Boca Raton FC will play Hurricane FC in the First Qualifying Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on Saturday. The match is set for a 8:00 pm kickoff at Seacrest Soccer Complex in Delray Beach. This will be Boca Raton FC’s third successive US Open Cup appearance and in the previous two years BRFC has advanced through the qualifying process to the First Round proper of the competition.
As a fourth division club, Boca Raton FC begins their journey through the U.S. Open Cup much earlier than other teams like the L.A. Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, or Orlando City with qualifying stage matches.
If Boca Raton FC advances past the qualifying rounds, they will await the draw of the MLS, NASL, and USL teams that will take place in January of 2018 to determine their next opponent.
“To play in the U.S. Open Cup for the third year is tremendous for our club,” says president Douglas Heizer. “This is an important tournament for us as it gives us exposure on a national level.”
“Our goal from the start of the season was to win it and make the U.S. Open Cup,” added Heizer. “Not everyone who wants to play in the U.S. Open Cup gets to play.”
Over 400 clubs attempt a berth in the U.S. Open Cup, but not all are awarded a spot. Many criteria’s must be met for a club to be awarded a spot in the third-longest running national tournament in the world.
Although soccer in the United States doesn’t have the same history as other countries around the world, the U.S. can still claim the third-oldest continuously running national tournament. The first U.S. Open Cup, then called the National Challenge Cup, was played in 1914 and has continued every year since. England’s FA Cup is the oldest association tournament in the world, beginning play in 1871.
It’s not often that lower division teams get a chance to knock off one of the big dogs of American soccer. MLS teams enter in the fourth round of the tournament and every year the 16 remaining NASL, USL, and amateur clubs get a shot. In 2014, four MLS clubs were knocked out in the fourth round, and two NASL clubs made it all the way to the quarterfinals. In 2016, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL reached the quarterfinals, and in 2017 ,FC Cincinnati of USL reached the Semifinals after knocking out teams such as Chicago Fire (MLS), Miami FC (NASL). The only non-MLS club to win the tournament since MLS teams began competing in 1996 was the 1999 Rochester Rhinos of the A-League (2nd division).
However, despite the lack success of lower division clubs, the national media exposure that a club receives in playing in the U.S. Open Cup is enough to launch the career of some players that otherwise would have gone unnoticed in the lower divisions.
“Many of our players have a hunger to make it to the second, and even the first division,” says Heizer. “This tournament is their window into the soccer world and will also help put the Boca Raton FC name in places that otherwise would not have heard of our club.”