US Open Cup First Round Recap: Duluth FC @ Forward Madison FC

Forward Madison defeated Duluth FC 2-0 on Tuesday, March 19th (Photo Courtesy of Forward Madison FC, Facebook)

On Tuesday night in Madison, WI one of the perennial powers of the NPSL North in Duluth FC made their return to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.

The last time the BlueGreens had played in the tournament was 2019 where they fell in the opening round to USL2 side Des Moines Menace on penalties. This match was different for Duluth and the handful fans who made the trip down with the team, the BlueGreens would be facing off against a professional club, rather than another amateur side. Duluth FC and head coach Sean Morgan have been in that situation previously as well. In 2018, Duluth hosted the now defunct St. Louis FC club ultimately falling 2–0 in their second round encounter.

Their opponents in Forward Madison FC were also no strangers to the Open Cup, having participated in all three seasons possible since the club formed. With a 3-3 tournament record, the 'Mingos looked to improve on their outing in 2023 where they fell 3–2 to MWPL side Chicago House AC in their only match of the competition.

Forward Madison made a near wholesale change with their Starting XI from the previous weekend. Michael Chilaka and Stephen Payne were the only returning starters from USL1 season opener. Madison's 2023 top scorer Christian Chaney made his return to the Starting XI, his first start since coming back from injury.

"Predominantly we're recruiting NCAA players and it becomes a little bit challenging because they changed the rules. We can't have a lot of those guys eligible after May 1st," Duluth FC manager Sean Morgan said about constructing the roster for the match. "So I think we did quite well to get a fair amount of returners who have previously played for us in the last year maybe two in some cases three and have that continuity. And then try and introduce quality into the squad in areas that are key in helping us for the game."

Madison came out of the gate hard and fast controlling the pace without question during the opening minutes. That constant offensive pressure paid off for Forward Madison when Christian Chaney snatched the opening goal less than 10 minutes into play.

"We want to play forward first. We do want to get into the opponents half and create better chances in them. I think we did that in our first two games."Forward Madison coach Matt Glaeser said post match.

Following the early goal Madison was content to relax offensively while defensively heavily pressuring Duluth. The result was Duluth FC not getting a shot off during the opening 45 minutes of play.

The second half started in very similar fashion to the first. Madison pressing hard offensively, pushing for that second goal. A second goal, once again a one touch effort coming from Christian Chaney just eight minutes into the second half.

"I was just trying to focus on hitting the target and it ended up going in. Really good goal I'm really happy I got to score," Madison forward Christian Chaney said to media post match.

From there on Madison, with a 2–0 lead once again slipped back into slowing down pace when in possession and heavily pressuring Duluth when out of possession. The BlueGreens managed two shots in that second half of play, the first being a header by Joe Pickering that missed just wide left of goal. The second being a blast from Tyler Limmer that went over the crossbar and out of play.

"I think one of the biggest aspects in terms of key takeaways, as you go up the levels the speed of play increases. I think that was obvious at times tonight," Duluth FC manager Sean Morgan told the media.

The loss ends Duluth FC's third venture into the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and turns their attention towards finishing roster construction for the upcoming NPSL season. Duluth FC begins their sixth season in the NPSL on Wednesday, May 15th against Joy Athletic Club at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth. The BlueGreens are also set to participate in the second edition of the Minnesota Super Cup.

Forward Madison meanwhile continues their journey in the 2024 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The 'Mingos second round match will pit them up against MLS Next Pro side Chicago Fire II. That match will be played at 7pm on Wednesday, April 3rd at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL.

US Open Cup First Round Preview: Duluth FC @ Forward Madison

Today is the day everyone, the local league season is [kind of] underway once again. In addition to this Border Battle with Duluth FC opening their season at Forward Madison. Des Moines Menace, Chicago House, and others will open their season in the 2024 edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. This has been a massively different start to the 2024 edition and a match has not been played yet. A long delay initially started following Major League Soccer's announcement they would not play in the tournament and intended to send their MLS Next Pro affiliates instead. This kicked off a long drawn out conversation for the format, which included fears the USOC would be scrapped entirely for this year.

This was settled on March 1st when the United States Soccer Federation finally revealed the tournament format. Gone were all MLS teams participating, reverting back to the partial participation common through 2011. In were some of the affiliated MLS Next Pro sides, allowing affiliated lower league clubs back in for the first time since the 2015 edition.

The Magic of the Cup

The US Open Cup is the only true national soccer championship in the United States. Due to the lack of promotion and relegation, along with most league's tendencies to self isolate interleague play is rare. This is one of the few times each season clubs from different leagues play each other. This makes the Open Cup truly unique in American sports as there is no equivalent in other sports. There is no baseball tournament where the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks can play the Minnesota Twins and no hockey tournament where the Quad City Storm could face the Iowa Wild. The NBA does have an in season tournament, but it includes no G League teams.

The Open Cup also provides every team something to compete for in every match. The furthest advancing lower league side from each division earns $25,000. The runner-up earns a cool $100,000 and the tournament champion gets $300,000 and a place in the 2025 Concacaf Champions Cup. With only eight MLS teams participating in 2024 it is quite possible the Cup could see it's first non-MLS winner since the 1999 Rochester Raging Rhinos.

Forward Madison FC (USL1)

The 'Mingos are the clear favourites to win in this first round clash. The professional side has already been together for a full preseason unlike Duluth. Madison has also already opened their 2024 league campaign with a 1-1 draw with South Georgia Tormenta FC. Madison will look to lean on 2023 top scorer Christian Chaney to overpower the BlueGreens. Matt Glaeser is in his 3rd Season in charge of the 'Mingos and will certainly be hoping to avoid another Cupset like last season.

