Ranking the Returners
Over seventy-five percent of the organizations and players in the 46-club field in the 2023 Lower League eCup are returners from previous tournaments, and come back with a another chance to compete for eCup glory. Today, we're taking a look at the best of the best returning players from last year's tournament, reviewing the top ten 2022 performances by returning players featured in this year's tournament.
#1 (Tie) - Yossef Elsawy, Duluth FC ('22 PlayStation Champion)
After winning last year's tournament with Vlora FC, Elsawy returns for the 2023 eCup under the umbrella of a new club. The Duluth FC supporter and eCup representative ran the table in 2022, taking down a list of heavy hitters en route to the final, in which Elsawy won a convincing 6-1 victory over Providence City FC's Chris Moura.
#1 (Tie) - Oscar Ayala, Milwaukee Pro Soccer ('22 Xbox Champion)
Elsawy wasn't the only Vlora FC representative to take home an eCup title last year, as Oscar Ayala returns to the 2022 eCup after winning last year's Xbox division in his first eCup. Now the representative for Milwaukee Pro Soccer, a future USL Championship side, Ayala looks to build upon last year's dominant run, which he capped off with a win over the next player on our list, Forward Madison FC's Evan Warwick.
#3 (Tie) - Evan Warwick, Forward Madison FC ('22 Finalist)
Longtime Forward Madison FC supporter and the club's Director of Digital Media, Evan Warwick's run in the 2022 Lower League eCup was a rollercoaster of emotions. Just a year removed from a trip to the semifinals, Warwick earned an uncharacteristic two points in his first three matches of last year's tournament, and needed a win on the final day of the group stage just to get through to the knockouts. From there, Warwick returned to the form we've come to expect of him, winning his first four knockout stage matches by a combined margin of 21 goals before falling to Ayala in the final.
#3 (Tie) - Chris Moura, Providence City FC ('22 Finalist)
After finishing second in 2020 and third in 2021, Providence City FC's Chris Moura built on his history of eCup success by reaching the final of the 2022 tournament. The Providence City FC and U.S. National Futsal team goalkeeper was undefeated through his first seven matches despite possessing the toughest average strength of schedule of any player in the tournament, before he ultimately dropped the Playstation Division Final to Elsawy.
#5 - Gio Cañas, Greenville Triumph SC ('22 Semifinalist)
In what would be his final eCup as *just* a supporter of USL League One's Greenville Triumph SC, Gio Cañas made his second consecutive run to the latter stages of the knockout round in 2022. Cañas, who recently moved into a full-time ticketing role with the club, finished second in last year's "Group of Death", in which he avenged his loss in the 2021 final with a win over Tulsa Athletic's Whitney Gonsalves, before winning his first two knockout stages to reach the Semifinals, where he fell behind early and couldn't recover against Providence's Moura.
#6 - Omar Anguiano, La Barra 608 ('22 DII Quarterfinalist & DII Finalist)
Anguiano took the sticks in both the Premier and Second Divisions in 2022, and put together a run to remember en route to reaching the Premier Division Quarterfinals and Second Division Final. In the first division, Anguiano won a group which included three eCup returnees, and only bowed out of the tournament after a tightly contested loss to Cañas in the Quarterfinals. He finished as the top domestic participant in the second division, finishing only behind the U.K.'s Northwich 1874 FC after a 3-2 loss in the final.
#7 (Tie) - Carter Voigt, Dynamo FC - St. Cloud ('22 Quarterfinalist)
Dynamo FC's Carter Voigt returns to the 2023 eCup after a successful run which largely went largely unnoticed by most. He finished second only to Providence City FC in the group stage, and went onto win his Quarterfinal match against Peak XI FC, the winner of the aforementioned "Group of Death" in which Greenville's Cañas finished second. Only a rematch with Providence City FC in the Quarterfinals would bring Voigt's 2022 eCup to an end.
#7 (Tie) - Cameron Ocampo, Olde Fields Battalion ('22 Quarterfinalist)
After representing Tallahassee SC in 2021 & 2022, Ocampo returns to represent Tallahassee's supporters group, the Olde Fields Battalion, the group he represented in the inaugural eCup in 2020. Ocampo fought through a deep group of five eCup returners to reach the Knockout Stage, ultimately reaching the Quarterfinals before falling to Conner Cappelletti of Lane United FC.
#9 (Tie) - Price Meentemeyer, AFC Columbia ('22 Quarterfinalist)
Last year, AFC Columbia player Price Meentemeyer finished second in a group which included two eventual semifinalists in Lane United FC and Forward Madison FC. Meentemeyer, who will rep AFC Columbia in the older-generation second division of this year's tournament due to console constraints, surged to a decisive seven-goal victory in his Knockout Stage opener before falling to the eventual champion (Vlora FC's Ayala) in the Quarterfinals.
#9 (Tie) - Tony Huerta, IE Republic FC ('22 Quarterfinalist)
Facing a similar dilemma to Meentemeyer, Tony Huerta of Inland Empire Republic FC will take the virtual pitch in the second division of this year's tournament. A four-year eCup veteran, Huerta put together his best performance to date in 2023, progressing all the way to the Quarterfinals en route to a 6th place finish in last year's tournament.
As they like to say, "that's all folks"! Stay tuned for more Power Rankings specific to this year's tournament as kickoff on February 16th approaches!
ABOUT THE LOWER LEAGUE eCUP
The Lower League eCup is annual FIFA tournament open to all American lower league soccer clubs and supporters groups. Founded in March 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament is the largest of it's kind and has featured representatives from 140+ organizations from 38 states over four editions. The 2023 Lower League eCup kicks off on Thursday, February 16.
Tournament Director & Founder