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05 / 11

Kick This Around – A Lansing United Blog

WRITTEN BY: Dave Ellis
PUBLISHED ON: May 11, 2015

The Magic of the Cup.

It’s a phrase well known in England. It refers to the oldest soccer tournament in the world, the annual battle for the FA Cup. It takes 14 rounds of competition to determine the cup winner, and the field goes all the way down as far as the 10th level in the pyramid of leagues – sometimes even deeper. And the “magic” comes from those small teams that emerge as giant killers by knocking off teams from divisions above them.

It’s all possible in a one-and-done format.

There’s some of that same electricity and intrigue in something a little more familiar to the sports fans of the USA. The NCAA basketball tournament has that same reputation in the early rounds that a team from a small overlooked conference can rise up and send a powerhouse national program home for spring break. It’s why games like #15 Santa Clara surprising #2 Arizona in 1993 or #13 Princeton beating defending champion UCLA in 1996 still resonate two decades later.

Now you’ll get the chance to see what it’s like in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.

The fact that Lansing United is even included in the tournament is a Cinderella story in itself. The club has tied the modern record for the newest team to make the field at this stage, qualifying thanks to last season’s magical run to the NPSL national semifinals. Until a team in the opening stages of the tournament is included in its first season, it’s a distinction that cannot be eclipsed. But the getting here is only half the fun. Now comes the best part.

One of the confusing parts for many of you is that this is a single elimination playoff tournament…that happens DURING the season rather than after it. It’s unique to major North American sports to hold a competition like this while the regular season is in progress. So even if your team exits the Cup, your season is not ended after than defeat. The balance of two concurrent chases is a lot to handle for a team without a strong coaching staff and a deep pool of players. That’s one of the main reasons you’ve seen so many different names and combinations on the field in the first three matches of the preseason so far. It’s all building towards developing a strategy for advancing as far as possible in the Cup while continuing to meet the demands of the league schedule.

There was a nervous energy around Archer Stadium last July when the Hoops hosted the Midwest Regional playoffs. It’s that feeling somewhere under the surface that you know your season rides on the 90 minutes (or more) that you’re about to see.   Sometimes the final whistle is greeted with joy, sometimes relief, sometimes even despair. And sometimes, it may even mean penalties are about to decide your fate. But the more you’ve invested your evening and fandom with your club, the greater the payoff when you advance. And if you can string together a couple of those nights, there may be some corner of the world that a discussion takes place about great cup minnows like Havant and Waterlooville FC…Bournemouth…and Lansing United.

It’s all possible at the start of the run. Enjoy the thrill and you’ll understand the phrase.

The Magic of the Cup.