, Sacramento Republic crushing Real Salt Lake, and local-qualifier darlings Christos FC rattling D.C. United. While there still hasn’t been a non-MLS team in the finals since 2008, each year another lower-tier team makes us believe.

For now, those “underdog” days are over for FC Cincinnati. The Orange & Blue now join the competition in the fourth round with 20 other MLS teams. However, we cannot forget that the Open Cup lifted our profile even higher than before, and that’s why we should be following the 106th edition of the Cup from the first round (which is still easy to do with the games all on ESPN+). We owe a lot to those phantasmic games in 2017.

But which teams could make a similar run for the Cup this year? This article will cover the lower leagues involved and the teams that could make the deepest invasion in the open competition.

Local Qualifiers – NTX Rayados

Since 2014, there has been at least one amateur team that had survived qualification rounds and climbed all the way to the fourth round to face an MLS squad. While a “local qualifier” has not managed to get further than this, last year’s highest-advancing amateur club, NTX Rayados from Dallas, TX, could likely repeat the run.

The glut of MLS, USL, and NPSL squads means that only 8 local amateur teams make the competition this year (compared to 13 last year). However, the Rayados have been a powerhouse in the United States Adult Soccer Association and have qualified the last eight years. Granted, they have only gotten out of the first round twice, but last year’s squad scored three times in added extra time against Oklahoma City Energy FC for the second-round upset.

While the team was hammered 5-0 by eventual champions Houston Dynamo, the team has pulled in help from a national junior-college champion team to keep the squad young and talented. It took two long penalty-kick wins to make it this far this year, including one that went eleven rounds, but NTX could easily find themselves in a rematch against OKC if they can get past Little Rock in the first round.

USL League Two – Des Moines Menace

Remember when FC Cincinnati had a mini Ohio derby against AFC Cleveland in 2017? If Cleveland didn’t get past the first round, FCC would have had to travel to face the Menace in the second round. While Des Moines missed qualifying last year, their 13-1-0 record in 2018 gets them back into the tournament for the 11th time in 18 years.

Although the Menace failed to make it past the quarterfinals in the USL PDL tournament last year, the team returns a great deal of talent. The team has brought in Mark McKeever to helm the team this year, who led the Mississippi Brilla to the third round in the Open Cup last year. The Menace also bring back 2018 USL PDL MVP Ryosuke Kinoshita—the University of Louisville forward scored 17 goals for the Menace last year. He could be key in helping the team reach heights they haven’t seen since 2005, back when they beat USL1 teams Pittsburgh, Charleston, and Atlanta to get to the fourth round.

The run might not be easy though—a win means the Menace would have to host St. Louis FC in the second round. Considering they lost to St. Louis back in 2015, perhaps there’s an opportunity for an upset.

USL League One – Richmond Kickers?

Is there really a team in the USL’s brand-new Division III league that could go far in the Open Cup? Only six of the ten teams are unaffiliated and can compete, so the pickings are slim in the first place. Much of the meat in the league would have to face the top teams in the USL (Nashville SC, Charleston Battery, Indy Eleven), and Forward Madison would have to send an untested team 1,400 miles to face El Paso.

We threw a dart at a map of the U.S., and it landed nearest to Richmond. Why not roll with the team that won it all way back in 1995 and reached the semifinals in 2011? Granted, they have a steep challenge ahead of them in drawing NCFC if they get to the second round, but young striker Joe Gallardo has done well to start the season with 3 goals in his first six games with the Kickers. Maybe lighting strikes a few times in a row?

NPSL – Miami FC

While USL League Two (then PDL) has been considered the developmental half of Division IV soccer, the NPSL has to be considered the more regionally competitive half of the tier. The league has the most semi-pro representation in the U.S. Open Cup this year (14 teams), and it’s likely that the former NASL giants Miami FC could progress the furthest in the tournament this year.

Miami FC took major steps back last year in more ways than one. Forced to flee to NPSL when the NASL collapsed, the semi-pro squad was unable to get out of the USOC second round last year. However, the team still rode the hot feet of midfielder Dylan Mares and striker Ariel Martinez to win the 2018 NPSL Title, and the team’s only gotten better by signing ex-Red Bulls pro Lloyd Sam and former Toronto goalkeeper Mark Pais.

