Championship fever is spreading through Cleveland, and the city will provide the backdrop for a national amateur soccer tournament held on June 2 and 3, while NPSL’s AFC Cleveland will compete for the title.
The AFC Cleveland Royals will take a break from NPSL play this weekend to take part in the Hank Steinbrecher Cup, a national tournament featuring the champions of various national amateur tournaments. In addition to participating in the cup named after longtime U.S. Soccer Secretary General Hank Steinbrecher, for the first time, AFC Cleveland was chosen to host the tournament at their home ground of Stan Skoczen Stadium at Independence High School.
AFC Cleveland will battle for their first trophy of the year against 2016 USL PDL Champion Michigan Bucks, U.S. Amateur Cup Champions Christos FC, and the defending Steinbrecher Cup champions, Chicago FC United. An NPSL club has never won the tournament in its previous four incarnations.
The first matches of the tournament were decided by a draw conducted on March 23 by Steinbrecher himself and set up the following first-round contests on June 2:
6:00 pm – Michigan Bucks vs. Chicago FC United
8:00 pm – AFC Cleveland vs. Christos FC
The final and third-place match will kick off at the following times on June 3:
5:00 pm – Third-Place Match
7:00 pm – Championship Match
Fans could have gotten a sneak peak of the Royals cup opponents during the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Bucks hosted USL’s Saint Louis FC in a Tuesday fixture, losing 2-1. The Bucks earned a place in the third round courtesy of their 1-0 victory over NASL side Indy Eleven.
AFC Cleveland’s first opponent, Christos FC, and Chicago FC United also advanced into the third round by defeating professional, Second Division clubs. The draw following Christos FC’s win against USL’s Richmond Kickers, and Chicago FC United’s against the USL’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds, paired the two amateur clubs against one another in the third round, which guaranteed one of the amateur clubs would face D.C. United of MLS in the fourth round. Baltimore-based Christos FC would advance via a 1-0 win in Chicago.
The Royals will look to use the Steinbrecher Cup to bounce back from last weekend’s two tough fixtures against conference rivals Dayton Dynamo and Erie Commodores FC, which both ended as close losses.