Duluth FC (NPSL)

The BlueGreens return to the US Open Cup for the first time in nearly five years and for the first time under fourth year manager Sean Morgan for their first match of 2024, a full two months before NPSL play begins. This is not the first time Duluth has had to assemble a squad on short notice for the Open Cup. Duluth FC previously qualified for the 2018 and 2019 editions. In 2018 Duluth defeated fellow NPSL North club Dakota Fusion on penalties in an absolute classic before falling in the Third Round to the now defunct St. Louis FC club. In 2019 the BlueGreens fell on penalties to Des Moines Menace in the First Round.

Tune in via US Soccer here

Other Area Matches
All Matches on Wednesday, March 20:

Chicago City SC (USL2) @ Chicago Fire II (MLSNP) – 7pm CT
SeatGeek Stadium – Bridgeview, IL

Stream here

MNUFC2 (MLSNP) @ Chicago House AC (MWPL) – 7pm CT
Langhorst Field – Elmhurst, IL

Stream here or follow our coverage on Northland Soccer Journal

Des Moines Menace (USL2) @ Capo FC (NISA) – 9:30pm CT
Jserra Catholic High School - San Juan Capistrano, CA

Stream here

USLW Heartland Overview

The USL W League is returning for its third season in 2024, continuing its overall expansion. Even with the continued expansion, the Heartland Division retains most of its shape from 2023. The only loss the division saw was Green Bay Glory heading back to the WPSL after two seasons in USLW.

Bavarian United

A former WPSL side entering their third season in USLW, the Bavarians will look to rebound off a middle of the road season in 2023. The historic suburban Milwaukee side continues to play their home matches at Heartland Value Fund Stadium in Glendale, WI.

Chicago City SC

Another former WPSL side, also playing their third season in USLW, last years division runner-up Chicago City has their work cut out for them in 2024. City's history has seen the side perform relatively inconsistent over the years, though City has continued to get better each season. CCSC will move their home ground from the Lions for Hope Complex to Loyola University's Hoyne Field.

Chicago Dutch Lions

Another former WPSL side, the Dutch Lions looked nearly dead just two seasons ago. In their final WPSL season in 2022, CDL finished the season at 2-6-0 and lost their final four matches 20-2. Enter last season with the Dutch Lions joining the W League and rebounding to a 7-4-0 record, finishing third in the Heartland Division. The Dutch Lions will once again make their home from the Spartan Athletic Park in Aurora, IL.

Minnesota Aurora

Aurora return for their third season of play and are clearly the team to beat both on and off the pitch. In both seasons of USLW play, Aurora has captured the Heartland division title with ease. Massive crowds at TCO Stadium in Eagan have made their home ground a fortress. But both seasons ended in disappointment with Aurora falling in the 2022 USLW Final and in the 2023 conference final. It's safe to say Aurora have a chip on their shoulder heading into the season.

RKC Third Coast

Last season's expansion side, RKC Third Coast had a disappointing first campaign in 2023 going 3-8-0 and finishing in fifth place. RKC hosts their games at Pritchard Park in Racine, WI.

River Light FC

The only expansion side in the division for 2024, River Light keeps the division size exactly at 7 following the departure of Green Bay back to the WPSL. River Light will join the Chicago Dutch Lions using the Spartan Athletic Park in Aurora, IL as their home ground.

Rochester FC

One of the only two teams in the Heartland located west of the Mississippi, Rochester FC are desperate for a better campaign after a poor run last season. A 1-11-0 record handed the Loons the divisions wooden spoon by 6 points in 2023. Rochester FC returns to Rochester Regional Stadium on the east side of the city for the second USLW season.

USL2 Central Conference Recap: Week 1-2

Credit: United Soccer Leagues

Week 1


St. Charles FC 0-4 Des Moines Menace

Des Moines Menace kicked off their 2023 season and return to the Heartland Division against a debuting St. Charles FC side in St. Charles home opener. The match did not go the way the hosts would have liked as they fell to Des Moines 4-0. The Menace struck early on with a Lagos Kunga strike from inside the six. After the opener in the ninth minute, the Menace struck again in the 33rd minute with a goal from Eliot Goldthorp. Des Moines would earn an own goal in the 65th minute before adding the fourth goal when Leroy Enzugusi sent a low shot into the corner of the goal from 15 yards out.

Week 2


Midwest United FC 0-0 Oakland County FC

Midwest United hosted in-state rival Oakland County FC at MUFC's home (and season) opener in Grand Raids, MI. Neither said was able to break a deadlock that would go through the entire 90 minutes, ending the match in the conference's first nil-nil draw in the season.

Minneapolis City SC 1-2 St. Croix Legends

The Crows took to the field to open their USL2 season at home against St. Croix SC in the Twin Cities derby. After falling in their season the previous weekend in Minnesota Super Cup match the against MNUFC's U19 team, Minneapolis City looked for their first win under Carl Craig. In what would become a very chippy match with seven yellows issued, Minneapolis City stuck first with a 31st goal from Hakeem Morgan directly from a free kick. Right after the start of the second half, St. Croix's Nathan Donovan chipped the ball over Minneapolis goalkeeper Oscar Herrera's head, then from near the six sent it in for the easy goal to draw the match level. Six minutes later Otis Anderson kicked in a ball bouncing around inside the six to put St. Croix up 2-1 and earn what would be the match winning goal.

