Knockout Stage Power Rankings

by Joe Meyer

The stage is set and our takes are spicy.

The eCup’s new format in 2023 set the stage for an ultra-competitive group stage, cutting the number of available knockout stage berths from 24 to 16, and giving us perhaps the deepest knockout stage field to date.

Today, we’re taking a stab at ranking all sixteen qualifiers, from top to bottom, in a move sure to land us some sarcastic comments, “I told you so’s”, and “He took that personally” memes over the next three weeks.

#1 - Duluth FC (Yossef Elsawy)

The defending champ and a unanimous number-one selection in every player’s poll since the tournament kicked off, Duluth FC’s Yossef Elsawy remains the clear-cut favorite to lift the trophy at the end of the tournament. Elsawy ran the table in an extremely deep Group A, surviving upset bids from two top-ten opponents (La Barra 608 & Minneapolis City SC), and has established the Bluegreens as the favorite to win it all until proven otherwise.

#2 - Providence City FC (Chris Moura)

Represented by two-time eCup finalist and U.S. Men’s National Futsal Team goalkeeper Chris Moura, Providence City enters the knockout stage looking to make its fourth consecutive run to the Final Four. Moura led the Rogues through “The Group of Death”, finishing with three wins and a draw in an ultra-competitive Group C. 

To reach the final four for the fourth consecutive year, Moura will first have to go through Milwaukee Pro Soccer’s Oscar Ayala, the 2022 Xbox Champion, after Ayala was upset in the group stage and fell to second in Group D.

#3 - Forward Madison FC (Evan Warwick)

Forward Madison FC Director of Public Relations and 2022 eCup runner-up Evan Warwick has improved upon his eCup finish in each of his three previous appearances in the tournament, reaching the Round of 16 in 2020, the Semifinals in 2021, and the Final in 2022. Bolstered by an impressive 5-2 victory over 2021 Runner-Up Greenville Triumph SC, Warwick posted 15 goals and a +12 goal differential in the group stage, recording the second-highest-ranked group stage performance in the tournament.

#4 - Milwaukee Pro Soccer (Oscar Ayala)

Represented by Oscar Ayala, the aforementioned 2022 Xbox Champion, Milwaukee Pro Soccer fell to second in Group D after falling victim to Space United FC in one of the biggest upsets of the tournament so far. Ayala responded to his first ever-loss in the Lower League eCup by dominating his final three matches of the group stage, scoring 22 goals and posting a +19 goal differential in wins over Tormenta FC, Commonwealth Cardinals, and Great White Buffalo.

Ayala’s upset loss and an ensuing second-place finish in Group D sets up an epic Round of 16 clash with second-ranked Providence City FC in what’s shaping up to be the match of the round.

#5 - Space United FC (Mark Morales)

Space United FC’s Mark Morales started the eCup by pulling one of the biggest upsets of the group stage, handing the aforementioned Ayala his first ever-eCup loss. Morales followed up his impressive opening statement by sweeping Group D, knocking off Tormenta FC (5-1), Great White Buffalo (3-1), and Commonwealth Cardinals FC (5-3). While Space United slipped behind Milwaukee in our rankings, it was solely due to Milwaukee’s dominant response (22 goals in 3 matches) to their opening match defeat, but consider Space United’s Morales a dark horse to do some serious damage down the stretch.

#6 - Crocketteers (Regan Allen Jr.)

Despite being the only entrant in the top nine of these power rankings without a knockout stage win in a previous eCup, the Crocketteers’ Regan Allen Jr. has earned himself the number six spot after a dominant knockout stage performance. Allen Jr. posted the best goal differential of any group winner during the group stage, scoring 18 goals and posting a +13 goal differential in his three-match sweep of Group B.

Quite frankly, the only thing keeping Allen Jr. outside of the top five is the lack of a “signature” top-ten win or a deep run in a previous eCup. A win in his knockout stage opener over a top-ten opponent and former DII finalist in La Barra 608 would almost certainly push Allen Jr. and the Crocketteers into the top five, and like Morales, Allen Jr. sits as a dark horse to do some serious damage down the stretch - but must first go through the next player on our list…

#7 - La Barra 608 (Omar Anguiano)

After nearly upsetting top-ranked Duluth FC in the group stage, La Barra 608 founder and two-time Division II runner-up Omar Anguiano rebounded to take down another top-ten opponent in Minneapolis City SC, clinching Group A’s second knockout stage berth. 

His reward? A matchup with the sixth-ranked Crocketteers in the Round of 16, a matchup which should be one of the top matches in the opening round and one in which a win could pave the path for a deep run in the knockout stage.

#8 - Delaware Rising FC (Chris Stohl)

When this year’s eCup started, very few knew what to expect of first-time Delaware Rising FC entrant and assistant coach Chris Stohl, the club’s third entrant in the past three years. Stohl quickly put down any doubts about his ability to compete in this year’s tournament with decisive 10-1 and 5-0 victories in his first two matches, before closing out Group F with a scoreless draw against the City of Ohio Sports Club.

