While most soccer fans were focused on the US Open Cup this week, that wasn’t the only important knockout tournament taking place across the country. Over the past several days, regional matches for the National Amateur Cup were held featuring teams from Kansas to Connecticut.
Plenty of soccer fans don’t know about the National Amateur Cup. The tournament is run by the US Adult Soccer Association (USASA), the largest national organization for amateur soccer in the country. The USASA isn’t directly controlled by the US Soccer Federation, and it can be tough to follow. The organization’s social media isn’t always consistent, and the games can be downright bad at times. However, since 2018, the National Amateur Cup champion has received an automatic berth into the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
That put new importance into the nearly century-old competition. Prize money, a historic trophy, and a chance to play professional teams in the US Open Cup? All of that is up for grabs in the National Amateur Cup.
National Amateur Cup 101
For the tournament, the United States is divided into four regions. Region I in the Northeast, Region II in the Midwest, Region III in the South, and Region IV in the West. All regions hold their own Amateur Cup tournaments with their own formats. The winners from each region play in a four-team national tournament. This year the event will be held on August 5 and 6 in Bettendorf, Iowa.
Region I includes the 13 states in the Northeast plus Washington DC. The region is divided into 15 associations: Washington DC is folded into Virginia, while New York and Pennsylvania are split into East and West. Each association in Region I sends one team to the regional knockout tournament. The quarterfinals took place last Sunday, and the semifinals will be held on May 21.
The final will take place on June 17 at the Ukrainian American Sports Center in North Wales, Pennsylvania. The association tries to mitigate travel costs by having teams play nearby state associations early on, which means the final is essentially a battle of north vs south.
Region I quarterfinal results
In last Sunday’s quarterfinals, eight teams competed across the northeast. Clubs from Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Eastern and Western Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Newtown Pride FC 3 – 2 New York Pancyprian-Freedoms
Newtown Pride FC from Connecticut defeated the NY Pancyprian Freedoms, 3-2, at Newtown High School’s Blue & Gold Stadium. Two late first-half goals put New York ahead — the Freedoms are three-time U.S. Open Cup champions, and won the 2022-23 Eastern New York Manning Cup to qualify for this year’s regionals. But Newton Pride, the 2019 National Amateur Cup champions, rebounded in the second half.
The Connecticut team took the lead in the 14th minute. A short pass from Khalid Rose found Gabriel Ganzer, whose fast break up the right side ended with a low shot to the left side netting. The first half remained quiet for nearly a half hour until a former professional made his mark: A sloppy foul by the Newtown keeper sent Joseph Holland, formerly of Houston Dynamo, to the spot. He converted his low shot to even the score in the 40th minute.
Two minutes into stoppage time, Holland struck again. A pass from Rafael Bustamente to the striker on the far side allowed for a quick chip shot over the goalkeeper to put New York ahead.
That lead didn’t last long. With Newtown playing off the restart, a long pass to Ganzer was headed to Ronaldinho Diniz. He ran into the box and shot high into the top right corner — all within the first 30 seconds. The back-and-forth continued until Ganzer cemented his MVP performance. Filipe Dutra’s long kick – taken practically from Newtown’s penalty area – found the head of the Brazilian. He recovered his own loose ball in the middle of the field, outran two defenders, and sunk a shot in the 82nd minute to make it 3-2.
This is Newtown’s third semifinal appearance in four years. The prospect of winning a second national title is enticing for any club, But for the Pride, it would also un-do a great wrong brought on by the COVID pandemic. Newtown’s 2019 cup win gave them an automatic berth for the 2020 US Open Cup, but that tournament was canceled.
Despite being a regular in US Open Cup qualifying, NPFC have yet to make an appearance in the legendary tournament. Outside of the Amateur Cup, Newtown Pride is also competing in The Soccer Tournament (TST) this summer in North Carolina. The million-dollar 7v7 soccer competition, an off-shoot of the highly successful basketball tournament of a similar name, has an impressive field that includes Wrexham FC of Wales and Charlotte FC of MLS.
RELATED: 7v7 Nation Army — why MLS should take TST seriously
This is the second straight year that Newtown eliminated the Eastern New York representatives from the Amateur Cup. In a wild game last year, Newtown saw the team knock out New York Greek Americans by the same score of 3-2, also thanks to some late goals.
GPS Omens advance over Jackson Lions FC
Further north in New England, GPS Omens (also known as FC Omens) of Boston advanced without kicking the ball. Their opponent, the Jackson Lions FC of New Jersey, forfeited their match for unknown reasons. The game was supposed to take place at Almont Park in Boston.
The forfeit is a surprise coming from Jackson, who have been one of New Jersey’s most prolific amateur outfits in recent years. Founded in 2014, Jackson is a regular championship contender in the Garden State Soccer League’s Super Division and in US Open Cup qualifying. Last year, the team joined the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and finished one place short of a conference playoff berth.
The team did not respond to requests for comment.
For Omens the chance to make a deep Amateur Cup run is a return to form. The four-time Open Cup qualifiers made a name for themselves in the mid-2010s. Despite not making a Lamar Hunt appearance since 2017, the team has continued to do well in its amateur leagues. That includes four Division 1 titles in the Bay State Soccer League, with the most recent coming in 2021.
The advancing Boston side will travel to face Newtown Pride on May 21 in the regional semifinals.
West Chester United SC 1- 4 Sure Sports FC
West Chester United fell by the score of 1-4 to Sure Sports FC at Bryn Athyn College in Pennsylvania. It was a shocking upset. It’s the second early exit for the Eastern Pennsylvania powerhouse this year after it lost in the First Round of the US Open Cup to Ocean City Nor’easters. For Sure Sport, this is the team’s first win in the USASA competition.
West Chester had beaten Albion SC from Delaware by the score of 4-0, earlier this month in a First Round match.
Northern Virginia FC 8 – 2 Appalachia Steel FC
Comparatively, Northern Virginia FC’s 8-2 thrashing of Appalachia Steel FC from Pennsylvania was the least shocking result of the round. The defending Amateur Cup national runner-up fell behind early, but went into the break ahead 3-1 at George Mason University Sports Complex. From there, NoVa’s experience prevailed over App’s limited bench. JP Ayolmbong scored three of his team’s goals against the Western Pennsylvania side, putting him atop the National Amateur Cup golden boot standings.
NoVa will be on the road in the next round against Sure Sports. Their semifinal is also scheduled for May 21.
On one final note, USASA Region II is also playing the First Round of its own regional amateur cup tournament. Six games have already been played with one additional forfeit. Included in that group was a shocking loss by recent Open Cup cupsetter Chicago House AC, who fell 2-1 to Wisconsin side United Serbian SC.
But there’s one more game to play in the First Round and it has a link to the local Tri-State Area. Valhalla FC out of Cincinnati was founded in 2018, according to the team’s website, with the goal of advancing to the professional stage of the US Open Cup.
Why include them in this NYC sports website? Because Valhalla has an interesting relationship with Viking Army SC, one of the supporter’s groups of the New York Red Bulls: They have similar colors, Viking iconography, and the same motto of “Victory or Valhalla.” The amateur team and supporter’s groups cross paths regularly. During the recent walkout protest at Red Bull Arena, many members of Viking Army were wearing Valhalla kits.
It’s fun and niche. Fans get a cool kit, a team makes a little money, and everyone wins.
Valhalla’s first match in the Amateur Cup is this Saturday at 3 pm ET. They’ll face the Teranga Lions from Michigan in Canton, Michigan.
To keep track of the Amateur Cup schedule, along with all of the USASA Region I tournaments this year, check out the association’s website here.