Des Moines Menace 3-0 FC Wichita

After a routing win to open the season for Des Moines, FC Wichita looked to get the season off to a good start against easily the toughest team in the division. After staying even for nearly 30 minutes, the Menace snagged the opener when Eliot Goldthorp scored his second of the season on a rocket from inside the 18. Just four minutes after the opening goal, Lagos Kunga snapped up his second goal of the season when he chipped a ball over Wichita keeper Breno Zanolla, who would later be issued a straight red card, allowing the ball to roll in for the second goal and push the Menace firmly in control. Leroy Enzugusi tacked on the third goal in the 74th minute with an easy finish after receiving a pass inside the six in front of a wide open goal.

Cleveland Force SC 3-3 FC Buffalo

The season opener for both sides and the first ever USL2 match for FC Buffalo would end in each side taking home just one point after playing to a 3-3 draw.

AFC Ann Arbor 5-0 Kalamazoo FC

Another Michigan rivalry match opened the season with AFC Ann Arbor hosting Kalamazoo FC. After going into half-time up 1-0 off a goal from Charlie Sharp, The Mighty Oak broke the match wide open in the second half, with four more goals to secure a dominating win.

Fort Wayne FC 1-0 Kings Hammer FC

Fort Wayne FC edged out Kings Hammer FC in a closely fought contest with Alexandre Frank's 75th minute bicycle kick goal being the deciding factor in the match..

Coming up


Lansing City Football v AFC Ann Arbor


Kings Hammer FC v Cleveland Force SC

Kalamazoo FC v Flint City Bucks

Rochester FC v Bavarian United SC

Chicago City SC v Springfield Athletic SC


FC Buffalo v Fort Wayne FC

Midwest United FC v South Bend Lions

Minneapolis City SC v RKC Third Coast

FC Wichita v Des Moines Menace

Peoria City v St. Charles FC

Oakland County FC v Lansing City Football


St. Croix Legends v Bavarian United SC

USL2 Central Conference Preview

Des Moines Menace defeated St. Charles FC 4-0 on Sunday, May 7th, 2023 (Photo courtesy of Des Moines Menace)

Deep North Division

Clubs: 7

Clubs Lost: 2 (moved to Heartland Division)

Expansion sides: 3

Matches: 12

Playoff Spots: TBD (2 in 2022)

The 2022 season in the Deep North was dominated by perennial National Championship challengers, Des Moines Menace and expansion side Peoria City. Both of those sides have been moved out of the Deep North and into the Heartland Division for 2023. Thunder Bay Chill, FC Manitoba, St. Croix SC, and Minneapolis City SC will continue in the division, the existing four sides will be joined by three expansion clubs. RKC Third Coast is the only tried and true expansion side as Bavarian United and Rochester FC are additions to already existing clubs.

With the changes to the division the geography has been massively reduced and now is similar to, though larger than, the NPSL North Conference. After their performance last season, tying Peoria City on 21 points, Thunder Bay Chill are unquestionably the favourites in the league. On the flip side of that Minneapolis City SC finished dead last in the division in 2022. The Crows new, and former MNUFC (NASL) and Forward Madison boss Carl Craig will look to right the ship and rebound in 2023.

Great Lakes Division

Clubs: 7

Clubs Lost: 0

Expansion sides: 0 (gained 1 from Valley)

Matches: 12

Playoff Spots: TBD (2 in 2022)

The Great Lakes Division is the most stable division, with only one change, in the conference and looks to be the most competitive as well. 2022 Valley Division champion South Bend Lions join the Great Lakes and will play alongside: AFC Ann Arbor, Flint City Bucks, Kalamazoo FC, Lansing City Football, Midwest United FC, and Oakland County FC.

After an ultra-competitive 2022 where the top four sides finished within 9 points of each other, 2023 looks to be even more wild. The addition of South Bend Lions throws in another very good team who look to push further after being knocked out of the USL2 playoffs in the first round. The Lions will have their work cut out for them as Kalamazoo, Flint City, and AFC Ann Arbor are looking to stake their claim in at the top of the table. Oakland County, Lansing City, and Midwest United all finished the previous season losing more than half their matches, OCFC is looking to build off the best season in club history while Lansing and Midwest United will be looking to improve on their season one performances.

Heartland Division

Clubs: 7

Clubs Lost: 3 (not playing in 2023)

Expansion sides: 1 (gained 2 from Deep North)

Matches: 12

Playoff Spots: TBD (2 in 2022)

From 2022 to 2023 the Heartland Division has had a number of big changes. First of those are that three of the top four finishing teams in 2022, Chicago FC United, Kaw Valley FC, and St. Louis Lions, have all left the division. The division will not have the number of sides change as they have gained back Des Moines Menace from the Deep North, Peoria City also joins from the Deep North, The new look Heartland is rounded out with expansion side St. Charles FC.

After last year's performance in the Deep North, Des Moines and Peoria City along with Chicago City SC, will be easy favourites to win the division and gain it's playoff spot (or spots). After a good performance putting up 19 points last season, FC Wichita will also look to challenge the top teams in the conference for the playoff spots. Springfield Athletic SC will look for major improvement after obtaining just 7 points on 14 matches in 2022. Chicago Dutch Lions make a surprising return to USL2 after having finished the previous season as the division punching bag, earning -3 points after forfeiting the last three matches of 2022.

Valley Division

Clubs: 6

Clubs Lost: 1 (moved to Great Lakes Division)

Expansion sides: 1

Matches: 12

Playoff Spots: TBD (2 in 2022)

Rounding out the Central Conference is the six team Valley division. 2022 division champion South Bend Lions have been moved to the Great Lakes division. All five of the other sides from the 2022 season return to the Valley. Finishing out the division is USL expansion side FC Buffalo, who make the move over to USL2 after playing in the NPSL since 2010.

