The Des Moines Menace has finished its qualifying matches for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and will once again need some help to earn the bid for the Premier Development League’s Heartland Division.
The Menace (3-1-0) leads the division’s Open Cup standings after earning nine points in the four-match qualifying stage. The defending division champs kept their cup dreams alive by rallying for a pair of 2-1 wins last week – Wednesday at Kansas City and Saturday at home against rival St. Louis.
Des Moines’ fate hinges on the result of Sunday’s match between Kansas City and home-team Rochester (Minn.). After spoiling the Menace’s May 15 home opener with a 1-0 win, Rochester (2-1-1 overall, including 2-1-0 in qualifying action) owns the head-to-head tiebreaker as it prepares for its final qualifier.
The Thunder needs to beat the Brass in order to advance. The game comes a day after the Menace takes on Kansas City (1-3-0) at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Valley Stadium.
“Hopefully, (Kansas City) can do us a favor,” said Menace defender Jack Pearson. “The main thing is to win on Saturday and hopefully we don’t wear them down too much.
“We’re going to keep our fingers crossed.”
Des Moines was in a similar situation this past week. After getting past St. Louis on Saturday, the Menace became the Lions’ biggest fans. St. Louis traveled to Rochester on Sunday and returned home with a 2-1 victory that breathed new life into the Menace’s hopes for a return to the Open Cup. The pressure now falls on the Thunder, which could have clinched the Open Cup bid with a win over the Lions.
“Guys were looking at their cell phones, trying to see the scores from Rochester,” Menace head coach Laurie Calloway said. “It will be the same thing next Sunday.”
St. Louis (1-2-0), the division’s Open Cup representative each of the last two seasons, was eliminated from contention after Saturday’s loss to the Menace. Also eliminated are Kansas City, Real Colorado and Springfield (Mo.). Menace arch-rival Thunder Bay (Canada) is not in the running, as the cup is open only to teams in the United States.
The U.S. Open Cup is the country’s oldest cup competition. It is open to all affiliated amateur and professional teams in the U.S. and this year marks the 97th running of the Open Cup.
In total, there are 40 teams that qualify for this year’s national tournament. That list includes eight teams from Major League Soccer and nine from the United States Soccer Federation Division-2 Pro League. In past years the second tier of teams came from the United Soccer Leagues First Division, which this offseason combined with the North American Soccer League to form the USSF Division-2 Pro League.
Another six Open Cup teams come from the USL Second Division. Each of the PDL’s eight divisions has a qualifier. The final nine teams are from the United States Adult Soccer Association.
The 32 non-MLS teams compete in head-to-head matches until the field whittles down to eight, when they are joined by the MLS teams to form a 16-team bracket. Head-to-head play continues until one team is left standing.
The Menace has fared well in Cup qualifying the last decade. Des Moines qualified in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006. The most successful year was in 2005, when Des Moines advanced to the fourth round before falling to the Kansas City Wizards (MLS). That season, the Menace went on to win the PDL championship.
“It’s been a good start to the season, and it’s a shame we lost last Saturday,” Pearson said, referring to the Rochester loss. “It would be an even better start to the season if we qualify.”
To follow the Open Cup, you can visit http://thecup.us/2010-pdl-qualifying-update/