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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Velocity host Los Angeles Force in second round of U.S. Open Cup

Spokane Velocity forward Josh Dolling, left, celebrates after scoring the club's first goal, a penalty in the 13th minute Saturday night at Paladin Stadium in Greenville, S.C.  (Courtesy of Spokane Velocity)
By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

A chance to see the oldest ongoing soccer tournament in the United States is happening on Wednesday at ONE Spokane Stadium as Spokane Velocity FC hosts Los Angeles Force at 7:30 p.m. in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

The Velocity FC advanced with a 1-0 first-round win over Ballard FC – the champions of USL League Two – on March 20.

“It’s really exciting for Spokane and for the club in our first season,” co-owner Ryan Harnetiaux said. “It’s the greatest tournament to be in our country.”

The tournament gives Spokane more chances to play teams from outside of USL League One (Division III) in a single-elimination format.

In total, 96 teams were competing. Sixteen teams were eliminated over two weeks and another eight were eliminated this week. If Spokane advances, the third round is April 16-17 and the round of 32 – when Major League Soccer teams will be introduced – is May 7-8.

The first round was historic for the tournament as 32 amateur teams faced off against professional teams.

Of the 96, there are eight Division I teams, 24 Division II teams, 32 Division III teams and 32 open division teams will compete for the title with $300,000 going to the champion.

LA Force is in the National Independent Soccer Association – a Division III team – and if Spokane keeps finding ways to move forward in the tournament, it could host MLS teams such as the Seattle Sounders.

“It’s just a classic David versus Goliath tournament,” Harnetiaux said. “It’s a loser-out tournament where it gives a shot for an amateur team to take down a professional team, especially one from a higher division, which does happen frequently in the U.S. Open Cup. It’s kind of that anything can happen on any given day, depending on who shows up to play.”

The U.S. Open Cup has been around since the 1913-1914 season when the Brooklyn Field Club defeated Brookyln Celtic 2-1 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in front of 10,000 fans.

Hunt, founder of MLS and founder and owner of the Kansas Chiefs, had his name added in 1999 in honor of his passion and dedication to advancing soccer in the U.S. Hunt also co-founded the American Football League, which later merged with the NFL.

The tournament allows amateur teams to participate against their professional counterparts.

The Football Association Challenge Cup – also known as the FA Cup – is the English equivalent, first taking place during the 1871-72 season, making it the oldest soccer competition in the world.

This season, MLS made an announcement in December that it would not be participating in the U.S. Open for the first time, but the U.S. Soccer Federation stepped in and denied its request.

“We believe our ownership group, along with every other ownership group in USL’s professional system – roughly 40 of us – we all felt like MLS owed an obligation to the pro league standards to have all of their first teams in this tournament. We were pretty clear on that,” Harnetiaux said.

USSF announced that eight of the 26 MLS teams would participate in the event.

Harnetiaux is still disappointed the USSF didn’t fully enforce its standards that have been in place, but he is glad to see some representation considering MLS is the top of the pyramid of U.S. Soccer.

“We feel like they’ve got an obligation to be in these games and the fans want to see it,” Harnetiaux said.

Wednesday presents a unique midweek opportunity for fans who have supported Velocity FC and those who haven’t seen them play.

“We’re trying to bring some new faces in and give them a taste of what this is all about,” Harnetiaux said.

Tickets are on sale and available through the Spokane Velocity website and