Kings Hammer and Fort Wayne FC enter as the favourites to win the division in 2023. The Kentucky and Indiana based clubs were the only two teams to come anywhere close to South Bend's 32 points last season. Kings Hammer tying them on points, but losing the tiebreaking and Fort Wayne finishing just six points back from the KHFC and South Bend. Toledo, Dayton, and Cleveland will all be looking to improve on overall awful 2022 season, that saw each side lost at least 65% of their matches. Having only qualified once for the NPSL playoffs and having their last winning season come in 2018, FC Buffalo will have their own major challenges to face as they will see an increase in level of play compared to the NPSL.

2023 USLW Central Conference Preview

Minnesota Aurora playing Indy Eleven in the 2022 USLW Quarterfinals (Photo courtesy USL W League)

The 2023 USL W League season is underway in a much expanded league from 2022. USLW has increased the number of teams from 44 last season to 65 this season, having lost five teams and added 26 new clubs to the league. This increase in clubs has seen a few changes in the league for the 2023 campaign. Similar to NPSL, USL2, and WPSL the divisions in USLW will now be split into four different conferences, The Eastern Conference is made up of the returning Metropolitan and Mid-Atlantic Divisions, the Southern Conference consist of the South Atlantic, South Central, and Southeast divisions, all returning from 2022. Brand new for 2023 is the entire Western Conference, made up of 13 clubs split between the Northwest and NorCal divisions. Lastly the Central Conference consists of the returning Great Lakes and Heartland divisions as well as the new Valley Division.

With the increase in teams, divisions, and conferences the USL W League has expanded the playoffs for 2023. The new playoff format will see 16 clubs qualify, double the amount from last season,. Each division is awarded at least one qualifying spot and each conference is awarded a total of four. In the Central Conference the winner of each the Great Lakes, Heartland, and Valley will earn a berth to the playoffs. The final berth will be awarded to the Great Lakes or Heartland division side with the highest points per game at the end of the season.

Great Lakes Division

Clubs: 6

Clubs Lost: 3 (moved to Valley Division)

Expansion sides: 1

Matches: 12

Playoff Spots: 1 (Possibility of 2)

The Great Lakes Division will see quite a shakeup for 2023. Defending champion Indy Eleven have moved over to the new Valley Division along with Racing Louisville and Kings Hammer. Cleveland Force are the only expansion side for the division, rounding out the line-up at six clubs; AFC Ann Arbor, Cleveland Force, Detroit City FC, Flint City AFC, Kalamazoo FC, and Midwest United FC. Three of the six clubs, Detroit City , Flint City, and Midwest United will enter with new head coaches as they see David Dwaihy, Michele Krzisnik, and Joe White take over their sides respectively.

Two (DCFC and FCAFC) of those three sides season all lost more than 50% of their games in 2022 and are wanting to rebound in 2023. Midwest United's new manager will look to push them to top of the division after finishing in second last season. Rob Miller will step behind the bench for Cleveland Force as the women aim to have a better debut campaign then the men's side did last season when they went 1-9-4 with 7 points. AFC Ann Arbor finished mid-table in the Great Lakes division last season and will aim to compete with Midwest United for the Great Lakes title.

Heartland Division

Clubs: 7

Clubs Lost: 2 (not playing in 2023)

Expansion sides: 3

Matches: 12

Playoff Spots: 1 (Possibility of 2)

Changes are a plenty for the Heartland Division as USLW heads into the reborn leagues second season. Three new sides in Bavarian United, RKC Third Coast, and Rochester FC have joined the conference, while the division lost Kaw Valley FC and St. Louis Lions. Bavarian United will have a leg up on expansion sides RCK and Rochester as the Bavarian Women have been competing in the WPSL for the past two seasons.

"Yeah, the league has definitely got better. It's going to be a lot harder to be successful in playoffs."

- Nicole Lukic, Minnesota Aurora head coach

After finishing the season with their only loss coming in the USLW Championship, Minnesota Aurora will look to do one better by winning the league in 2023. For more on Minnesota Aurora you can check out Bridget McDowell's piece on their preseason. Green Bay Glory found their stride in 2022 after multiple years of rough results in the WPSL before joining USLW. The Glory will look to improve upon their second place finish in 2022 to try and dethrone defending champions Minnesota Aurora. Both Chicago sides, the Dutch Lions and Chicago City SC, are returning for 2023. City will also look to be in the hunt as they finished in third, just below Minnesota and Green Bay. The Dutch Lions on the other hand are a slightly surprising return after the women's side forfeited their final two matches of 2022 to Kaw Valley FC.

Valley Division

Clubs: 5

Clubs Lost: 0 (new division)

Expansion sides: 2 (gained 3 from Great Lakes)

Matches: 10

Playoff Spots: 1

2023 sees the debut of the brand new Valley Division as part of the new Central Conference in USLW. Indy Eleven, Kings Hammer, and Racing Louisville come into the division after having played 2022 in the Great Lakes division. Those three are joined by expansion sides Lexington SC and St. Charles FC who's also have expansion men's sides playing in USL1 and USL2 respectively.

“I am super pumped and grateful for the opportunity to be coaching young, passionate and competitive ladies for the Racing W League team this summer. This is a great time to continue development for these ladies and compete at a high level in a professional environment. We will be intentional about getting 1% better every time we step on the pitch in preparation for our league games while also preparing them to go back to their college teams ready to compete at their best for their upcoming seasons.”
- Callie McKinney, Racing Louisville USLW Head Coach

A new division and new teams mean new faces on the pitch and behind the bench. Expansion side Lexington SC will be lead behind the bench by Florida Gators associate head coach Alan Kirkup. Fellow expansion side St. Charles FC will be lead by long time Missouri Baptist University head coach Deno Merrick. Racing Louisville meanwhile will have an all new look on the bench and on the pitch with Callie McKinney taking over the manager role and with most of the 2022 roster departing as well. Vince Gentile returns as head coach of Kings Hammer, who finished second to last in 2022. Indy Eleven enter the season as the division favourites after handily winning the Great Lakes Division in 2022, having not suffered a defeat until the playoffs. Eleven will be assisted heavily in their attempt at winning the division as they return top scorers Katie Soderstrom and Maddy Williams. Soderstrom and Williams combined for 21 goals over the 12 game regular season, with Soderstrom also averaging a goal per game..