#9 - Greenville Triumph SC (Gio Cañas)

After coming into the tournament as the third-overall ranked entrant, the Greenville Triumph’s Gio Cañas stumbled out of the top five with a three-goal loss to Forward Madison FC in his group stage opener. 

The Triumph supporter turned full-time employee, and 2021 eCup runner-up, rebounded with wins over Maryland Bobcats FC (5-3) and the Dutch Guard SG (6-1) but lacks the “signature results” needed in this year’s tournament to crack the upper echelon of our current power rankings. With that said, don’t let Cañas’ current ranking district you, as he’s more than capable of emerging from the eCup’s deepest field yet and winning it all in 2023.

#10 - City of Ohio SC (Jarod Chavez)

The City of Ohio SC defender Jarod Chavez took to the sticks to represent his club on the virtual pitch and delivered a nearly-flawless group stage performance in his eCup debut. Chavez became just the second player in eCup history to not allow a goal during the group stage, posting three clean sheets en route to two wins and a draw, and ultimately finished second on goal difference behind Delaware Rising FC after a 0-0 draw in his final group stage match against DRFC. 

Despite his impressive defensive performance, both of Chavez’s wins came against first-time participants, and don’t hold enough weight to move him up the rankings. But who knows? Maybe this year’s Cinderella story has been right in front of us this whole time.

#11 - Omaha Parliament (Chad Hamik)

One of only two eCup debutants to emerge as a group winner, Omaha’s Chad Hamik found a way to emerge victorious in Group E, tallying three wins and a draw in his four matches. The only first-time player in his group, Hamik notched results against the Richmond Kickers (3-3), Olde Fields Battalion (3-0), and AFC Columbia (2-0), before closing the group stage with an upset win over Lane United FC (2-1) to clinch the top spot in the group.

#12 - Dynamo FC St. Cloud (Carter Voigt)

If there’s a testament to how deep this year’s field is, it’s the fact that Voigt, a 2022 eCup Quarterfinalist who earned a group stage draw with second-ranked Providence City FC, is ranked at 12th entering the knockout stage. In fact, Voigt hasn’t lost a match yet at the 2023 eCup, coming away with a win and three draws from a loaded Group C, three draws which in all fairness, kept him from rising higher in the rankings.

While Voigt’s two draws against top-ten competition (at the time) were enough to get Dynamo into the knockout stage, he’ll need to pick it up a level against the fittingly fifth-ranked Space United FC in the Round of 16 to advance to a potential rematch of last year’s Quarterfinals against top-ranked Yossef Elsawy of Duluth FC. If Voigt’s past results are any indication, Dynamo’s more than capable of busting brackets and making a run into the latter stages of the knockout stage.

#13 - Lane United FC (Daniel Lopez)

Lane United FC’s Daniel Lopez opened the tournament as the favorite to win Group E and looked to be on his way to topping the group after back-to-back wins to open the tournament. A surprising 2-1 loss to Omaha derailed Lopez’s hopes of winning the group, but Lopez rebounded with a decisive 7-0 win over the Richmond Kickers, represented by former LUFC head coach Conner Cappelletti, to clinch a spot in the knockout stage.

#14 - Superior Wolfpack FC (Adrian Viveros)

Led by first-time representative Adrian Viveros, Superior Wolfpack FC sits at fourteenth in our power rankings despite notching a perfect group stage record. Viveros ran the table in Group H but lacks the signature win(s) needed to crack the upper echelons of our power rankings, and had it not been for stoppage time winners against Motorik FC and Louisville City, we may not be talking about Superior in the knockout stage at all.

So what does Superior need to do to gain our attention? The answer is simple - win. Viveros’ Round of 16 matchups against the 2021 Runner-Up, Greenville Triumph SC, is his opportunity to notch his first “tier one” victory and skyrocket into the top ten.

#15 - Motorik FC (Colton Vincent)

After dropping his group stage opener to Superior, Motorik FC’s Colton Vincent bounced back with back-to-back multi-goal wins over Louisville City (4-0) and the Greenville Liberty (3-1) to cement a place in the knockout stage. Vincent’s road to the final starts with a tough test against third-ranked Forward Madison, but if the Saint Peter’s Peacocks taught us anything last year, #15 seeds are not to be slept on.

#16 - Bateaux FC (Joey Tucci)

In a field this loaded, somebody just had to be at the bottom. Bateaux FC’s Joey Tucci escaped Group H with four points from three matches, the lowest total of any entrant in the knockout stage, with a 90th-minute equalizer against the San Antonio Runners ultimately landing Tucci and Bateaux a spot in the knockout stage.

His reward for finishing second in Group B? A matchup with Group A winner and top-ranked Duluth FC in the Round of 16, setting the stage for a fitting 1 v 16 matchup in the opening round. Our advice to Tucci - play with nothing to lose - and rewatch some highlights of UMBC’s NCAA Tournament win over top-ranked Virginia in 2018.