Knockout Stage Power Rankings: Division II
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 16 to eight in the second division, and giving us perhaps the most competitive knockout stage to date.
Today, we’re taking a stab at ranking all eight second-division Quarterfinalists, in a move sure to land us some sarcastic comments, “I told you so’s”, and “He took that personally” memes over the next two weeks.
1. Tony Huerta, Inland Empire Republic
Similarly to the Premier Division, Division II has had a clear-cut favorite since the opening match of the tournament. Tony Huerta, a 2022 Premier Division Quarterfinalist, has sat atop the eCup Players’ Poll from the jump and enters the knockout stage as the winner of Group B, dubbed “the group of death” in the second division.
Huerta did drop one match during the group stage, a 3-2 decision to second-ranked AFC Columbia, but rebounded to win the group on goal difference following a two-goal win in a rematch with Columbia. With wins this weekend, these two DII juggernauts would square off in next week’s semifinals.
2. Price Meentemeyer, AFC Columbia
Another Premier Division Quarterfinalist in 2022, Meentemeyer has emerged as a formidable challenger to the pre-tournament favorite and proved his worth in his aforementioned 3-2 win over Huerta in his group stage opener. A two-goal loss in their rematch keeps Meentemeyer just behind Huerta, but we fully expect a battle for the ages should these two see each other again in the semifinals.
3. Brandon Mays, League One Review
Making his eCup debut in 2023, we weren’t quite sure what to make of Mays, the founder of League One Review, but our questions were quickly answered as Mays went unbeaten during the group stage. It took Mays only two matches to lock up Group A, and appeared to be well on the way to finishing with nine points from three matches until he lost a two-goal lead and settled for a draw against Motorik FC - a side that needed at least a point to advance - in his group stage finale.
While Huerta and Meentemeyer reign atop our power rankings as heavy favorites in the second division, Mays leads a sizable group of players that are capable of emerging as a dark horse to win the whole thing.
4. Patrick Valdez, Queen City FC
Queen City FC assistant coach & social media manager Patrick Valdez sits in the fourth spot of our power rankings after two strong performances to close the group stage. After a less-than-ideal 4-1 loss to Mays in his eCup debut, Valdez rebounded to take down knockout stage qualifier Motorik FC (1-0) and routed Old Bae Brigade (4-1) in his group stage finale to clinch a knockout stage berth.
Valdez faces a tough test in a fitting #4 v #5 Quarterfinal matchup with the next player on our list, but a win puts the final well within reach and could set up a group stage rematch against League One Review in the Semifinals.
5. Sandro Lulgjuraj, Delaware Rising FC
After a scoreless draw in his opener against pre-tournament group favorite Switchbacks FC, Lulgjuraj made an emphatic statement by taking down group leaders Superior Wolfpack by a 3-0 scoreline, which at the time put Lulgjuraj at the top of Group A. A disappointing draw to the winless “The Soccer Plug” in his group stage finale saw the three-time DRFC eCup rep finish second in Group C.
However, between this year’s tournament and his previous two appearances in the eCup, Lulgjuraj has demonstrated the ability to hang with anyone and could make a surprise run to the latter stages of the tournament.
6. Adrian Viveros, Superior Wolfpack FC
While the Group C winner will feel hard done by this ranking, Viveros slips to six as a result of his three-goal loss in the group stage to Delaware. Viveros, the only player to play in both the Premier and Second Divisions, also won his group in the Premier Division but was quickly outed following a 7-3 aggregate loss to the Greenville Triumph earlier this week.
With a resume highlighted by two group victories and a six-goal win over the seventh-ranked Switchbacks FC, Viveros will have an instant opportunity to make a splash and move up our power rankings, as he’s set to take on second-ranked AFC Columbia in the Quarterfinals on Sunday evening.
7. Dominik Jacobsen, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
A three-time eCup participant, and member of the Players’ Poll voting committee, Jacobsen entered the final matchday of Group C with an opportunity to win the group. After a win over “The Soccer Plug” and a scoreless draw against Delaware Rising’s Lulgjuraj, Jacobsen suffered a 6-0 setback against Superior in his group stage finale but made it through to the knockout stage as a wild card.
After a crushing defeat to close the group stage, Jacobsen has an opportunity to get back on track in the Quarterfinals as an underdog to third-ranked League One Review, a matchup in which a win could set the stage for a surprise run into the latter stages of the tournament.
8. Sandy Lester, Motorik FC
Somebody in this deep field had to be last, and in this case, it’s the only player to qualify for the knockout stage in either the Premier or Second Division without a win. Lester went through as the final wild card qualifier after two draws in her three group stage matches, which culminated in a thrilling come-from-behind effort against group winners League One Review in her group stage finale.
Fittingly, the eighth-ranked player in the field was drawn against the top-ranked player in IE Republic’s Huerta in the Quarterfinals and will need to channel herinner UMBC to pull an upset that would send shockwaves throughout the tournament.