Northern Lights Football is looking for contributors!

Welcome to Northern Lights Football!

Founded in 2021, we are a news site dedicated to covering, promoting, and growing local soccer in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions. We provide coverage of various different amateur and semi-professional leagues and clubs stretching from Ohio in the east to the Dakotas in the west. Northern Lights Football is also a sister site to Minnesota pro soccer focused Northland Soccer Journal, formerly E Pluribus Loonum of SBNation.

We’re always looking for talented contributors, no matter what that talent might be. You’ll find a list of our current openings below, but if you don’t find something that fits your set of abilities, please contact us with the information at the bottom of this posting.

All of our positions at are on a volunteer basis. We do not require any formal training — meaning this is a great way to pick up experience — however you do have to have the some foundational skills.

Without further ado, here are our current openings:

General Contributor, Writer: Ability to write cohesively in loose AP-Style; Ability to discover and tell interesting stories; Ability to write original opinion pieces

General Contributor, Photographer: Prior experience shooting live sports or events is preferred; Professional quality DSLR/mirrorless camera w/200mm lens preferred.

Other Notes:

Contributions for this position can take on many forms, including original reporting, news stories, features, analysis and opinion.

Interested? Email with one writing sample (preferably on a sports-related topic) or photo gallery (or link to one) and explain why you would be a good fit on our team.

Have questions about anything? Don’t see the position you’re looking for? Contact our Managing Editor, Ashle Norling, at

2023 Minnesota Super Cup Preview

This Friday night a brand new tournament will kick off when Minneapolis City SC hosts Minnesota United FC's U19 Academy side at Edor Nelson Field in Minneapolis. Six clubs representing four different leagues will make up the field for the competition's first season of play in 2023.

The MNSC isn't a unique idea, I feel versions of it have been talked about for years.
This version grew out of the idea of bringing the fractured pre-professional leagues in Minnesota together in meaningful competition, something more that friendlies or closed door matches.
A competition that would hopefully excite the clubs, players, and supporters, bringing more energy and growth to the already vibrant Minnesota soccer community.
- Jon Martinson on the creation of the Minnesota Super Cup

The 2023 format of the Minnesota Super Cup will see the six teams broken up into two groups of three, with each team playing the others once in the group stage. Group A will consist of Duluth FC (NPSL), Minneapolis City SC (USL2), and MNUFC U19 Academy (MLS Next), while Group B is made up of Med City FC (NPSL), St. Croix Legends (USL2), and Vlora FC (UPSL). Following the group stage the top two teams in each group will qualify for the semi-finals to be played July 21-23, the semi-final winners will advance to the Minnesota Super Cup Final to be held at Macalester Stadium in St. Paul on July 29th.

The Minnesota Super Cup first season will see some very notable and unique first time matches, a short lived derby revived (in a way), and a bitter rivalry continue. Group B is entirely made up of first time matches as the three sides have never faced any team in the group in competitive play. Group A on the other hand has a little bit of everything, the tournament opening match between Minneapolis City SC and MNUFC U19 will see the Crows face a Loons side in competitive play for the first time since the 2016 Premier League of America season. The second group match and fourth match overall will pit Duluth FC against an MNUFC side for the first time in club history. Rounding out Group A and the fifth match overall, a bitter rivalry will continue with Minneapolis City SC hosting Duluth FC as the only match of 2023 between the Crows and BlueGreens.

The MNSC is not a one and done tournament. Like I previously mentioned this is being built to be a long term, cornerstone event for Minnesota soccer.

We are obviously very focused on this summer, but we do have a number of initiatives in progress. For example, we are in the process of finalizing the entry rules for the 2024 tournament. Clubs eligibility for the MNSC will be based on their league performances much like Champions League. Look for more details on that soon.

My goal for the tournament is to create a platform to showcase Minnesota soccer talent, from clubs, to players, to referees, while fostering community and support for that talent. (And maybe starting a few good rivalries at the same time).
- Jon Martinson on the Minnesota Super Cup going forward

In 2024 the Minnesota Super Cup will see a format change, expanding to eight clubs from the present six. The top two finishing Minnesota based clubs in both USL League Two and NPSL will gain entry to the tournament. The other four sides entering will be the top finishing UPSL, MLS Next, and MASL Division 1 sides from Minnesota along with a single open qualifying team. The open qualifying path for the 2024 MNSC is open to all Minnesota based "pre-professional clubs that meet the minimum standards for entry into the competition" and will have a playing window of August 1st, 2023 to March 1st, 2024.

Minneapolis City SC will stream the opening Minnesota Super Cup match on Eleven Sports. For more MNUFC centric Minnesota Super Cup coverage you can head over to Northland Soccer Journal to read the preview on the U19's in the tournament.

NPSL Midwest Region Round Up: First Round Playoffs

Tuesday night saw the opening of the 2021 NPSL Midwest Regional playoffs. Cleveland SC faced Pittsburgh Hotspurs while Duluth FC hosted Carpathia FC. The two matches could not have gone in more opposite directions. Cleveland dominated Hotspurs from start to finish in Berea, OH.

Vincent Bell's fourth minute goal put CLE on track and Alec Nagucki added one just around the half hour mark. Thomas Beck and Smith Pepper would both add second half goals to give Cleveland a 4-0 win to send them to face FC Milwaukee Torrent.

