LAKELAND, Fla. – One of the world’s longest continually operated soccer tournaments is coming to Polk County for the first time in history.
The Lakeland Tropics, getting ready to start their third season in USL League Two on May 11, will host The Villages SC in the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, May 7 at 7 p.m. at Lake Myrtle Sports Park Stadium in Auburndale.
It is the second straight year the Tropics have earned a berth in an event which has been held every year since 1914. However, last spring, Lakeland had to travel to Midland, Texas, for its first round game, losing 3-0.
“This is a great culmination of several years of hard work by the team, coaches, and our organization as a whole, and most importantly, a great reward for our community and fans to be able to host a U.S. Open Cup game,” said Tropics CEO Dr. Panos Iakovidis. “May 7th will be about great soccer and the pride of being involved in one of the great events in the sport. We are thrilled for everyone, and can’t wait to welcome one of our biggest rivals to play in our biggest game ever.”
The Villages SC is perhaps the Tropics biggest rival, having played each other four times in the past two seasons, with Lakeland holding a 2-1-1 advantage.
Last year, the two teams battled to a 1-1 tie in Lakeland, with the Villages winning on their home pitch 2-0. Two years ago, in the Tropics first ever USL game, Lakeland took a 4-3 win over the Villages before a crowd of over 6,000 at Bryant Stadium, and later that year scored a 3-1 win on the road.
In all, the tournament will boast a field of 84 times, including a record 52 professional teams. The first round will commence May 7-8 and consist of six Division III (USL League One) pro clubs and 32 Open Division teams (USL League Two, National Premier Soccer League [NPSL], local qualifiers) in head-to-head, single-elimination competition.
The second round follows on May 14-15 and introduces 25 Division II (USL Championship) professional sides. Division I Major League Soccer teams enter in the Fourth Round on June 12. Potential second-round match ups will be released on April 17.
Every game of the 2019 U.S. Open Cup, including those in the First and Second Rounds, will be available for fans to watch on ESPN+.
This year’s winning team will receive $300,000, a berth in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League and have its name engraved on the historic Dewar Challenge Trophy, one of the oldest nationally contested trophies in American team sports. The runner-up will earn $100,000, while the team that advances the furthest from each lower division will take home a $25,000 cash prize.
The Major League Soccer Houston Dynamo is the defending U.S. Open Cup champion, having earned the club’s first tournament title with a 3-0 victory against the Philadelphia Union on Sept. 26, 2018 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, recognized as U.S. Soccer’s National Championship, is an annual competition open to all amateur and professional soccer teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. The tournament has crowned a champion for 105 consecutive years dating from 1914. In 1999, the competition was renamed to honor American soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt.
The Tropics have a connection to the winning side that year, the Rochester (N.Y.) Raging Rhinos who are the last non MLS team to win the Cup. One of the Rhino’s co-owners was Chris Economides, who now serves as the Tropics Chief Operating Officer. The Rhinos beat no less than four MLS teams on the way to the title.
Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 day of and can be purchased by calling 863-240-0101. More information can be found at www.LakelandTropics.com.
*Bond Clinic is proud to be the Official Medical Provider for the Tropics Soccer Club.