Can Miami FC repeat the success that got them past Orlando and Atlanta in 2017? That might be a bit of a harder challenge, but Miami FC’s 10-0 win over division rivals Storm FC this past week ought to strike fear in the USL Championship and League One teams. Miami FC should be able to trounce local-qualifiers Florida Soccer Soldiers on their way to facing a shaky Charlotte Independence squad next week. The step beyond that, however, could lead to a clash of ex-NASL giants…

USL Championship – Tampa Bay Rowdies

Part of me says that I shouldn’t play my chips this way. Tampa Bay has had that rock-star persona over the past few years with big names like Joe Cole and Marcel Schäfer gracing the pitch. However, this incarnation of the Rowdies has not gotten far in Open Cup play. Their biggest win was a third-round upset of Seattle in 2013, but they’ve never gotten past the fourth round since starting in 2010.

Why should this year be any different? First of all, it feels like the facelift to personnel has finally made the team younger and hungrier. 2018 felt like a sendoff to multiple players heading into retirement (Cole, Schäfer, Michael Nanchoff, Georgi Hristov), so it became the right time for new coach Neill Collins to stockpile talent. MLS discards such as midfielder Andrew Tinari and goalkeeper John McCarthy have fit in well, while forward Sebastián Guenzatti is leaving his mark as the new strike force. Talented USL standouts such as Zach Steinberger and Antoine Hoppenot have filled out the rest of the roster.

With that complete roster, Tampa Bay has started the season as one of two USL teams still undefeated. Considering they have the weekend off before their second-round matchup against local USL League Two talent, as well as a home stretch after that, Tampa Bay could go far in the Open Cup. If the luck of the draw means they don’t have to travel great distances, I could see them upsetting an Orlando City or Atlanta United squad down the line.

USL Championship – Las Vegas Lights FC

The immense explosion in USL expansion has created scenarios where USL Championship squads will likely face each other or a USL League One squad in the second round, so predicting an easy route to the third round isn’t so simple this year. Six teams in the Western Conference for the USL Championship will have to slug it out against each other, leaving some room for the untested teams.

The most intriguing of those teams appears to be Las Vegas. Their inaugural 2018 season was more circus than soccer with pre-game llamas, money-drop promotions, and a head coach who smoked in the stands during a preseason tilt against Vancouver. However, the hiring of MLS stalwart Eric Wynalda suggested that the team was ready to be taken seriously. Midfielder Irvin Parra has come back to the USL revitalized, scoring five goals in the last five games, while goalkeeper Thomas Olsen has started the season with four clean sheets.

Las Vegas will take on a relative lightweight in either FC Mulhouse (NPSL) or Cal FC (UPSL), and either team will have to travel far to get there. If Las Vegas win and get paired against Reno 1868 FC in the third round, the in-state rivalry could spark a streak.

Are the Lights ready for MLS competition? Perhaps. The 5-1 victory over Toronto in the preseason might be a measuring stick for such matters. If Vegas can make it to the fourth round and avoid matchups against the Los Angeles teams, I see an upset in the cards.

What teams in this year’s competition will go the furthest? What giant-killing opportunities lurk on the horizon? The only way we’ll find out is by letting it all play out to completion.

Know Your Enemy: Detroit City FC

FC Cincinnati starts its 2018 U.S. Open Cup run against one of the most counter-culture soccer teams in the country, Detroit City FC.

imageRBMatchup: FC Cincinnati (USL) vs. Detroit City FC (NPSL)
2018 U.S. Open Cup, 2nd Round
When: May 16th (Wednesday), 7:30 PM
Where: Gettler Stadium, University of Cincinnati

Over the short span of two years, FC Cincinnati has matured quickly in the U.S. Open Cup. With the team’s unfathomable trek into the 2017 tournament behind them, it tends to get forgotten that they almost got bounced by AFC Cleveland in the second round. The defending NPSL champions held FCC’s feet to the fire and lasted well into extra time before Djiby’s header in the 115th minute sealed the 1-0 win.

While 2016 was an initiation to the U.S. Open Cup, 2017 was an exploration within it. It’s now 2018, and FC Cincinnati’s hunt for gold also now makes them the hunted. The team going after them just so happens to be one of the most colorful, anti-establishment teams out there, Detroit City FC.

FC Cincinnati’s quest to enter MLS has clashed with the Motor City’s own expansion committee. However, if you were to ask a member of the Northern Guard Supporters—DCFC’s primary supporters group—about the possibility of joining MLS, they would likely turn the offer down. The general sentiment is that the team doesn’t want to be affiliated with any attempt to join.

How Detroit City got here

DCFC’s quest to this point went through a familiar route—the Michigan Bucks. Hosting the Bucks at their home grounds, Detroit City got on the board first in the 57th minute. A stray header pinged off the crossbar, only for forward Shawn Lawson to smash the rebound in from up close. However, the Bucks equalized off an Alfonso Pineirho penalty kick in the 84th minute.

