Eyes on the pros: For the ninth time in club history the Nor'easters will compete in the country's oldest cup competition
The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) announced the field for the 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and for the second year in a row, and the ninth time in club history, the Ocean City Nor'easters will be a part of it.
The Nor'easters join 19 other Premier Development League teams in the 94-team field that is scheduled to kick off on May 9. In the First Round, Ocean City will face another amateur team in the opening round with the winner advancing to Round 2 where they will likely face a professional side from the United Soccer League. The draw for the First Round (and potential Second Round matchups) will be announced on April 4.
"We can't wait to open up the 2018 season in the Lamar Hunt U.S Open Cup and add to the club's achievements in this historic tournament," said Nor'easters head coach John Thompson. "This year's format allows for a lot of regional match-ups and the possibility of matches against clubs we would normally not get to play against. The goal is always to make the Fourth Round which is when the MLS clubs join the competition, we achieved this in 2009 and 2013 and both occasions were the best nights in club's history."
One of the biggest changes to the 2018 competition is the increase in prize money. The winner will receive $300,000 (up from $250,000 last year) and the runner-up will receive $100,000 (up from $60,000) and the USL team and the amateur team that advances the farthest in the competition will each receive $25,000 (up from $15,000).
"We are excited to be back in the US Open Cup for the second year running," said Nor'easters general manager Giancarlo Granese Jr. "As a club we are looking forward to making another cup run and our goal is to see our players on the same field with professional players. The Open Cup is always an exciting time because our players get a chance to potentially test themselves against the pros and it gives our players some tremendous national exposure."
Modeled after England's FA Cup, the US Open Cup is the second-oldest continually-operating soccer tournament in the world and has been the national championship for the United States since it launched in 1913. The tournament is open to professional and amateur teams from Major League Soccer (MLS) to Sunday beer league teams and everything in between.
The Nor'easters are one of the most successful amateur teams in the country in the US Open Cup. Only two amateur teams in the country (Michigan Bucks and the Des Moines Menace, both of the PDL) have more Open Cup wins (9) and professional team upsets (5) than Ocean City has as a PDL team. Of those five wins over professional opposition, all of them were shutouts in front of their home fans at Carey Stadium ("The Beach House"), outscoring the pros by a combined score of 10-0.
The first pro upset came in 2005 with a 4-0 win over the Long Island Rough Riders (USL-2). The next two upsets came in 2007 and 2009 against the same team, Crystal Palace Baltimore. They followed up that 2009 win with a second straight stunner, a 1-0 extra time win over the Real Maryland Monarchs (USL-2). That earned them a date with DC United of Major League Soccer. They traveled to Maryland and lost a close 2-0 decision to the defending Open Cup champions. Despite the disappointing loss that year, Ocean City's silver lining was that the club was awarded the prize for advancing the farthest, which back then fetched the club $10,000 in prize money.
In 2013, the Nor'easters claimed their fifth professional victim with a 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, which earned them they advanced to Round 3 again where they had a chance to upset the Philadelphia Union (MLS). In that game, Emmanuel Kollie scored a 90th minute equalizer for Ocean City at PPL Park, but their upset hopes were dashed when the Union scored a controversial game-winner in second half stoppage time.
Ocean City qualified in 2014, but lost an opening round game for the first time in club history to the New York Greek American Atlas SC, a club that has won the tournament four times (1967, 1968, 1969, 1974).
Last year, the Nor'easters defeated Philadelphia-based amateur side Junior Lone Star FC before holding the Harrisburg City Islanders of the USL (now known as Penn FC) scoreless for 120 minutes. Unfortunately, the Nor'easters' cup run ended in a penalty kick shootout. The Nor'easters are the only amateur club in the country that has shut out six professional teams in tournament play.
The Nor'easters will return to the tournament for the first time since 2014, hoping to get back to their winning ways.
TOURNAMENT FORMAT, SCHEDULE AND OTHER KEY DATES:
Initial Pairings Announcement – April 4
• First Round games as well as Second Round possibilities announced.
First Round – May 9
- Number of Games: 26
- Participants: 52 Open Division teams
- Competition: Teams will be paired geographically with the restriction that teams from the same qualifying pool (e.g. local qualifiers, PDL, NPSL) cannot be paired to play each other. The restriction many be disregarded if doing so avoids extensive travel on balance for the participating teams.
Second Round – May 16
- Number of Games: 24
- Participants: 26 First Round winners and 22 Division II (USL) clubs
- Competition: At the time the First Round pairings are made, each Division II team will be matched geographically to a specific First Round pairing and be scheduled to play its winner. The remaining First Round matchups not paired with a Division II side will be paired geographically, with the winners playing each other to complete the round.
Third Round – May 23
- Number of Games: 12
- Participants: 24 Second Round winner play each other.
- Competition: After each Second Round matchup has been determined, the Second Round pairs will be bracketed geographically to create the Third Round matchups.
