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D.C. United is the competition's defending champion, and MLS clubs will begin during the World Cup break

The eight U.S. based clubs of the North American Soccer League will again pursue Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup glory and a potential berth in the CONCACAF Champions League when they enter the illustrious domestic competition at the Third Round stage in May.

The 101st edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will feature 80 teams, an increase from the then-record 68 that took the field last year.  The expansion results in both the largest number of amateur teams (42) in the tournament proper—exceeding the previous record of 34 set last year—as well as the largest contingent of pro clubs (38, surpassing last year’s record of 34), with all professional sides participating for the third consecutive year.

Played annually since 1914, The Cup is the oldest cup competition in the country and is a single elimination tournament open to all affiliated amateur and professional teams in the United States. The winner of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup qualifies as one of the four United States teams for the CONCACAF Champions League.

In only two years of participation, the NASL teams have outscored their opposition 51 to 38 in 28 total games and for two consecutive tournaments. NASL clubs posted an overall 7-6 record in last year’s competition with the Carolina RailHawks and Tampa Bay Rowdies making it to the fourth rounds and the RailHawks to the Quarterfinals where they fell to finalist Real Salt Lake.

NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson noted, “The NASL is anticipating another exciting U.S. Open Cup competition and winning the cup remains a priority for all our teams.  The history and tradition of the third-oldest open soccer tournament in the world gets our fans energized as they support their clubs against teams from all Divisions of U.S. Soccer.

The Cup is a tremendous opportunity to promote U.S. Soccer and this great game and to experience the romance of a cup competition that creates giant-killing opportunities and nail-biting moments.”

The NASL will have a record eight teams playing in the U.S. Open Cup. Clubs participating in the 101st edition are: Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, Indy Eleven, Minnesota United FC, New York Cosmos, San Antonio Scorpions and Tampa Bay Rowdies.

“Our club has always put a great deal of importance on the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup,” said Carolina RailHawks coach Colin Clarke said.  “Myself and our Team President both worked for Lamar Hunt and it means a little more that his name is on the Cup. It's one of the best competitions in the U.S. For the teams and most importantly the fans.”

The NASL will enter The Cup in the Third Round, which will kickoff May 28 and feature the 24 Second Round winners and the eight NASL clubs. Each NASL team will be matched geographically to play the winner of a specific Second Round pairing. The winners of the 16 remaining Second Round matches not paired with a NASL clubs will play each other.

Fourth and Fifth Round games will be played in June during the NASL break for the FIFA World Cup and the final will be played September 30-October 1.


Rowdies Welcome Silverbacks in NASL Match of ihe Week

The Atlanta Silverbacks will travel to take on Tampa Bay Rowdies in this week’s North American Soccer League ‘Match of the Week’ that will be broadcast live on ESPN3 on Saturday, April 26 at 7:30 pm ET.

ESPN's live, multi-screen sports network is accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and streamed on televisions through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

Soccer fans around the world will also be able to ‘Watch Every Match Live’ throughout the 2014 North American Soccer League season including Week 3 venues of April 26 in Fort Lauderdale, Minnesota, New York, Ottawa and Tampa Bay at www.NASLLive.com.

Currently just four points from first-place, the Rowdies are coming off consecutive 1-1 draws and are searching for their first victory of the Spring Season, while visiting Silverbacks are aiming to end a five-game losing streak.

“It's a beautiful opportunity for us,” said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill on playing the Silverbacks on ESPN3 this Saturday. “Regardless of whether the cameras are here, the players go out there committed to try to win the game.  We're going to try and create opportunities by playing with passion, with inspiration and with desire.”

NASL Spring Week 3 encounters kickoff on Saturday afternoon as Canada’s newest club, Ottawa Fury FC hosts their third home game in eight days as Carolina RailHawks, who are currently two points from first-place, visit Carleton University’s Keith Harris Stadium at 3 pm ET. The first-ever meeting between the two sides will be live locally on Rogers TV and TSN 1200 Radio.

“We expect another tough week in the NASL,” said RailHawks coach Colin Clarke, who’s team posted a 4-1 win last week to extend their home unbeaten streak to 17 games.  “This will be our first ever trip to Ottawa and we will look to get a good result. I think we will have a great match on Saturday afternoon.”

Elsewhere on Saturday, the defending champions New York Cosmos look to extend their unbeaten streak, which currently stands at 13 (tied for NASL’s all-time best since 2011), when they greet San Antonio Scorpions at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium at 7 pm ET live on ONE World Sports.

“The Edmonton game is behind us, now we are focusing on playing San Antonio,” said Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese, who’s side posted a 1-0 road win over FC Edmonton last week.  “Every game for us is a final, especially when we play at home. We expect San Antonio to come full strength but our guys are growing every weekend.”

The Scorpions are also coming off a road victory (2-1) against Atlanta Silverbacks last Saturday, however they have not beaten the current league leaders Cosmos in their previous two meetings.

Another of the league’s expansion club taking the field on Saturday will be Indy Eleven as it travels for the first time and it takes on Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Lockhart Stadium at 7:30 pm ET.  The first-ever meeting between the two clubs will be live locally on radio at Sofloradio.com.

“We have to win this game against Indy,” Strikers coach Günter Kronsteiner, who’s club lost last week, 4-1, at the RailHawks, said.  “We had a tough loss in Carolina. We didn’t play that bad, we just made a few bad decisions that cost us the goals.

“Now we have to look past it and put in a good performance at home. Indy has a good team; Kleberson is a great player, so they’ll be tough. But we know it’s important to get a good result in this short season.”

Rounding out Saturday’s Week 3 encounters, Minnesota United FC, who’s currently tied for first in the standings but in second-place due to goal difference, welcomes FC Edmonton at Blaine’s NSC Stadium at 8 pm ET, live locally on KSTC-45 TV.

United, who has a four-game winning streak, have never lost to the Eddies in six previous meetings in Minnesota.  FC Edmonton, who had the best defense last year, held United to a 1-1 draw in their last visit to NSC Stadium last September.

“I’m well aware it will be a difficult task for us against Minnesota on Saturday,” said FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller.  “We know it’ll be a difficult game for us, but it’ll be difficult for Minnesota as well.

“They’re a very experienced team, well coached, and prepared. They’re a good club, but now it’s more about getting our house in order.”

NASL fans can watch every game by subscribing to either a 30-day pass or a season access pass at www.NASLLive.com, soccer fans can access all 135 matches during the 2014 NASL Spring and Fall Seasons.

Throughout the month of April, the NASL is offering a 10-day free trial to enjoy the weekly broadcasts as the league’s 10 teams battle to reach the postseason and compete in The Championship for the coveted Soccer Bowl trophy. This is the last weekend to participate in this free trial.

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