Despite a Greg Janicki red card in the 95th minute, Detroit City got through extra time with only 10 men. Although they were down early in sudden death, goalkeeper Nate Steinwascher made a key save late in the session, and forward Roddy Green scored the decider to win 6-5 in penalty kicks. DCFC now makes their way to the U.S. Open Cup second round for the second time ever.

Image: Boys in Rouge, Robert Sherman

What we should know about DCFC

While DCFC is more known for their renegade approach to soccer, there is still a lot to learn. Detroit City FC, who are ya?!

  • Detroit City FC started in 2010 without any affiliation or solid ties to previous teams from Detroit. It took a spark from one future owner forming a recreational league, the Detroit City Futbol League (DCFL). From the positive response and growth within the league, the idea for a team blossomed. Five of the players from two rival teams put DCFC together as an amateur team in the NPSL in 2012, only for the attendance in the first year to balloon to over almost 1,300 per game.
  • DCFC is helmed by Ben “Caesar” Pirrman. The head coach got the nickname when he accidentally said “Caesar” instead of “season” during an interview. In Pirrman’s five years, DCFC has won a division title, made the NPSL playoffs three times, and qualified for the U.S. Open Cup four times.
  • In 2017, DCFC went 9-2-3 during the regular season, reaching the National Semifinals before losing to Midland-Odessa in penalty kicks. The record crowd of 7,533 was no surprise. Detroit City led the NPSL in attendance last year at almost 6,000 per game at Keyworth Stadium.
  • Detroit City has faced a USL team once before in U.S. Open Cup play, losing to Louisville City FC 3-1 in penalty kicks in 2016. In fact, of the five games Detroit City has played in the U.S. Open Cup, four finished in penalty kicks (two wins, two losses).
  • DCFC has managed to maintain quite a bit of their roster over the offseason. Starting midfielder Cyrus Saydee is the last player left from their debut 2012 season, and DCFC’s goal scorer from last week, Shawn Lawson, led the team last year with nine goals. The team has also returned captain David Edwardson, vice-captain Seb Harris, and defenders Stephen Carroll and Omar Sinclair. They recently signed former USMNT and Colorado Rapids player Joshua Gatt as a winger. Overall, DCFC has 12 players who were on the team last year, a decent turnover for the squad.
  • The last time Detroit City FC played in Cincinnati was in 2015, back when the Cincinnati Saints played in the NPSL. On June 20th, the final match of their “rivalry” started with an early Saints goal and a second-half red card to Detroit City, only for Le Rouge to push three late goals in for a 3-1 win. The celebration by the Northern Guard set off so many smoke bombs that the fire department had to pay a visit.
  • While the Northern Guard has shown themselves to have a rough exterior both in person and online, they and the team itself have done much for the community in Detroit. Since 2013, the team has focused on a local charity each year and have created special kits for each organization to be worn at a home game. The Northern Guard has also set up “Let’s Make Roots”, a ticket distribution initiative for kids and families who are not able to afford to come to matches. (This is similar to the “Sports Games for Kids” initiative in Cincinnati.)

The difference in vision and philosophy between FCC and Detroit City should be the main fuel for this opening game. If FC Cincinnati’s drive in the past was to show MLS teams like Columbus and Chicago that they could compete, that same drive will be coming from Le Rouge and the Northern Guard in a match that has the potential to become an instant classic.

(Our thanks to Andrew Goode from Boys in Rouge for providing feedback and information for this article.)

Match Photos: FC Cincinnati 1 – 0 AFC Cleveland

Images courtesy of Joe Schmuck of FC Cincinnati’s 1-0 extra time victory over AFC Cleveland in the US Open Cup on Wednesday.


Relive FC Cincinnati’s most recent victory with 25 images of Wednesday’s US Open Cup victory against AFC Cleveland courtesy of JES Photography/Joe Schmuck. When browsing the gallery below for any given image, a high resolution version can be found by scrolling down and clicking “View Full Size.”

Also see: FC Cincinnati 1 – 0 AFC Cleveland: Talking Points from Ohio Open Cup Derby

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s home stand. A revenge match against Bethlehem Steel FC is up next on Saturday.


Know Your Enemy: AFC Cleveland

The 104th U.S. Open Cup is underway with FC Cincinnti ready to host AFC Cleveland in the second round. But who exactly are the reigning NPSL champions??

