Preview: Spotlight on amateur teams aiming for more Open Cup success

In 2017, six teams from the Open Division -- three from the PDL and three qualifiers -- advanced to the third round of the U.S. Open Cup but only one team -- Baltimore's Christos FC -- won to earn a date with an MLS team in the fourth round.

In 2018, nine teams from the Open Division -- four from the NPSL, three from the PDL and two qualifiers -- reached the third round, and at least two are already assured of passage to the fourth round.

Third round: Schedule

Two Open Division matchups -- Jacksonville Armada vs. Miami United FC and NTX Rayados vs. FC Wichita -- are set for Wednesday night.

Also playing in the third round are the PDL's Mississippi Brilla and FC Golden State Force, defending champion NPSL Elm City Express and Sporting AZ FC, the lone survivor from the growing UPSL. Elm City faces the Charleston Battery, the 2008 Open Cup runner-up, while the other three teams face first-year USL teams.

The PDL's Ocean City Nor'easters lost to the USL's North Carolina FC, 4-1, on Tuesday.

Here's a look at the four amateur teams taking on pro opponents from the USL ...

Charleston Battery vs. Elm City Express.
The Battery is the first pro test for the Express, based in New Haven, Connecticut, after wins over the amateur Western Mass Pioneers and Seacoast United Phantoms.

Connecticut niche. The Express has had immediate success on and off the field. In its first year, the Express won the 2017 NPSL title with a 5-0 win over Midland-Odessa FC before 3,112 home fan. It draws players from the many college programs in Connecticut and New England's large Brazilian community. Shaquille Saunchez, who scored both goals in the win over Seacoast United, played at Sacred Heart.

Nashville SC vs. Mississippi Brilla.
The Brilla, which has been around since 2007, is back on the road, playing at Vanderbilt University's soccer stadium after knocking off the USL's Indy Eleven in Clinton in the second round.

Christian outreach. The multi-national program reflects its outreach as a Christian ministry. The squad features seven Englishmen and five Frenchmen, most from small-college programs in the South, like Frenchman Ali Brador from West Alabama and Englishman Oliver Brock from Lander, both 2017 All-Americans.

Sporting AZ vs. Fresno FC.
Sporting AZ shocked the Phoenix Rising, second in the USL's Western Conference, in Chandler, so it shouldn't be fazed by the the first-year Foxes, who are in 11th place heading into Wednesday's game in Mesa.

Open Cup veteran. Keeper Andrew Weber, a backup on the Portland Timbers' MLS Cup 2015 championship team, got plenty of Open Cup playing time during his 10-year MLS career, often starting in early rounds when starters were rested. In back-to-back years, he got to play for San Jose against Portland and Portland against San Jose.

FC Golden State Force vs. Las Vegas Lights.
In the second round, FC Golden State Force won at Orange County SC, fifth in the USL Western Conference. Now, it gets a home game at Downey High School against the 12th-place Lights, a first-year USL team.

PDL force.  In its second PDL season, Golden State FC advanced to the national semifinals. In 2018, it is off to a 3-0-0 start in the summer league with three shutout wins by a 12-0 margin. Pedro Fonseca, who had an insurance goal in the 4-2 win over Orange County SC, leads the Force with four goals in three PDL games.

Here's my look at the seven #USOC2018 second-round upsets: Wins by @FCWichita, @JaxArmadaFC, @OCNoreasters, @msbrillafc, @FCGSForce, @SportingAZFC and @Ntxrayados.

Here's the breakdown of the 24 #USOC2018 second-round winners:
15 @USL
4 @NPSLSoccer (@FCWichita, @JaxArmadaFC)
3 @USLPDL (@OCNoreasters, @msbrillafc, @FCGSForce)
1 @UPSLsoccer (@SportingAZFC)
1 @USASARegion3 (@Ntxrayados)

Jacksonville Armada (NPSL) vs. Miami United (NPSL), 7 pm ET
Charleston Battery (USL) vs. Elm City Express (NPSL), 7 pm ET
Louisville City (USL) vs. Saint Louis FC (USL), 7 pm ET
Nashville SC (USL) vs. Mississippi Brilla (PDL), 8:30 pm ET
NTX Rayados (Texas) vs. FC Wichita (NPSL), 8:30 pm ET
San Antonio FC (USL) vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks (USL), 8:30 pm ET
Sporting AZ (Ariz.) vs. Fresno FC (USL), 10 pm ET
FC Golden State Force (PDL) vs. Las Vegas Lights (USL), 10 pm ET

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