US Open Cup / West Chester United

West Chester United in their first-ever US Open Cup game on Wednesday

On Wednesday at 5:30 pm, five years of hard work will come to fruition when West Chester United faces Fredericksburg FC on the road in the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

“When you look back, it’s amazing, so much work and effort went into all that,” West Chester United head coach Blaise Santangelo told PSP. “But it was all worth it, to have this experience. For us, this is a tremendous honor. It really puts things in perspective, you know? It’s hard to get to this spot, and our guys are really, really excited.”

It’s the nature of the early rounds of a national cup tournament that teams might have little in the way of scouting information about their opponents, and this is compounded by the fact that this year’s tournament features a field of 92 teams, the most in the 103-year history of the competition.

Fredericksburg FC, which is in the NPSL’s Mid-Atlantic Conference, doesn’t begin league play until the end of May. Santangelo acknowledges information on his team’s opponent is scarce, outside of knowing its players have come out of Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Virginia, and other area universities. “They’re going to be good,” Santangelo said. “Virginia soccer is really good.”

As is the case with West Chester United, Fredericksburg FC is participating in the opening round of the U.S. Open Cup for the first time and Wednesday night’s game will be the first-ever Open Cup game played in Fredericksburg.

West Chester United will travel by bus for the game, which will be played at University of Mary Washington’s Battleground Stadium. While the team has support from its parent club to help with travel costs, which for this game are in the neighborhood of $2,600, Santangelo also expressed his appreciation for the support teams receive from US Soccer to help pay for travel costs and per diems, a level of support that increases if a team has to travel by air. “It’s really pretty amazing,” he said.

The whole team will be making the trip, something that may not seem notable at first glance until one considers that West Chester United, which plays its league games in the United Soccer League of Pennsylvania, is made up entirely of amateur players.

“The commitment and training isn’t for everyone,” Santangelo said. “It takes a special person to come out at 9:30 at night to train a couple hours two, three times a week, and then get up and go to a job. By the time you get home, you can’t fall sleep right away usually, it takes until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning to settle down. And that’s how it is for me and I’m a coach. I get out there and run with the guys but I know, I hear the stories about the guys being exhausted. It’s a big deal and we’re very thankful that these guys are so committed.”

If West Chester United is victorious in Virginia, they will host USL-side Harrisburg City Islanders in the second round next Wednesday, May 18.

“That would be a tremendous thing,” Santangelo said. “I don’t know that there’s ever been a Lamar Hunt game in Chester County. We’re representing a lot of people in the Philly area that play soccer at the amateur level. We are a microcosm of our community and the history of Philly amateur soccer. We feel like we’re holding the torch, you know?

“Now we just got to go and get some work done. All this talk is talk, we got to go and get the work done.”

For previous articles here at PSP on West Chester United’s journey to the US Open Cup click here, here, and here.

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