EPSA cup draw in Manayunk a fun sign of amateur soccer growth

When representatives from some of the Philadelphia area’s best amateur soccer teams filtered into the small, upstairs bar at Manayunk’s Sona Pub and Kitchen on Thursday night, the pub staff was still prepping the bar, and officials from Eastern Pennsylvania Soccer Assocation were still scrambling to set-up a humble event stage.

The team reps had come to watch the draws for two major amateur tournaments: The Werner Fricker Open Cup and the Robert M. O’Neill Amateur Cup. This was the first draw of its kind for EPSA, and although these cups include some of the oldest, most historied clubs in the United States, the event signals an effort for growth.

“I’ve been waiting for an event like this for a long time,” said Jason Karasow, a player and representative for United German Hungarians. “I think it’s a great idea. A lot of that credit has to go to [West Chester United head coach] Blaise [Santangelo] for starting up something like this.”

Before the set-up for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup changed, the Werner Fricker Open, named for the former USSF president who famously brought the World Cup to the United States in 1994, was the amateur teams’ path to the U.S. Open. Now, the Werner Fricker remains a major pro-am, but whose trophy brings prestige more than anything else to one of the eight participating teams.

The Robert M. O’Neill Amateur Cup, an entirely amateur tournament, is comprised of 15 teams. The winner advances to a larger, regional stage, and may continue on from there.

Sona Pub and Kitchen, a sponsor bar of one of the participating and oldest regional teams, Lighthouse United, agreed to host the event in their more private, modest bar upstairs.

Before Santangelo took over recently as cup commissioner for EPSA, the cup draws merely took place in the EPSA office. “I went to those draws, and it would just be myself and maybe one or two other people and the cup commisioner,” Santangelo said. “I thought, ‘This is a shame. This could be something.'”

This year, that “something” was a simple but fun night for these local teams at Sona, which sponsors Lighthouse United, one of the region’s oldest teams. Some of the oldest, most storied clubs in the United States, like United German Hungarians, Ukrainian Nationals, and Lighthouse, convened with newer, up-and-coming teams like Upper Darby FC.

“We have a lot of different teams from different leagues,” Santangelo said. “I thought it would be a nice way to break down the divides.”

The teams certainly joined together for the actual draw. Werner Fricker Jr. drew from a small metal raffle spinner and announced the results. The attendees only filled a few tables, and Fricker Jr. didn’t need a microphone to announce the results. But it was better than five people in an office, and the camaraderie and air of anticipation was undoubtedly more intimate and intense.

Santangelo seemed pleased.

“I think it went great,” he said. “Last cup draw, I think we had five people. Today I think we had 20-25 people.”

His sentiments were echoed across the board. Everyone from players to EPSA officials to bar staff commented on the growth they’ve seen in the amateur community.

“We want to make this over the years get bigger and bigger,” Santangelo said. “Maybe eventually this brings more clubs in [to the cup] from different leagues…[Next year] I’d like to see 50 to 60 people come to this.”


Werner Fricker Open Cup

Robert M. O’Neill Amateur Open Cup



  1. This is really cool. I love this game.

  2. This is awesome, I had no idea that they were doing this.

    Please alert the PSP readers when these matches are scheduled as it would be fun to go to some of them.

  3. Ryan – thanks for the attention & great article from our first public Cup draw event. Looking forward to your coverage at the upcoming EPSA Open & Amateur cup games.

    First games are Oct 15….check out the schedule http://www.eastpasa.wix.com/eastpasa

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