Group Stage Preview - PC Division
This week, we’re breaking down all five divisions of the 2021 Lower League eCup presented by Offside Marketing! First up, it’s the PC Division, the smallest and most evenly matched of any of the five divisions. With eight competitors and no returning champion, this year’s PC Division is wide open and features plenty of new faces.
The eight competitors in the PC Division have been divided into two groups of four. The division features a unique knockout stage format, with the group winner advancing directly to the semifinals, the second-place teams entering the knockout stage in the quarterfinals, and the third and fourth place finishers in each division squaring off in a play-in round. It’s an innovative format that allows all eight competitors to advance to the knockout stage while still emphasizing the importance of group stage results.
Group A has earned a reputation as “The Group of Death” in the PC Division and features the two highest-ranked returners from the 2020 tournament in Oakland County FC (USL League Two) and Union Dubuque FC (Midwest Premier League). Oakland County and Dubuque are joined by tournament newcomers Space United FC and Danubia Men’s Elite. While we won’t know who well the two newcomers will stack up until the tournament gets underway, it’s safe to expect that Space United and Danubia are two clubs that could make a deep run in the wide-open PC Division.
Oakland County is once again represented by co-owner Theo Foutris, the 2020 tournament runner-up. Foutris finished the 2020 event with a 6-3 record and averaged nearly four goals per match, good enough for second-best in the division. Furthermore, Oakland County recorded a 4-1 record against clubs returning in this year’s PC Division. Although Oakland County would eventually fall in the final to Metro Louisville FC (NPSL), Foutris was dominant throughout the tournament, including a 7-4 win over the tournament’s second-highest ranked returner, Union Dubuque FC. As a result of their strong performance in 2020, Foutris and Oakland County open the PC tournament as the favorite to take home this year’s title.
While Oakland County has emerged as the pre-tournament favorite in both Group A, the aforementioned Union Dubuque, represented for a second straight year by co-founder Cliff Conrad, will challenge for both the group and the eCup title. Conrad struggled in the early stages of last year’s tournament, before catching fire at the end of the group stage and making a run to the semifinals. Although Dubuque would lose to Oakland County in the semifinals, they did get the best of the Michigan side in the group stage, winning 3-2 on the final matchday to qualify for the knockout stage. While they may not be the favorite, it will surprise no one if Dubuque can make a deep run in this year’s tournament.
As for the two newcomers, Space United FC and Danubia Men’s Elite, very little is known about their two representatives. For Space United, it’s Matthieu Labaudiniere who will take control of the sticks in the PC Division, while Danubia Men’s Elite will be represented by first-team player Aaron Sexton. Although few newcomers across all five divisions are expected to make a deep run in the tournament, these two have as good of a chance as anyone in a very evenly matched PC Division.
Pre-Tournament Group A Power Rankings
- Oakland County FC
- Union Dubuque FC
- Space United FC
- Danubia Men’s Elite
If you thought Group A was wide open, Group B will blow your mind. One of the only groups in the entire eCup without any returning players from last year’s knockout stage, Group B will be a four-way battle for seeding, and it’s not hard to imagine any of these four players finishing in the top two of the group. Group B features the South Bend Lions (USL League Two), Kingston Stockade FC supporters group, The Dutch Guard (NPSL), Lansing Common FC (Midwest PL), and Delaware Rising FC (NOSL).
Starting with the pre-tournament favorite in Group B, the South Bend Lions will be represented by supporter Devin Combs, who also represented the Lions during the 2020 tournament. Combs failed to reach the knockout stage in 2020 despite four wins during the group stage, eventually being eliminated on goal differential after an unlikely and miraculous string of results did not go in South Bend’s favor. Although he failed to reach the knockout stage, Combs was competitive throughout the entire tournament and could be a dark horse pick to make a deep run in the knockout stage. In his only matchup against a 2021 Group B opponent, Combs defeated the Dutch Guard SG, 5-0 in a group stage clash.
Back for a second year, Kingston Stockade FC supporters group The Dutch Guard will look to improve upon a rough outing in the 2020 tournament. Dutch Guard member Bradley Delmar opened last year’s eCup with a string of disappointing results, results that would prove too much to overcome, despite improvement throughout the tournament. Delmar finished the 2020 eCup with a record of one win, five losses, and one draw. Despite the Dutch Guard’s struggles in 2020, the experience gained by participating in last year’s tournament could put Delmar and the Dutch Guard in a position to earn some positive results in 2021.
The two newcomers in Group B aren’t just newcomers to eSoccer, but both Lansing Common FC and Delaware Rising FC will play their inaugural seasons in 2021. A phoenix club created by the supporters of the now-defunct Lansing Ignite of USL League One, all of Lansing Common’s eCup entries show promising signs of being competitive entries in the 2021 tournament. The Robins will be represented by supporter Josh Reynolds and could challenge for Group B, as well as the tournament title. On the other hand, not much is known about the FIFA talents of Delaware Rising FC, who will be represented by Billy Carr, however, if an Ohio team can dominate Trevor Lawrence, who’s to say that an Ohio team couldn’t win at FIFA?
Pre-Tournament Group B Predictions
- South Bend Lions
- Lansing Common FC
- Delaware Rising FC
- Dutch Guard SG