Photo Credit: Brent Durken/6th City Photography

Matchup: FC Cincinnati (USL) vs. AFC Cleveland (NPSL)
2017 U.S. Open Cup, 2nd Round
When: May 17th (Wednesday), 7PM
Where: Nippert Stadium, University of Cincinnati

As the European leagues march towards their final games, the soccer seasons within the United States pyramid of leagues have started in full force. While the seasons for Division IV teams and lower have started in earnest, there is another prize that potential giant-killers dream about—the prestige of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the oldest knock-out soccer tournament in the United States.

With the first round of the 104th U.S. Open Cup already completed last week, the semi-professional and amateur leagues now turn their attention to the Division II squads from the USL and NASL. With FC Cincinnati prepared to enter the fray, the boys in Orange & Blue are faced with an opponent that feels both familiar and unknown—in-state rivals from the Northeast who will be traveling down I-71 to encounter FC Cincy in the second round.

No, this isn’t the “Crew” from Central Ohio, but the “Royals” from the shores of Lake Erie—AFC Cleveland, your 2016 national NPSL champs, are coming to Nippert.

AFC Cleveland comes into this second-round US Open Cup match with momentum behind them, having recently marched into Iowa and taken down the Des Moines Menace of the PDL, 3-1. While the first half was a quiet 45 minutes with no scoring, the Royals picked up the pace with the wind at their back in the second half, scoring on a penalty kick in the 78th minute to take an early lead.

While Des Moines managed to pick up an equalizer in the 85th minute, AFC Cleveland pulled away with a pair of late goals, including a high-corner goal off the far post in the 90th minute from Chris Cvecko for the game-winner. Considering that the Menace have had their own history of winning (four straight years of USOC opening-round wins), the Royals’ win at Valley Stadium is no small feat.

But that still leaves a question that echoes from the Bailey unanswered—AFC Cleveland, who are ya?

  • AFC Cleveland started in 2012 from the ashes of the USL’s Cleveland City Stars (2007-09) and the PDL’s Cleveland Internationals (2004-10). Since 2012, the team has steadily crept into prominence, going from a 4-7-1 record in 2012 to an 8-2-0 record in 2016.
  • The Royals blazed through the competition in 2016, giving up only 9 goals during the regular season and defeating the Sonoma County Sol 4-2 in the 2016 NPSL Championship. Veteran Vinny Bell, who has been with the team since its inception, scored twice to earn Man-of-the-Match honors.
  • While they do not play a year-long slate of games, AFC Cleveland has turned their home turf into a fortress—the Royals won all of their home games last season and have not lost at Stan Skoczen Stadium since 2014 (over 1,000 days). The Royals managed to keep that streak intact on Saturday’s home opener, despite allowing Dayton Dynamo to knot the final score at 3-3.
  • In their first year in the US Open Cup, AFC Cleveland made it to the second round in 2016, losing to St. Louis FC, 2-0.
  • The Royals, much like FC Cincinnati, are coming into the 2017 season with a new coach, Mike Sesar. Sesar has been active at many levels as both a player and a coach in the Cleveland area and has been coaching locally since 2005. AFC Cleveland brings back two of their veterans, striker Vinny Bell and defenseman Tom Beck, for a sixth year.  They have also beefed up their offense with former Carolina Railhawk forward Ben Truax and forward Reymar Klechko, who scored the late insurance goal vs. Des Moines.
  • The Royals’ main supporters’ group is the 6th City Syndicate, a group with a healthy obsession with Zod, the Cookie Monster, and a concept that can only be summarized as…“WAMPUS”. While the group and its supporters have been vague about what “WAMPUS” actually means, they will tell you that “…it’s more of a philosophy, a lifestyle…”, so it may be best to share a friendly beverage with a supporter to understand the WAMPUS way of life.
  • We’ve been told that the “AFC” in “AFC Cleveland” doesn’t stand for “Athletic Football Club” or “American Football Conference” (for you Bengals fans out there). It actually means “A Fans’ Club”, something the club describes as “a nod to the club’s desire to create an organization for soccer fans by soccer fans”.

Now that you know a little more about the team itself, be sure to watch FC Cincinnati start a new in-state rivalry with the Royals, as it hosts AFC Cleveland in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup.

While this isn’t the familiar scrum of a “Dirty River Derby” with Louisville City FC or a dream scenario of a “Hell Is Real” Cup against Columbus Crew SC, AFC Cleveland’s recent success and sound soccer play on the pitch could give the local squad a run for their money and perhaps a stake as the champions of Interstate 71.