Duluth FC vs Carpathia could not have been more opposite of that. The BlueGreens' Jake Starling broke the match open with his 26' goal before NPSL Golden Boot winner Sidney Warden added a 38' goal to double their lead.

Things looked to be going well for Duluth but a bad foul inside the box sent Owen Smith to the spot where he gave Carpathia life in the 79'. That life propelled a huge change in momentum and three minutes later Smith added one more to end up forcing Extra Time. After no goals in either portion of ET the match came down to penalties.

Duluth would kick first, which usually gives that team an advantage. That advantage flipped heavily after missing their first shot. Carpathia then scored on theirs and held the lead the rest of the way. The visitors came back from down 2-0 to take the match 6-5 on penalties.

The host for the Regional Semi-Finals and Finals was then announced late Tuesday night after both matches were well finished.


FC Milwaukee Torrent (GL 1) vs Cleveland SC (RB 1): 4 PM - Edor Nelson Field, Minneapolis, MN - YouTube

The first of the two matches being played in Minneapolis is the more intriguing of the two. 9-0-1 (27 points) Milwaukee Torrent match up with 8-2-0 (26 points) Cleveland SC. Both sides have been lights out during the regular season having a combined one loss. Torrent will very much have the advantage of rest with their last match having been played on July 17th.

Cleveland on the other hand just played on Tuesday and has a had a much longer trip to MPLS for the Regional Playoffs. Neither side really outmatches the other in their attack or defence making the first Semi-Final a great match to watch.

Minneapolis City SC (N 1) vs Carpathia FC (GL 2): 7:00 PM - Edor Nelson Field, Minneapolis, MN - YouTube

The second of the two matches has a huge possibility of being a massive blowout. Not only are the Crows, who have a single loss on the season, at home but they are also very high scoring. In fact Minneapolis City SC is the highest scoring team in the entire league. Facing a team averaging just under four goals per game Carpathia will have a challenge on their hands.

However Carpathia FC is giving up just 1.36 goals per match, showing how stout their defence is in a tough Great Lakes Conference. But in terms of scoring they will have a massive uphill battle against one of the best defences in the league and an All-Conference goalkeeper.

NPSL Midwest Regionals: First Round Preview

The 2021 National Premier Soccer League season has come to a close. All the playoff teams are set and the Region playoffs start tonight. For a full recap of the Great Lakes/North's final week you can check out Tim's recap of Week 11. But Week 11 did a few things, City winning gave them a bye and got Duluth FC in. Cleveland not picking up a win propelled City into first and gave Milwaukee a bye as well.


Cleveland SC (Rust Belt 1) vs Pittsburgh Hotspurs (Rust Belt 2): 6 PM - George Finnie Stadium, Berea, OH - Eleven Sports

The first of the two matches in the opening round is a match entirely within the Rust Belt Conference. Rust Belt champions Cleveland SC will host second place Pittsburgh Hotspurs in their third meeting of 2021. In their two previous meetings Hotspurs have been outscored a combined 8-2 by Cleveland. This includes a 6-1 loss handed to them in Berea in early June.

A big thing going for Cleveland is they are unbeaten in 2021 with an 8-2-0 record, good for 26 points. Hotspurs also played themselves into a good season going 8-2-0 (24 points) in the conference. Pittsburgh has a massive task on their hands as they have to simultaneously shut down an attack averaging 2.5 GPG and a defence averaging less then one goal against per match.

Duluth FC (North 2) vs Carpathia FC (Great Lakes 2): 7 PM - Public Schools Stadium, Duluth, MN - Eleven Sports

The second of the two is an inter-conference clash with the Great Lakes meeting the North for the first time this season. Duluth FC and their prolific scoring led by NPSL Golden Boot winner Sidney Warden will meet the stellar defence of Carpathia FC. After an up and down season Duluth managed to squeak into the playoffs off the back of a Minneapolis City SC win over Med City FC. The BlueGreens also set themselves up to play at home in the first round with their own win over Sioux Falls Thunder.

Duluth rides in with a three game hot streak on their hands with wins over Aris, Fusion, and the aforementioned Thunder. Carpathia meanwhile is 2-1-0 in their last three and on a three match streak of their own. Carpathia's 2.7 goals per game attack will have a bit of trouble with Duluth averaging giving up 1.67 goals. On the other hand Duluth's lights out attack averages 3.25 goals per game, second in the Region will meet a defence only giving up around 1.3 goals per match.

Midwest Region Playoffs, Stage 2:

Each region in the NPSL has their own design for playoffs. In the Midwest Region the first round is held by high seed, the last two rounds are held at one location. The location for the regional semi-finals and finals are determined on a bid basis.

Based on what Minneapolis City stated the last two rounds will either be hosted by themselves or Cleveland SC. If the Crows host it would be played at Edor Nelson Field on the campus of Augsburg University in Minneapolis. While if Cleveland hosts it will be held at George Finnie Stadium on the campus of Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, OH.

Regardless of host location the matches will be played Friday and Sunday, June 23rd and 25th.

*All Times CT

USL League Two: Conference Semi-Finals Recap

After Friday night's Quarter-Final matches four teams remained to head to the Central Conference Quarter-Finals. You can read our recap of the Quarter-Finals here and those matches left the Des Moines Menace (Heartland Champions), Flint City Bucks (Great Lakes #2), Kalamazoo FC (Great Lakes Champion), and Mississippi Brilla (Mid-South Champion). Des Moines would host Flint City in Des Moines, IA while Kalamazoo faced Mississippi in Clinton, MS.

