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FC Tucson draws 3rd-division Cal United for next round of U.S. Open Cup

3rd-round opponent for Tucson features top striker Nuño

Friday morning, U.S. Soccer made its draws for the next round of the U.S. Open Cup. FC Tucson will host California United Strikers FC for a third-round match to take place between April 19 and 21.

FC Tucson earned a place in the third round with a win against USL Championship side Las Vegas Lights on Wednesday. Cal United won a match against amateur team San Fernando Valley FC 5 - 0, with one goal being scored by 15-year-old Marcus Lee.

FC Tucson could have drawn either the LA Galaxy or LAFC, but the team ended up with one of the lower-division sides in the pool. The team already beat a second-division side this week, so coach Jon Pearlman likes their chances.

“It’s a team we really have a chance to have success against, especially at home,” said Pearlman. “We’ll look closely at their first-round game and see what we can glean from it.”

On paper, FC Tucson’s last opponent, Las Vegas, should have been a stronger test. Las Vegas plays a rung up from Cal United in the second tier of American soccer. Still Cal United are not pushovers. Last year, the team finished second and striker Omar Nuño was the top scorer with 15 goals in 2021.

This will be the first U.S. Open Cup run for club president Amanda Powers while at FC Tucson, but she was at New Mexico United for their second-round showing in 2019. She’s happy to avoid the travel costs, but it’s also good to be in Tucson for other reasons.

“We want home-field advantage. We know we play better when we are at home,” she said. “We feel that we have some good odds to win the game…let’s go to the fourth round. We have the opportunity to be a David and Goliath story.”

Divided Arizona

Interestingly, FC Tucson did not have the opportunity to get drawn with Phoenix Rising. It would have been an intriguing match-up: there’s the usual Phoenix/Tucson rivalry, Rising owned FC Tucson for a time and Phoenix coach Rick Schantz had been coach for Tucson during ther best Open Cup run in 2013.

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However, Phoenix and Tucson had to be split to make the math work. Phoenix was randomly selected (no word on whether this involved a coin flip, a Showlow card draw or 12 sided dice) to be in the pool with a set of mountain states teams, where Tucson ended up with southern California teams. Phoenix drew fellow USL Championship team New Mexico United.

Strikers, but not in the legislative or labor sense

Too-wordily named California United Strikers FC were formed in 2017 and have been affiliated with three different leagues. The initially were part of the North American Soccer League but disaffiliated before they played a match as that league collapsed. They were part of the founding membership of the National Premiere Soccer League and played there before jumping ship in 2019 to join the NISA for its inaugural season.

The team’s jersey sponsor has been Taco Bell for at least as long as they’ve been a professional side. It’s good that they are coming to Tucson so they can find out what actual Mexican food is like.

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Fans of Inter Miami and Miami FC doing the drawing for the U.S. Open Cup on Friday morning