The first amateur soccer team from Louisiana to qualify for the modern Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will attempt to become the state’s first amateur team to advance in the single-elimination tournament Wednesday.
Club Deportivo Motagua of New Orleans will be hitting the road in its U.S. Open Cup debut to face Mississippi Brilla Futbol Club, a developmental squad that plays three levels below the top-tier Major League Soccer.
The victor will advance to play a May 18 match against Oklahoma City Energy FC, a professional team that competes two levels below Major League Soccer.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. Wednesday at Traceway Park in Clinton, Mississippi. Tickets at the park are $5, and Brilla officials said people who can’t make the trip to Mississippi should be able to watch the match via live stream on U.S. Soccer’s YouTube channel.
In the 103-year-old U.S. Open Cup’s current format, amateur soccer teams from across the country must win their local leagues and clear a qualifying phase to earn a bid to the tournament.
The tournament’s early phases don’t include MLS clubs; but, if they advance far enough, the United States’ amateur, semipro, and lower-division professional teams could potentially earn matchups against the country’s top pros.
Motagua counts on a roster that includes some of the more productive prospects that once suited up for the New Orleans Jesters and the defunct Baton Rouge Capitals. Named after a successful professional soccer club in Honduras, the Blue Eagles of Motagua earned a berth for this year’s U.S. Open Cup after twice winning the amateur Louisiana Premier League, which is entering its third season.
Managed by Tony Martinez, Motagua has also the past three championships in the so-called Islano League that plays its games in New Orleans’ Pan American Stadium. Two of the Blue Eagles’ most dangerous attackers are midfielder Leonardo Ferreira de Barros and forward Reece Wilson, both ex-Jesters.
Ferreira de Barros, of Brazil, ensured himself a share of the Louisiana Premier League’s scoring title this season after netting six goals. Meanwhile, Wilson, of England, had a role in eight goals during seven Louisiana Premier League appearances for Motagua, thumping in five goals and assisting on three others.
For its part, Brilla — managed by Mark McKeever — belongs to the United Soccer Leagues-sponsored Premier Development League, where the Jesters and Capitals have competed in. The club has earned U.S. Open Cup berths twice (2009 and 2012), and it has won four of its league’s divisional championships, including one last year.
Testing Motagua’s defense on Brilla’s behalf will be Lucas Cordeiro, a Brazilian who scored four goals while setting up another five in 20 appearances last season for the Tulsa Roughnecks. The Roughnecks are professionals playing two levels below MLS.
The only other Louisiana team to qualify for the modern U.S. Open Cup was the New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers, who once played at the level just below MLS and split two games in 1997 before eventually folding.
Since their league began playing in 1996, MLS teams have captured all but one of the U.S. Open Cups disputed. However, an amateur squad has defeated an MLS club before, and all teams like Motagua begin this year’s competition with dreams of replicating that feat.
“This is a chance for our guys to showcase their talents against the best semipro and professional teams in the country,” Motagua posted on its official Facebook page recently. “We hope you are just excited as we are. (Wednesday) cannot get here soon enough.”