For Glory: Regional cup competitions and the Riverside County Cup
Just after the conclusion of the 2018 U.S. Open Cup, the countries greatest open competition, lower league clubs shift their focus to the ongoing 2019 qualification and their current league season. The U.S. Open Cup has been able to shed a small national spotlight on a few lower division clubs in American soccer, but only few clubs earn that glory every season. Last year it was Christos FC (Maryland Majors SL) who beat D.C United and earned national attention, but what would of happened if they lost? FC Golden State (PDL) lost to the LA Galaxy and NTX Rayados ( North Texas PSL) lost to the Houston Dynamo in the fourth round of this years cup competition and other than a two minute video before the match, these lower division clubs weren't even highlighted nationally.
I bring this all up, because while every club dreams of the Open Cup glory, few clubs achieve it. Teams fight and use every resource to achieve glory, but how much of that results in more jersey sales, ticket sales or sponsorship opportunities? Not much.
Regional tournaments, like the Riverside County Cup, offer another avenue towards club growth and glory. For the teams and players winning a cup competition means more exposure within the community, a trophy and sometimes a cash prize. For the fans it's about passion and wanting to see your club beat your biggest rivals.
Regional competition is often inter-league and focuses on building a stronger soccer community. The extra matches offer additional opportunities to gain game day revenue, this could be from ticket sales, concession sales and additional sponsorship opportunities. Another benefit towards playing regionally is that it also cuts down on travel expenses. Often in other national tournaments teams are required to travel long distances, visit other stadiums and miss out on potential revenue for their club. Keeping matches regional encourages traveling fans and creates a better environment in the stadium.
So what is the Riverside County Cup? I caught up with Temecula FC (NPSL) owner Brandon Jantz to discuss this competition.
Was the Riverside County Cup your idea and how did it start?
“I thought about it with Robert, of Riverside Coras FC. We had already been playing each other for three years and we both constantly talk about how we needed more games, something through the fall offseason. We wanted something professional. We wanted to make sure that the gameday standards were no different than our current NPSL standards, that way we could draw a crowd and use these games as a way of support, to keep the club going [in the offseason]. We wanted our supporters to be able to see us play, the club to participate in a professional match and to use that match to help support the club revenue throughout the year.”
This year the competition will consist of three teams: defending champions Temecula FC, Toros Neza USA (UPSL) and City Legends FC (UPSL). Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances the Riverside Coras FC (NPSL) will be unable to participate. ( For more information see their press release: https://riversidecorasblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/riverside-county-cup-pr/ ). Instead of the original elimination bracket, the tournament will become a single table with each team playing a home and away match against each participating club. The winner will be determined by highest point value. If tied, the winner will be determined by goal differential.
All three clubs have been preparing and earning favorable results as they head into this competition. Toros Neza USA and City Legends FC both participate in the UPSL So Cal South Championship division. Toros Neza are currently in 4th place and are coming off a huge 10-2 victory over Fontana International SC. The City Legends FC are in 3rd place and have been impressive in their inaugural UPSL season. Temecula FC are in their offseason, but have been preparing with friendies against other nearby competitors. Out of five friendlies the Quails finish with 4 wins and 1 loss.
What do you think of cup competitions like the Riverside County Cup and other regional tournaments?
“I think [regional cup competitions] if done professionally can grow the game in your community. Meaning you show up and have a locker room, a good refereeing crew and security at the match. I think that's extremely important, because the game, the players and the fans are very passionate and you need to make sure that it's professional, because it could get out of hand.”
Do you see this tournament as a formula for other lower division clubs to help themselves?
“I think so, because we already don't like Riverside Coras FC, we don't like Toros Neza USA, and we've only played City Legends FC once and we don't like them either. I get along great with the owners, it's not personal, but club to club we don't like them. With that rivalry, if it transitions to the fans, which it does, now that means something. When your rivals come into town you don't want to lose. The match becomes very important and that grows the passion within the supporters. That's something that the Riverside County Cup can do.”
While this is only the second annual Riverside County Cup, hopefully it becomes a lasting tradition. As the US soccer landscape continues to expand and more clubs call Riverside County their home there will be more competitors. Making Riverside County a home for soccer.
Where do you see this competition in 3-5 years?
“ That all depends on the number of clubs that enter the Riverside County area. I don't think we will go outside of Riverside County much, maybe a guest team here and there. Robert and I have discussed having the likes of a Xolos U23 involved in the competition to spice it up a bit. Add some real quality on the field and add another draw for fans. The main goal is for the competition to grow not in the number of teams, but in visibility in our community, the number of supporters watching and the quality of play on the field.”
I often think of the dream most lower division clubs have: qualifying for the Open Cup, winning the Open Cup, playing in the CONCACAF Champions League and eventually making it to the FIFA Club World Cup. Regional competitions like the Riverside County Cup offer opportunities to gain experience in elimination tournaments and hopefully one day these tournaments can offer a path into Open Cup qualification. At the very least this competition and many others like it, will continue to develop passion for the sport throughout the country. Making our country a soccer nation, one community at a time.
- Steven Ramirez