#1 Des Moines Menace 1 vs #5 Flint City Bucks 0 : Valley Stadium, West Des Moines, IA - CISNtv

The first of the two matches that kicked off on the night was in Des Moines with the Menace hosting the Bucks. One goal would do the trick when in the 52nd minute Sivert Haugli scored for the Menace in what proved to be the matches only goal.

The lone goal would propel the Menace on to a close 1-0 victory sending them to the winner of the Kalamazoo/Mississippi match that would finish later last night.

#2 Kalamazoo FC 1 (4) vs #3 Mississippi Brilla 1 (1) : Clinton Arrow Stadium, Clinton, MS - Eleven Sports

The other Semi-Final match had the two Mississippi QF winners facing each other. And it was another back and forth drag out affair. Kalamazoo's Enrique Banuelos knotted the match it's first goal of the night in the 60th minute. Then with just seconds remaining Orlando Lozano scored at 90+7' to extend the game into extra time. The two 15 minute periods of ET came and went scoreless, sending the match to PK's. Kalamazoo got the best of Brilla taking them down 4-1 in PK's with Kalamazoo's Parker Smith making some big saves to send his team to face Des Moines Menace next weekend.

USL League Two: Conference QF Recap, SF Preview

Conference Quarter-Finals (First Round) Recap

#4 Chicago FC United 1 vs #5 Flint City Bucks 3 : Valley Stadium, West Des Moines, IA - CISNtv

The opening match of the Central Conference part of the 2021 USL League Two playoffs pitted a one loss Chicago side against a Flint City team who's been on a tear as of late. It took 38 minutes of deadlocked football before either side could score, and that would be Flint City after an Amadou Cisse goal. Diego Gutierrez knotted the match up for Chicago in the 50th minute with a PK after a foul in the box. It would be the Bucks who would take control in the last 50 minutes with Dylan Borczak scoring in the 75th and Henry Sanchez adding one in stoppage time to send the Bucks on to the Central Region Semi-Finals.

#2 Kalamazoo FC 3 vs #6 Corpus Christi FC 1 : Clinton Arrow Stadium, Clinton, MN - Eleven Sports

After a nearly two hour weather delay the second Quarter-Final match kicked off in Mississippi with KZFC trekking down from Michigan to face the Sharks of Corpus Christi FC. Kalamazoo's Enrique Banuelos scored first in the 38th minute and followed it up with a second half goal in the 47th to secure a brace. Four minutes later CCFC cut the lead in half with a goal of there own. That would be as close as the Sharks would get as Cyrus Harmon put a third one home in the 68th. The two goal win extended Kalamazoo's unbeaten streak to 10 straight dating back to June 9th and their win over South Bend Lions.

#1 Des Moines Menace 5 vs #8 Texas United 0 : Valley Stadium, West Des Moines, IA - CISNtv

The hosts took to the field for the third match of the day and the second in Central Iowa. All that can be said about this match is pure domination.Des Moines took a huge 3-0 lead inside just 20 minutes with Nil Ayats scoring in the 9th, Manel Busquets in the 15th, and Jordan Skelton in the 20th. The Menace we not done and after Manel Busquets was fouled in the box Ayats took to the spot and drove his second home to secure a brace. Ayats would make that brace a Hat Trick in the 47th after which the Menace would sit back and hold down the lead for the next 43 minutes en route to a Conference Semi-Final match.

#3 Mississippi Brilla 3 vs #7 Kings Hammer 1 : Clinton Arrow Stadium, Clinton, MS - Eleven Sports

The fourth and final match of the night and the second in Mississippi for the day. Like the previous match, it kicked off late due to the weather delay. The weather delay didn't effect the home side and Arturo Astorga proved that with a 5th minute goal from Brilla. Coming back from the half Kings Hammer evened it up with a Marcelo Jones goal in the 46th. Brilla's Jalen James gave the hosts back the lead in the 58th.Remi Emeriau clinched the win for Brilla with a stoppage time goal. The win sent the hosts on to face Great Lakes Division Champion Kalamazoo FC on Sunday.

Conference Semi-Finals (Second Round) Preview

#1 Des Moines Menace vs #5 Flint City Bucks: 7PM - Valley Stadium, West Des Moines, IA - CISNtv

A massive opportunity is on the line for both sides in West Des Moines tonight. One loss Des Moines hosts a rolling Flint City team in one of the two Central Conference Semi-Finals. Two high powered attacks and shut down defenses will take the turf at Valley Stadium. The Bucks have scored 38 goals across all 15 matches in USL2 play averaging 2.53 GPG. They will have a chore getting to score through Des Moines' stout defense who's only allowed 7 goals in 13 matches an average of .538 per match.

#2 Kalamazoo FC vs #3 Mississippi Brilla: 7PM - Clinton Arrow Stadium, Clinton, MS - Eleven Sports

Great Lakes Division Champion vs Mid-South Division Champion. This match is huge for both sides for more than just the trip to the Conference Finals. Kalamazoo FC has their 10 match unbeaten streak on the line. Brilla would be the only team from their Division to make it out of the first two rounds after Texas United and Corpus Christi were knocked out on Friday night. In order to win Brilla will need to shut down KZFC's Cyrus Harmon who had 8 goals in 12 matches in the regular season and one on Friday night. Brilla's Crio Damine has 7 goals and 1 assist for himself however his last was against Brazos Valley at the beginning of the month.

*All Times CT

USL League Two: Conference Quarter-Finals Preview

The long winding road down the path to the 2021 USL League Two Playoffs has finished, now the teams are in and the playoffs start tonight. The eight teams who qualified for the playoffs out of the Central Conference are now split over two locations. The number 1, 4, 5, and 8 seeds will play at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines, IA, the home of the hosts and number 1 seed Des Moines Menace. The 2, 3, 6, and 7 seeds on the other hand will head south to Clinton Arrow Stadium in Clinton, MS, the home of hosts Mississippi Brilla FC.

