WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – The Des Moines Menace is headed back to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, thanks to some help from the Kansas City Brass and the St. Louis Lions.
Des Moines’ Premier Development League team makes its fifth appearance in the Open Cup under an unlikely series of events.
A week ago, the Rochester (Minn.) Thunder was in the driver’s seat to claim the Heartland Division’s berth in the 97-year-old tournament. After winning 1-0 at Des Moines on May 15, Rochester needed to win one of its two remaining qualifying matches – both at home – to edge the Menace.
The Thunder did not.
St. Louis kept the Menace’s Open Cup dreams alive last Sunday (May 23), leaving Rochester with a 2-1 win less than 24 hours after falling by the same score at Des Moines. Kansas City played spoiler this afternoon, battling to a scoreless draw on the Thunder’s home turf, after losing 3-1 at Des Moines last night.
“Fantastic – obviously, we were hoping for it,” said Menace head coach Laurie Calloway after learning of today’s result from Rochester. “We’ve got to thank a couple of our neighbors. Our guys are excited. They’re probably celebrating a little extra tonight.”
This is familiar territory for Calloway.
In 2002, the veteran coach led Des Moines to its first-ever Open Cup appearance. Calloway’s crew – a team that finished undefeated in the regular season – beat the USL-2 New Jersey Stallions, 3-1, and forced overtime against the USL-1 Rochester Rhinos in the second round. The Rhinos escaped with a 3-2 win. Three years later, Calloway started a three-year run as the New York club’s skipper.
The Menace returned to the cup in 2003, 2005 and 2006. In each of the club’s last two appearances, Des Moines advanced to the fourth round and earned the opportunity to face the Kansas City Wizards. The Menace gave the Major League Soccer team a scare in 2006, when the Wizards eked out a 3-2 win.
Des Moines does not know who its first-round opponent will be. The team awaits news this week, hoping to host the first round as it did each of the previous four qualifying years. The Open Cup begins on Tuesday, June 15.
“It’s a great honor to have qualified,” Menace general manager Todd Meiners said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to meet some new opponents, and we hope for another run like in 2005 and 2006.”
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.
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.
COMING UP: The Menace tries to keep its first-place status, as it prepares for its Open Cup opportunity. Des Moines faces second-place Real Colorado three times in the next two weeks. The team hits the road for a pair in Littleton, on Friday and Saturday, carrying a 16-match road unbeaten streak into next weekend’s matches.
The defending division champions will be back at home on June 12, hosting Real Colorado. The 7:30 p.m. match is celebrated as the team’s World Cup kick-off and the annual Father’s Day Game, presented by Powerade and VitaminWater. Dads get in for $5 with a paid admission, and are encouraged to wear an ugly hat for the chance to win a grill at halftime.