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Menace gets Open Cup home date

The Des Moines Menace will play at home in the first round of the 2010 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Premier Development League team goes up against professional team AC St. Louis on Tuesday, June 15 at Valley Stadium.

The United States Soccer Foundation announced the brackets yesterday for the 97th annual event, recognized as the organization’s national championship. The tournament is open to all amateur and professional teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer, though only 40 teams qualify.

The Menace received one of the PDL’s eight spots on Sunday, when Rochester (Minn.) tied Kansas City in a match it needed to win in order to edge Des Moines for the Heartland Division’s berth. Des Moines (4-1-0 in the regular season, including 3-1-0 in cup qualifiers) makes its fifth appearance in the Open Cup.

AC St. Louis (1-7-1) is in its first season as part of the USSF Division II Pro League – one rung below Major League Soccer. All nine American clubs in this newly formed league qualified for the tournament.

St. Louis native Steve Ralston, a longtime professional and former member of the U.S. national team, highlights the roster of Des Moines’ opponent. Ralston is Major League Soccer’s career leader in assists, appearances and starts. The MVP of the 2009 New England Revolution (MLS) is also an assistant coach to AC St. Louis skipper Claude Anelka.

If the Menace wins in round one, it advances to the June 22 second round to face the winner of the June 15 match between the NSC Minnesota Stars (USSF D-II) and the Kansas Athletics (United States Adult Soccer Association).

The Menace organization hosted both of these teams in the spring. NSC Minnesota played pre-season matches against a Menace scrimmage team and Creighton University on Easter weekend; the Kansas side faced the Menace’s USASA entry on May 1, winning a penalty-kick shootout after the teams were tied 4-4 following overtime.

The second-round winners face MLS teams on June 29 in third-round action. The quarterfinals are July 6-7, the semifinals are Aug. 31-Sept 1 and the final is Oct. 5.

Menace head coach Laurie Calloway and assistant coach Neathan Gibson were part of the Menace’s first Open Cup appearance. They are back together for the first time since leading the team to the 2002 Open Cup. With Calloway at the helm and Gibson starring as a player/assistant coach, the Menace beat the USL-2 New Jersey Stallions, 3-1, and took the USL-1 Rochester Rhinos into overtime, falling 3-2.

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 pulled out a 3-2 win.

OPEN CUP TICKETS AVAILABLE: Fans can save by purchasing their Open Cup tickets before June 15. Tickets are $7 each or $25 for a four-pack. These special discounts are available online. Prices return to their normal rate -- $9 for adults, ages 13 and older, and $7 for youth ages 4-12 – on game day.

COMING UP: As it prepares for the Open Cup, the Menace tries to keep its first-place status in division play. 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.

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