Conference Quarter-Finals (First Round)

#4 Chicago FC United vs #5 Flint City Bucks: 4 PM - Valley Stadium, West Des Moines, IA - CISNtv

The first of the four Friday matches has the second place team in the Heartland, Chicago FC United, face the Great Lakes' Flint City Bucks. Chicago is 9-2-1 with 29 points and their only loss of 2021 was to the hosting Des Moines Menace. Flint City went 9-2-3 with 29 points as well. Chicago has a 2-0-1 run of form in their last three with the loss being to the Menace while Flint City is 3-0-0 and has won four straight. Chicago will be a tough team for the Bucks to beat as they are the only side to defeat regular season National Champion Des Moines Menace.

#2 Kalamazoo FC vs #6 Corpus Christi FC: 5 PM - Clinton Arrow Stadium, Clinton, MN - Eleven Sports

The second of four matches on the night and the first in Mississippi. The two seeded and Great Lakes Division champion Kalamazoo FC will play the six seed in order to avoid a divisional clash in the first round. KZFC is 9-4-1 with 31 points and 2-1-0 in their last three along with a nine match winning streak to add. Corpus Christ FC went a much more average 7-2-4 (23 points) in a fairly even Mid-South Division. The Sharks are 1-1-1 in their last three and have lost three of their last five. Kalamazoo has a major advantage in this match.

#1 Des Moines Menace vs #8 Texas United: 7 PM - Valley Stadium, West Des Moines, IA - CISNtv

The third of four matches on the night and the second of two in Des Moines. Menace went an astounding 11-0-1 with 33 points to win the Heartland Division and Regular Season league championships. DSM are 2-1-0 in their last three with the loss coming to Chicago FC United, they also come into the match off a 5-1 thrashing of SLSG. Texas United went 6-3-5 (21 points) and are 1-2-0 in their last three and on a four match unbeaten streak. With how good the Menace are, Texas has a huge task on their hands tonight in Des Moines own home stadium.

#3 Mississippi Brilla vs #7 Kings Hammer: 7:30 PM - Clinton Arrow Stadium, Clinton, MS - Eleven Sports

Last but not least are the other hosts Mississippi Brilla and Kings Hammer. Brilla won the Mid-South at 8-3-2 (27 points) and are 1-1-1 in their last three. Kings Hammer meanwhile are 8-4-2 (28 points) and are 2-1-0 in their last three. While Brilla enters into the match off a loss KHFC is unbeaten in four straight. So while Mississippi are at home that advantage may not matter against the boys from Cincinnati.

USL League Two: Week 10 Recap

The final week of USL League Two play before the playoffs was a jam packed one with a total of 13 scheduled matches to finish out the season. Five matches were played on Wednesday with four of the five having implications on the playoff race.


Toledo Villa FC 1 vs Flint City Bucks 5 : University of Toledo, Toledo, OH - Eleven Sports

Kings Hammer 3 vs Fort Wayne FC 1 : Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH - No Announced Stream

South Bend Lions 4 vs Dayton Dutch Lions 1 : TCU School Field, South Bend, IN - No Announced Stream

Grand Rapids FC 3 vs Oakland County FC 2 : Midwest United FC Soccer Complex, Grand Rapids, MI - No Announced Stream

Des Moines Menace 4 vs Chicago FC United 0 : Valley Stadium, West Des Moines, IA - CISN


Wednesday's win by Des Moines Menace secured them the Heartland Division title and the first seed out of the division with Chicago FC United guaranteed the second seed from the division. In the Great Lakes none of the teams in the playoff race lost, continuing that chase. While South Bend defeated the winless Dutch Lions in a match that really didn't have a ton on the line.

Friday and Saturday had another combined six matches but this time with only three really counting towards anything in the playoff race.


Kings Hammer 3 vs Dayton Dutch Lions 2 : Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH - No Announced Stream


Chicago FC United 3 vs FC Wichita 0 : Bridgeview Sports Dome, Bridgeview, IL - No Announced Stream

Dayton Dutch Lions 1 vs Grand Rapids FC 6 : Dayton Outpatient Center Stadium, West Carrolton, OH - No Announced Stream

Flint City Bucks 4 vs Oakland County FC 0 : Atwood Stadium at Kettering University, Flint, MI - Eleven Sports

Green Bay Voyageurs 3 vs Kaw Valley FC 0 : Capital Park, Ashwaubenon, WI - Eleven Sports

Des Moines Menace 5 vs St Louis Scott Gallagher 1 : Valley Stadium, East Des Moines, IA - CISN


Saturday again saw no surprises with Kings Hammer, Grand Rapids FC, and Flint City all winning their matches as they all went after the second and third playoff spots in the Great Lakes Division. In the Heartland Division there was a major change though, both FC Wichita and Kaw Valley FC would forfeit their matches to Green Bay and Chicago respectively.

While those two matches are still listed on the schedule as 3-0 forfeits the teams did play each other in a friendly match that was not listed on the league website. The Voyageurs would end the season on a down note, falling to playoff bound Chicago FC United in that match.


Kings Hammer 2 vs South Bend Lions 2 : Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH - No Stream Announced

Fort Wayne FC 1 vs Kalamazoo FC 4 : Bishop Dwenger High School, Fort Wayne, IN - No Announced Stream


With Kings Hammer having clinched their playoff spot earlier in the week the only thing up for grabs was the rights to the Great Lakes Division title. KZFC would take that crown off a 4-1 away win over Fort Wayne FC dashing the hopes of Flint City Bucks taking the championship.