TAMPA, Fla. – United Soccer League announced today the U.S. Open Cup qualifiers from the USL PDL for the 2012 tournament. With the increased field, and other changes to the tournament’s format for its 99th season, a record number of 16 PDL teams will compete in the tournament, with qualification based on the final regular season standings from 2011.
Four teams from each of the PDL’s four conferences will enter the tournament in the first round, with the Eastern Conference being represented by the Northeast Division’s MPS Portland Phoenix, the Mid Atlantic Division’s Long Island Rough Riders and Reading United and the South Atlantic Division’s Carolina Dynamo. It will be MPS’s first appearance in the Open Cup, with 2011 PDL Semifinalists Long Island making its third appearance since it joined the PDL in 2007. Carolina will be making its second consecutive appearance in the tournament, and fifth since joining the PDL, while Reading will make its fourth consecutive appearance in the tournament.
The Southern Conference will be represented by the Mississippi Brilla and Orlando City U23s from the Southeast Division and the Laredo Heat and El Paso Patriots from the Mid South Division. The Brilla, who won the Southeast Division last season, will be making their second appearance in the tournament, while El Paso will make their second consecutive trip and fifth overall as a member of the PDL. Laredo, which was the PDL runner-up in 2011, will be making its second appearance in the tournament and first since 2006.
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The Central Conference will be represented by the Heartland Division’s Des Moines Menace and Real Colorado Foxes, with the Foxes making their second consecutive appearance in the tournament and the Menace making their sixth overall appearance. The Great Lakes Division will be represented by the Michigan Bucks and Chicago Fire Premier, both of whom have great tradition in the tournament. The Fire Premier reached the third round of the 2011 tournament before falling to Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City, while the Bucks will be making their ninth appearance as a member of the PDL.
Finally, the Western Conference will be represented by the Southwest Division’s Fresno Fuego and Ventura County Fusion and the Northwest Division’s Kitsap Pumas and Portland Timbers U-23s. The Fuego will be making their second appearance in the tournament, with their run to the fourth round in 2003 the last time the team competed in the cup. Ventura County will participate in the tournament for the third consecutive season, reaching the second round last season before falling to USL PRO’s Los Angeles Blues.
The 2011 PDL champions, Kitsap has qualified for the Open Cup in each of its four seasons. Last year the Pumas reached the third round of the tournament where they were knocked out by eventual champions the Seattle Sounders FC. The Portland Timbers U-23s will be making their first appearance in the tournament.
All 2012 U.S. Open Cup matches until the final are scheduled for Tuesdays, with the championship taking place on either Tuesday, Aug. 7, or Wednesday, Aug. 8. The PDL clubs will enter in the first round, where they will be matched against qualifying teams from the USASA and NPSL. Teams from the same league will not meet in the opening round of the tournament. The first-round winners will face Division II or Division III clubs in the second round based on geographic proximity. Second-round winners play Division I clubs in the third round, matched on a geographic basis.
The opening portion of the U.S. Open Cup schedule will occur in rapid fashion as the first four rounds take place in back-to-back weeks from May 15 to June 5. The quarterfinals are set for June 26, the semifinals for July 10, and the final for Aug. 7 or 8.
The 2012 champion will a $100,000 cash prize, while the runner-up will collect $50,000. The top Division II, Division III and amateur clubs will each receive a $10,000 prize.
USL PDL 2012 U.S. Open Cup ParticipantsEastern Conference: Carolina Dynamo, Long Island Rough Riders, MPS Portland Phoenix, Reading United.Southern Conference: El Paso Patriots, Laredo Heat, Mississippi Brilla, Orlando City U23s.Central Conference: Chicago Fire Premier, Des Moines Menace, Michigan Bucks, Real Colorado Foxes.Western Conference: Fresno Fuego, Kitsap Pumas, Portland Timbers U-23s, Ventura County Fusion.
USL PDLThe top developmental men’s league in North America, the PDL featured 64 teams within four conferences across the United States and Canada in 2011. The PDL season consists of 16 regular season matches for each team, eight home and eight away, and provides elite collegiate players the opportunity to taste a higher level of competition while maintaining their eligibility. In addition to league play, PDL teams compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as well as various exhibitions. The PDL has proven to be an important stepping-stone for top professionals now playing throughout the world.