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Bucks Celebrate 25 Years Without US Open Cup Plans

By Flint City Bucks, 12/18/19, 4:30PM EST


The most successful amateur soccer club in modern day history will be celebrating its 25th season in the United Soccer Leagues (USL), but won't be participating in the event that made the club a household name across the country. 

The Flint City Bucks of USL League Two (formerly the Mid-Michigan Bucks and Michigan Bucks of the PDL) open the upcoming 2020 amateur season as the USL 2 National Champions and the three time defending USASA Hank Steinbrecher Cup National Champions but will be forced to pass on the 2020 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup due to significant changes by US Soccer that made it impossible for the team to field a squad to compete in the first three rounds scheduled in March and April 2020. The Bucks are historically made up of top NCAA college players from around the country, all who cannot join their amateur club until after May 1, per NCAA rules. 

The new rules for this year's Open Cup tournament were devastating to Bucks long time owner and CEO Dan Duggan, who has been a proponent of the Open Cup for over twenty years. 

"This is a travesty and a complete disaster for US Soccer and the credibility of the US Open Cup. This tournament is 107 years old and has only gained steam and excitement over the past twenty-five years {with the launch of MLS in 1996). We defeated the New England Revolution in 2000 with a roster made up of NCAA players that most of the MLS coaches have never heard of. We defeated the Chicago Fire in 2012 with a roster of players that mostly went on to become pros, many in MLS. We don't win either of those games or even get to host those kinds of matches without NCAA players. Not only are the teams punished, but the experience for the young college age player to be able to take on pro teams and audition in front of pro coaches is gone. This incentive was one of the most important parts of the tournament and the reason you saw so many motivated young college players want to participate in this great event. Now all that history and motivation is gone by the short sightedness of a few people making decisions without fully understanding the repercussions," said Duggan. 

The Bucks are one of many giant killers from the amateur ranks over the past twenty-five seasons in the Open Cup but their current success record against pro teams will probably never be matched, especially in this new format. 

The Bucks have appeared in 15 US Open Cups since 1997 and hosted 22 of 30 total Open Cup matches. The Bucks incredible record against pro teams stands at 10-10-1, including a record of 2-4-1 in seven matches against MLS clubs in the tournament. The Michigan based team was the first amateur club to ever defeat a team from MLS and is the only club in history to defeat two MLS teams.

Duggan concluded, "we were really looking forward to the possibility of being offered a spot in this year's Open Cup to help celebrate our 25th season. With MLS teams entering in Round Three, we hoped for the chance to repeat our 2012 run. Unfortunately, playing rounds 1-3 in March and April make it impossible for us to participate. We have no venue, players or coaches until May so we decided that it wasn't fair to just throw a team together of players who wouldn't be good enough to play for us in May just to say we were in the tournament again. So we decided it was best if we were offered a spot, to pass it on to the next team that might be able to field an early side." 

"US Soccer has to fix this. I have been in constant communication with them about these types of decisions that don't just affect us- this isn't about the Bucks. This is about the thousands of college players who just got disqualified to participate. I included a copy of our 2012 US Open Cup roster where had 25 eligible players for that game against the Fire. 23 of those 25 players were college players and 20 of those 25 went on to play pro soccer, several still in MLS today. If we had to play that game in April back in 2012, we would have only had 7 eligible players and only 4 in the state of Michigan in the month of March. This ruling would have depleted our roster and you would have never heard about this great upset. More importantly, these 25 players would not have had the experience of a lifetime that night- the very essence of what the US Open Cup is supposed to be all about. This could have easily been avoided if US Soccer really cared about the NCAA players and understood their impact on the history of what made this event as popular as it is today." 

"US Soccer's claim that they were forced to play these first three rounds in March and April due to scheduling and travel is utter nonsense. Between May and November, you can easily find 7-8 dates to complete this tournament. Even if you want to include black out dates to protect MLS playoffs, this could all get done between May and September. We did it for the last 25 years. Nobody is going to be perfectly happy with ANY schedule, but this is the US Open Cup and should be open to ALL US players- especially the college players who have been over 80% of the draft picks by MLS over the past decade. This is just an insane decision that will effect ONLY amateur clubs and none of the three pro levels (which all begin their seasons in March)." 

The Bucks will open their 25th season at Atwood Stadium in Flint this May, where they closed out the 2019 season in front of 7,198 fans who watched the team win their record fourth USL League 2 National Championship in an overtime thriller versus fellow USL League 2 powerhouse Reading United. The Bucks will host the Hank Steinbrecher Cup on May 29 and 31 as well and will welcome three top amateur teams from around the country including current USASA Amateur Cup champions Newtown Pride FC.

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