Fourth Round Draw – May 24
- The Third Round winners and 20 Division I (MLS) clubs will be divided geographically into groups of four, with teams who are precluded from playing each other until the Final per tournament regulations (i.e. pro teams and their affiliated Open Division sides) placed in different groups. Each group will have at least one and no more than two Third Round winners, with pairs drawn randomly but done so that each Third Round winner faces an MLS team.
Fourth Round – June 6*
- Number of Games: 16
- Participants: 12 Third Round winners and 20 Division I (MLS) clubs.
- Competition: Twelve games will be between Third Round winners and MLS teams, while the remaining four matchups will be MLS vs. MLS affairs.
Round of 16 Draw – June 7
- The Fourth Round winners will be divided geographically (regardless of league affiliation) into groups of four, with teams who are precluded from playing each other until the Final per tournament regulations (i.e. pro teams and their affiliated Open Division sides) placed in different groups. A random draw will determine the pairings within each group, resulting in a fixed bracket for the remainder of the tournament. Should a precluded pair of teams reach the Semifinal Round and be scheduled to face each other, the matches will be re-drawn after the quarterfinals to avoid this outcome.
Round of 16 – June 20* (also June 16-17 if home team chooses and visiting team has at least two rest days on each side of chosen date)
- Number of Games: 8
- Competition: Fourth Round winners face each other as determined by the Round of 16 Draw.
Quarterfinals – July 18*
Semifinals – August 8* (date tentative)
Final – September 26 (date tentative)
* Any game in the Fourth Round, Round of 16, Quarterfinal Round and Semifinal Round where one of the participants has a league game the following Friday will be moved up a day (exceptions to this occur when the team’s opponent is scheduled for a league game the preceding Sunday; in this case, the provisions in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Handbook to determine the match date will prevail). In addition, any game chosen by U.S. Soccer to be broadcast nationally is subject to being moved up a day. The Commissioner shall have the authority to set outside of the confirmed schedule the date for any match if such a change is in the best interests of the tournament.
2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Participating Teams
Professional Teams Eligible to Participate (42 total):
Division I - Major League Soccer (20 teams, entering in the Fourth Round): Atlanta United FC, Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew SC, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Los Angeles FC, 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 (defending Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champions).
Division II - United Soccer League (22 teams, entering in the Second Round): Charleston Battery, Charlotte Independence, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, FC Cincinnati, Fresno FC, Indy Eleven, Las Vegas Lights FC, Louisville City FC, Nashville SC, North Carolina FC, OKC Energy FC, Orange County SC, Penn FC (formerly Harrisburg City Islanders), Phoenix Rising FC, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Reno 1868 FC, Richmond Kickers, Sacramento Republic FC, Saint Louis FC, San Antonio FC, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Open Division Teams (52 total, all entering in the First Round):
Local Qualifiers (13 teams, listed alphabetically by state): Arizona (1): Sporting AZ FC; California (3): La Máquina*, LA Wolves FC*, Santa Ana Winds; Colorado (2): Azteca FC*, FC Denver; Florida (2): FC Kendall, Red Force FC*; Maryland (1): Christos FC*; Massachusetts (1): Kendall Wanderers; New York (2): Lansdowne Bhoys FC, Rochester River Dogz; Texas (1): NTX Rayados*
Premier Development League (20 teams, listed alphabetically): Charlotte Eagles (N.C.)*, FC Golden State Force (Calif.)*, FC Miami City (Fla.), FC Tucson (Ariz.)*, Lakeland Tropics (Fla.), Long Island Rough Riders (N.Y.), Michigan Bucks*, Mississippi Brilla FC, Myrtle Beach Mutiny (S.C.), New York Red Bulls U23, Ocean City Nor’easters (N.J.)*, OKC Energy U23 (Okla.)*, Portland Timbers U23 (Ore.), Reading United AC (Pa.)*, San Francisco City FC (Calif.), Seacoast United Phantoms (N.H.), SIMA Aguilas (Fla.), South Georgia Tormenta FC, The Villages SC (Fla.)*, Western Mass Pioneers*
(The PDL is a nationwide league affiliated with the U.S. Adult Soccer Association and opted to use 2017 league results to determine its qualifiers for the 2018 Open Cup.)
National Premier Soccer League (19 teams, listed alphabetically): AFC Ann Arbor (Mich.)*, Brooklyn Italians (N.Y.), CD Aguiluchos USA (Calif.), Dakota Fusion FC (N.D.), Detroit City FC (Mich.), Duluth FC (Minn.), Elm City Express (Conn.), Erie Commodores (Pa.), FC Arizona, FC Motown (N.J.) (formerly Clarkstown SC Eagles)*, FC Wichita (Kan.)*, Fort Worth Vaqueros (Texas), Inter Nashville FC (Tenn.), Kingston Stockade FC (N.Y.), Kitsap Soccer Club (Wash.), Miami United FC (Fla.)*, Midland-Odessa FC (Texas), New Orleans Jesters (La.), Orange County FC (Calif.)
(The NPSL is a nationwide league affiliated with the U.S. Adult Soccer Association and opted to use 2017 league results to determine its qualifiers for the 2018 Open Cup.)
* Participated in 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup