Connect with us


Pulse of Pittsburgh Soccer: US Open Cup format (finally!) expected to be set; what will it mean for Steel City FC and Riverhounds?

While the Pittsburgh Riverhounds wrap up their preseason schedule this week, and college teams move ahead into the heart of their spring training and friendlies schedules, the long ordeal may finally be over as the US Open Cup finalized schedule is expected to be released by U.S. Soccer by the end of the week.

The only scheduled match to look forward to will be Friday’s final preseason encounter for the Riverhounds as they travel westward down the Ohio River to face league rival Louisville City FC.   Yesterday, the Hounds made their first signing announcement from the group of non-roster invitees who have been with the team during the preseason, as they signed former Tottenham Hotspur prospect and South Georgia Tormenta FC standout Kazaiah Sterling.

Hounds add standout Tormenta forward Kazaiah Sterling

With the Hounds roster sitting at 20 players, along with five non-roster invitees remaining, expect to hear more signing announcements late this week and early next week to round out the club’s roster ahead of next Saturday’s season opener in New Mexico (Saturday, March 9 – 4 p.m. ET).

Also — a quick update relating to the Hounds’ non-roster invitees — one new addition has been added: Ali Kazim Nahkid (a native of Beirut, Lebanon who most recently played at Thomas More University), while NISA’s 2023 Golden Boot winner, Markus Naglestad, after being with the team for the past four weeks, is not among the remaining non-roster invitees.

Open Cup Announcement Expected Soon

The big story this week though both here locally and on the National soccer scene is the US Open Cup. After months of back-and-forth battle between Major League Soccer (MLS) and US Soccer over the top division’s participation, an announcement is finally expected to come as soon as Thursday or Friday regarding the format and draw for the 109th edition of the United States national championship.

The announcement could not come any sooner for two local clubs, National Premier Soccer League’s (NPSL) Steel City FC and the Riverhounds SC (USL Championship), who are awaiting when they’ll begin competing in the Nation’s longest running knockout soccer tournament.

According to various reports, including Michael Battista (Hudson River Blue) only eight MLS teams will be participating, while numerous other MLS clubs’ second teams who compete in MLS Next Pro will likely join the tournament in place of the senior clubs.

While the Pittsburgh Riverhounds coaches and players, when asked, have politely declined comments as they’ve been fairly quiet and cautious about saying anything about the Open Cup status, last week, Pittsburgh Soccer Now spoke exclusively to members of Steel City FC as they wait anxiously for the tournament to be finalized.

Steel City FC ‘buzzing to get after’ US Open Cup debut despite turmoil at top of US Soccer ladder

“This competition is the heart of who we are, as a U.S. soccer community,” Ed Ellsworth, Steel City FC coach, said during the interview session with Pittsburgh Soccer Now.

“It’s literally the most democratic competition in the country.  It is a real inflection point in U.S. Soccer’s history. Who’s going to dictate the future?  We can have discussions like pro/rel (promotion vs relegation), the system that we have now, and that’s fine. That’s the path that MLS has taken.  But, having a closed system, where only MLS dictates the rules to U.S. Soccer,  That’s a different discussion, and I don’t think that’s right.”

With the anticipated ‘adjustments’ to the Open Cup format/schedule, the total number of entrants in this year’s competition is now expected to be 96 teams, down from 100 in 2023.

What does this mean for Steel City FC and the Riverhounds?

The first round should still include the majority of all of the non-professional teams, including Steel City FC.  The original slated dates for the first round was set between March 18-20.  Steel City FC have also put in a bid to host a first round match, with Pitt’s Ambrose Urbanic Field serving as the site.

The second round schedule introduce third division clubs from NISA, USL League One and MLS Next Pro, with a window for games expected to fall between April 2-3.  The third round on April 16-17 will see 16 teams from the second division USL Championship join the competition. The remaining eight USLC teams and the eight MLS first teams will enter the competition in the following round, the Round of 32, on May 7-8.

Thus, it’s completely possible that the Riverhounds, who made the deepest run of the USLC teams along with Birmingham, in 2023, may not enter the tournament until the Round of 32.

Pittsburgh Soccer Schedule (Feb. 29 – March 5)

Riverhounds SC at Louisville City FC — 1 p.m. — TBA, Louisville, KY


John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

Subscribe to PGH Soccer Now

Enter your email address to subscribe to PGH Soccer Now and receive notifications of new posts by email.

More in NPSL