After experiencing the highs of a Cinderella run and the low of an upset, FC Tucson enters its third Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Featuring 91 teams this season, its 103rd edition, the Open Cup is like March Madness on steroids. Teams from all over the country play, from amateurs to the MLS.
FC Tucson opens the Cup with San Nicolas FC of the United Premier Soccer League on Wednesday night at 7:30 at Kino North Stadium.
Three years ago, FC Tucson got to play at the Houston Dynamo of the MLS in the third round after knocking out two professional teams.
“For us, a few years ago, playing against Houston, was quite an honor, and we dream of that,” FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz said. “We know that may have been once every 20 years, but we’d like to make it happen again.”
In 2013, FC Tucson beat Phoenix FC, a United Soccer League Pro team, then upset the San Antonio Scorpions from the North American Soccer League on the road before falling 2-0 to the Dynamo.
“It was the best,” said FC Tucson midfielder Edgar Reyna. “Playing against the Dynamo, it was like a dream come true playing at their stadium. We got the players, so hopefully we can get far again.”
However last year, the Men in Black suffered a 2-1 extra-time loss to Chula Vista FC at home in the Open Cup.
San Nicolas won the UPSL last year despite a brawl with La Maquina FC after a 3-2 comeback win in the league’s quarterfinals. If FC Tucson wins, it would host Arizona United SC of the USL.
FC Tucson opened its Premier Development League season with a 1-0 win at San Diego Zest FC on Saturday, despite playing more than 60 minutes with just 10 players. Former Rincon/University and Pima College star Minh Vu scored the goal, FC Tucson’s first PDL season-opening win.
Vu played for the Rochester Rhinos in 2014. Rochester is the last non-MLS team to win the Open Cup, taking the trophy in 1999.
“It’s good over there. I mean every town is crazy about Open Cup; every team wants to win it,” Vu said.