Challenge Cup Set to Kickoff, Features 17 Clubs

by Joe Meyer

Tonight, the second annual Challenge Cup at the Lower League eCup gets underway with a new format and overall direction.

After serving as a “play-in tournament” in 2022, the Challenge Cup has been revamped into a standalone competition - modeled after the UEFA Europa League - and will feature 17 of the 18 clubs that did not qualify for the Knockout Stage. The 17 participating clubs have been divided into four “brackets” including three brackets of four entrants and one of five entrants. Pairings for the Challenge Cup were determined by pairing players of a similar group stage performance and scheduling availability.

Each of the four brackets will consist of a one-night, single-elimination tournament, with the winners of each bracket advancing to a one-night “Challenge Cup Final Four” on March 22 or 23. All matchups in the Challenge Cup will be played as a single match.

Details for the Second Division Challenge Cup have yet to be announced, but the second division event will consist of a one-night event next week. The field will consist of Division II competitors that failed to reach the semifinals. More information regarding the second division Challenge Cup will be available after this weekend’s DII Quarterfinals.

* - One invited entrant was unavailable to participate and opted out of the Challenge Cup.


BRACKET A (Wednesday, March 15): Laguna United FC, Louisville City FC, Midwest Hooligans, South Bend Lions, South Georgia Tormenta FC

8:00 p.m. ET - South Bend Lions vs. Midwest Hooligans

8:30 p.m. ET - Louisville City FC vs. Tormenta FC

8:30 p.m. ET - Laguna United FC vs. Winner of South Bend/MW Hooligans

9:00 p.m. ET - Bracket A Final

BRACKET B (Wednesday, March 15): Minneapolis City SC, Olde Fields Battalion SG, Richmond Kickers, San Antonio Runners

9:45 p.m. ET - Richmond Kickers vs. Olde Fields Battalion

10:00 p.m. ET - Minneapolis City SC vs. San Antonio Runners

10:20 p.m. ET - Bracket B Final

BRACKET C (Thursday, March 16): AFC Columbia, Dutch Guard SG, Maryland Bobcats FC, Storm Chasers SG

8:30 p.m. ET - Maryland Bobcats FC vs. AFC Columbia

8:30 p.m. ET - Storm Chasers SG vs. Dutch Guard SG

9:00 p.m. ET - Bracket C Final

BRACKET D (Thursday, March 16): Grays Harbor Gulls FC, Great White Buffalo, Peak XI FC, SPAM FC

9:30 p.m. ET - Great White Buffalo vs. Grays Harbor Gulls FC

9:30 p.m. ET - Peak XI FC vs. SPAM FC

10:00 p.m. ET - Bracket D Final