Thanks to their outstanding finish in 2016, the SD Zest are among the teams currently in the running to participate in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Zest finished in second place of the Western Conference Southwest Division with a 8-5-1 record.
The team also finished with a total of 29 points just behind first place FC Tucson, a team they beat on the road during the last year’s regular season which was also FC Tucson’s only defeat that year.
About 20 teams from the USL PDL make it into the tournament this year and the SD Zest are among those favorite to be included thanks in large part to their current position in the power ranking.
This year’s U.S. Open Cup tournament will feature teams from every level of men’s soccer in the American Soccer Pyramid. The American Soccer Pyramid teams and leagues of the United States are not linked by the system of promotion or relegation typically found in soccer leagues around the world.
In the United States, professional men’s outdoor soccer leagues are ranked by the United States Soccer Federatio
n into one of three divisions: Division I, Division II, and Division III.Amateur soccer organizations are also recognized by the USSF, but individual amateur leagues are not. Despite only having two starters expected to return from last year’s team, the SD Zest have already acquired the services of international standout players like 22-year old center midfielder Tomoyuki Nakayama.
Despite his youth Nakayama already has experience in big matches including playing the entire game at center midfield during his team’s victory versus Japanese second league pro club FC Machida Zelvia in the 2016 Emperor’s Cup.
Japan’s Emperor’s Cup is the same kind of tournament at the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The U.S. Open Cup began more than a century ago and was originally known as the National Challenge Cup with the first champion being the Brooklyn Field Club in 1914.
The current defending champion is FC Dallas who defeated the New England Revolution 4-2 on September 26, 2016 in last year’s championship match. The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is the oldest ongoing national soccer competition in the U.S. and the world’s third-longest-running open soccer tournament.
Last Year’s tournament was contested by 91 clubs from the three professional leagues sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation: Major League Soccer (MLS), the North American Soccer League (NASL) and the United Soccer League (USL), and also amateur clubs in the earlier rounds of the tournament after qualifying through their leagues.
The overall champion earns a quarter million dollars in prize money while the runner-up receives $60,000, and the furthest-advancing team from each lower division league receives $15,000.
In addition, the tournament winner qualifies for the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.