The Menace trains at Valley Stadium the day before taking the field for the team's first competition of 2017. Photo credit: Joe Sprunger
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Tuesday, May 9, 2017 – College basketball has March Madness.
And, thanks to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, minor-league soccer has May Madness. The national tournament is a rite of spring that gives amateur sides like the Des Moines Menace a chance to clash with the professionals.
May Madness returns to Valley Stadium tomorrow night, when the Menace hosts AFC Cleveland in one of 28 first-round matchups of amateur teams. Awaiting tomorrow’s winner is FC Cincinnati. The pro team would come to Valley Stadium on May 17 if the Menace wins tomorrow.
No stranger to the Open Cup, John Pascarella makes his debut as the Menace’s head coach. Pascarella was an assistant coach with Sporting Kansas City the last eight years, including SKC’s Open Cup titles in 2012 and 2015. In 2013, he coached against the Menace in the Cup’s third round; a 2-0 win by the eventual Major League Soccer Cup champs ended Des Moines’ Cinderella dreams.
“Coming from Sporting Kansas City, where we took a lot of pride in the Open Cup, this means a lot to me,” said Pascarella. “I’d love to get in rounds against colleagues and friends. It’s a great venue for our players to show our skill. Tomorrow night is what the players came here for, and we’re ready to step on the field to compete.”
The Menace has won at least one match in each of the last five Open Cups, running the franchise’s all-time Cup record to 14-11. Pascarella’s pack hopes for three home matches in the span of 11 days; on May 20, the team begins Premier Development League play by hosting WSA Winnipeg.
AFC Cleveland sees its first action since claiming the National Premier Soccer League championship last August. The Royals got their first taste of Open Cup action in 2016, winning in Maine and bowing out at Saint Louis FC – the pro team that had knocked the Menace from the previous Open Cup.
AFC Cleveland at Des Moines Menace
Date and Time: Wednesday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m. CDT
Venue: Valley Stadium (turf) in West Des Moines, Iowa
Competition: 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, first round
Pregame Ceremony: We will ask fans and participants to join us for a moment of silence to honor the life of Menace Academy member Derek Cisneros (2003-2017).
ABOUT THE MENACE
- Three-time defending Premier Development League Heartland Division champion (10-2-2 in 2016).
- Making its 12th U.S. Open Cup appearance – all in the last 16 years.
- One of 21 Premier Development League teams in the 2017 Open Cup.
- On the cusp of the franchise’s 250th win (220-117-35 PDL, 14-11 Open Cup and 15-15 PDL Playoffs).
- Familiar faces on this year’s roster include Brandon Fricke (2010-14 Menace), Mueng Sunday (2014-16 Menace) and Elvir Ibisevic (2016 Menace; sitting out a one-game suspension after receiving a red card in last year’s Open Cup).
- Takes the field for the first time since a 2-0 postseason loss at the eventual PDL champion Michigan Bucks last July.
- First-year head coach John Pascarella is assisted by Greg Hennelly, Matt Kennedy and Tiley Nunnink.
ABOUT AFC CLEVELAND
- Defending National Premier Soccer League champion.
- Claimed the 2016 league title last August, defeating the visiting Sonoma County Sol, 4-2. Vinny Bell (two goals), Antonio Manfut and Ryder Bell scored for AFC Cleveland in the championship match.
- One of 18 NPSL teams in this year’s Open Cup.
- Has qualified for the NPSL playoffs in four of its five seasons.
- Like the Menace, has a first-year head coach: Mike Sesar is assisted by Noulis Siamidis, Zvone Raguz and Brian Murphy.
- Begins the regular season with a May 13 home match against the Dayton Dynamo.
- With a win over the Menace, would travel to FC Cincinnati for a May 17 match against the pro team.
- Will host the 2017 Hank Steinbrecher U.S. Soccer National Amateur Championship on June 2-3.
LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP
- In its 104th straight year of competition.
- With 99 teams this year, the Cup comprises Open Division local qualifiers and teams from the Premier Development League (PDL), National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), United Soccer League (USL), North American Soccer League (NASL), Major League Soccer (MLS).
- The winner receives $250,000 and a berth in the 2017-18 CONCACAF Champions’ League; runner-up gets $60,000; the team that advances the furthest from each lower division receives $15,000.
- FC Dallas captured the 2016 U.S. Open Cup trophy, doubling up the visiting New England Revolution, 4-2, on Sept. 14.
- For comprehensive coverage of the Open Cup, visit http://www.usopencup.org/ and http://thecup.us/
MENACE IN THE U.S. OPEN CUP
- Des Moines’ 14 Open Cup wins are the most by an amateur team in the Modern Era (1995-present); the Michigan Bucks have 13 wins in the tournament.
- Making its eighth straight (and 12th overall) appearance in the U.S. Open Cup.
- Has a five-year streak of winning at least one game (2012 at Milwaukee Bavarians; 2013 vs. Madison 56ers and at Minnesota United FC; 2014 vs. Real Colorado Foxes; 2015 vs. Madison Fire; 2016 at FC Wichita and vs. Tulsa).
- Has hosted at least one match in all 12 appearances in the Open Cup.
- The franchise’s first four Cup berths came in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006.
- 14-11 all-time in the Open Cup (7-2 against amateurs)
- 9-6 in Cup home matches (5-2 at home vs. amateurs)
- 7-6 all-time against non-MLS pro teams (most recently, a 2-1 home loss to San Antonio FC on June 1, 2016).
AFC CLEVELAND IN THE U.S. OPEN CUP
- Made its Cup debut last year, advancing to the second round.
- In 2016, the well-travelled Royals won 2-1 at GPS Portland (Maine) and lost 2-0 at Saint Louis FC.
ALL-TIME SERIES: MENACE VS. AFC CLEVELAND
- This is the teams’ first meeting, though the Menace has faced three other NPSL teams in the Open Cup.
- Des Moines is 3-0-0 against NPSL sides in Cup action, with road wins against the Milwaukee Bavarians (3-1 OT in 2012) and FC Wichita (2-1 in 2016) and a home victory over the Madison 56ers (1-0 in 2013).
- AFC Cleveland is the Menace’s first Open Cup opponent from Ohio – the 14th state represented by the Menace’s foes in the Open Cup.
UP NEXT FOR THE MENACE
- A win by the Menace would set up another Open Cup home match against an Ohio team – Wednesday, May 17 against FC Cincinnati in round two.
- The Menace starts league play on May 20, hosting WSA Winnipeg.
ABOUT THE MENACE: The Des Moines Menace provides the highest level of soccer in Iowa. In its 24th season, the Menace men’s team competes in the Premier Development League (PDL). Entering its sixth season, the Menace women’s team is part of the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL). With loyal support, the Menace men’s and women’s teams play their home games at the Valley Stadium in West Des Moines to provide family-fun entertainment. The Menace organization provides the growth of the game of soccer in Iowa with their youth soccer programs, including Junior Menace (ages 3-9), Menace Youth Academy (ages six and older), and tournaments, camps and clinics.