U.S. Open Cup: Minnows get their chance against the pros

For four teams in Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup second round, the competition began last fall with Open Division qualifying.

The Lansdowne Bhoys, NTX Rayados, FC Denver and Sporting AZ all survived the three-round competition and were among 13 teams to advance to last week's first round.

Having won their opening games, they are back at it on Wednesday, facing off against teams from the USL. Not since 2013 has a team from the amateur ranks below the NPSL and PDL failed to reach the third round.

Here's a look at the four Open Division qualifiers.

Lansdowne Bhoys (at North Carolina FC). The Cosmopolitan League club is the reigning USASA champion in both the National Open Cup and National Amateur Cup.

The Bhoys are something of a late comer on the New York ethnic scene. They were founded in 1997, and their current president (William McGrory), head coach (Austin Friel) and captain (Sean Kelly) are all Irish immigrants.

But Lansdowne has players from all around the world. The star is Gambian Abdoukarim Danso was in goal as the Bhoys shut out the Brooklyn Italians, 2-0, to advance to the second round.

Danso, who goes by the nickname "Kabo," saved three penalty kicks to stymie the three-time Open Cup champion Pancyprian Freedoms in Open Division play. He is the brother of former MLS player Futty Danso, who is on the North Carolina FC roster.

Open Cup history. Kabo was in goal two years ago when the Boys upset the USL's Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 2-0, in the second round in 2016. Their run ended in the third round against the Rochester Rhinos.

Open Cup 2017-18:
2-1 at Jackson Lions FC (Garden State Soccer League)
0-0 (4-3) at NY Pancyprian Freedoms (Cosmopolitan Soccer League)
3-1 Junior Lone Star U23s (Philadelphia Premier Soccer League)
2-0 at Brooklyn Italians (NPSL)

NTX Rayados (vs. OKC Energy FC). The Rayados (the nickname of Mexican powerhouse Monterrey) were founded in 2011 and play in the North Texas Premier Soccer Association.

Former Bradley and Midwestern State forward Christian Okeke's overtime goal gave the Rayados a 2-1 win over Fort Worth Vaqueros at Richland College in the first round. Their first goal was scored by Lucio Martinez on a free kick.

Open Cup history. The Rayados have qualified for the Open Cup in each of the past seven seasons -- the best record of any qualifier in the modern era -- though they were kicked out of the 2016 tournament for not having a team competing in the North Texas Premier Soccer Association.

Open Cup 2017-18:
2-0 Central Texas Lobos (Austin Men's Soccer Association)
4-1 at Celtic Cowboys Premier (Austin Men's Soccer Association)
2-1 Motagua New Orleans (Gulf Coast Premier League)
2-1 Fort Worth Vaqueros (NPSL)

FC Denver (at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC). FC Denver was founded 12 years ago when a call for players was put out on Craigslist. The club, which plays in the Colorado Premier League, has grown to four adult men's teams, including two over-30 teams.

A hat trick from Chivas USA academy and UC Santa Barbara product Cesar Castillo gave FC Denver a 4-2 over over Colorado rival Azteca FC in the first round. Alex Bernhardt, who played at NCAA Division III St. Thomas in Minnesota, had the fourth goal.

Open Cup history. This is the first time FC Denver has advanced to the Open Cup proper. It tuned up by traveling to St. Louis to face the USL's Saint Louis FC in a pair of pre-season matches.

Open Cup 2017-18:
3-0 at Gam United FC (UPSL)
1-0 Fort Collins United (UPSL)
2-0 Indios Denver FC (UPSL)
4-2 Azteca FC (Colorado Premier League)

Sporting AZ (vs. Phoenix Rising). The club, based in Phoenix's East Valley, traces its roots back to the indoor Phoenix Hearts of Southwest Independent Soccer League, one of the many names of what became the USL. They later became the Arizona Sahuaros and were then renamed Sporting Arizona FC, which now competes in the UPSL's Southwest Conference.

Sporting AZ, coached by former Northern Ireland international Aidan Davison, knocked off the NPSL's FC Arizona, 1-0, in the first round. Andrew Weber, who played 12 games in an MLS career that spanned 10 years and was a backup when the Portland Timbers won MLS Cup 2015, made three saves and earned the shutout.

Open Cup history. The Sahuaros played in the Open Cup six times, most recently in 2010 when they lost to the Austin Aztex.

Open Cup 2017-18:
3-1 Inter EmpireWorks FC (UPSL)
6-1 Galati FC (Arizona Champions League)
1-0 at FC Arizona (NPSL)
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