Fact Check in Aisle 16

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here, thanks to a combination of general life craziness and a computer hard drive crash, among other things.

The giant killers of USL-2

At any rate, in case there’s anybody out there who still reads this blog, I have a question for you. I don’t know the answer off the top of my head, and I’m too lazy to do my own research. Since the “professional era” of soccer’s U.S. Open Cup began in 1996, which is the most successful third tier team against Major League Soccer competition?

The reason I’m asking is that I have a feeling the answer may be our local team up the road — the Harrisburg City Islanders of USL-2,  founded in 2004. If you can verify that for me, your prize will be a warm fuzzy feeling for contributing to the vast body of incredibly accurate true facts found on the Internets, and you can look that statement up on the Internet to see just how true it is.

Last night Harrisburg City eliminated The World’s Stupidest Soda Commercial, a.k.a. the New York Red Bulls of MLS, in the round of 16, with a late extra time goal in the 117th minute to win 1-0 and advance to the cup’s quarterfinal round. It’s actually the third time the Islanders have made it to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals in the last four years, and it’s the club’s third cup win against an MLS team during that span. Other victims have included D.C. United and the New England Revolution.

There’s a write-up of last night’s game, along with video clips and pictures, from Pennlive.com’s Derek Meluzio here. The win was especially nice from a revenge standpoint because Harrisburg is now Philadelphia Union’s minor league affiliate, and New York knocked Philadelphia out of the U.S. Open Cup in the MLS qualifier rounds in the spring.

For what amounts to a semipro team that plays its home games in a park on Harrisburg’s City Island surrounded by a deck and a few portable bleachers to knock of an MLS team at all is quite an accomplishment, but for the team to do it on a regular basis over the last half decade or so is amazing. One only need look at the differences between the Islanders’ home field and Red Bull Arena to see just how much of a disparity exists between the top tier and the third tier in soccer in the U.S.

The Charleston Battery of USL-2 also beat the MLS Chicago Fire in another cup game last night, but Charleston only moved down to the third tier this year after spending its whole existence in the second division before now. Other lower-tier teams, like the Rochester Rhinos, have also been historically successful against MLS teams in the U.S. Open Cup, but Rochester, like Charleston, has always played in the second tier, not the third tier.

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