Soccer: Duluth FC stepping up in class
Taking the division title last year was one thing. Tonight's game is an entirely different beast.
"It's probably the biggest game in Duluth FC's short history," said Joel Person, the soccer club's coach. "If we're able to win this game then we qualify for the next round, and that's just the stuff of dreams right there."
Duluth FC is looking to make a deep run into the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the chance to play against some top-tier talent. To get started, it's going to have to knock off Dakota Fusion FC at James S. Malosky Stadium at 7:30 p.m. today.
With a 2-2-0 all-time record against the Fusion and a handful of returning players, it all comes down to who shows up.
"We're very happy with the talent we have on the roster, it's just that challenge of getting everybody on the same page," Person said.
The U.S. Open Cup will feature 94 teams from all levels of American soccer, though naturally Major League Soccer teams have long held an advantage in the knockout competition. A win against Fargo's side tonight would pit the BlueGreens against Saint Louis FC on May 16. From there, Duluth FC eventually could face MLS competition — perhaps even Minnesota United.
Meanwhile, the BlueGreens also have a division title to defend.
The club, founded in 2015, will play its second season in the National Premier Soccer League, a fourth-tier league in the U.S. soccer system that is organized regionally. Duluth FC is in the North Division of the Midwest Region, where it faces competition from seven other clubs.
With a record of 8-2-4 last year, the BlueGreens won the North Division but were turned away 5-2 by Detroit City FC in their ensuing playoff run. They're looking for another shot, but taking nothing for granted.
"We're going to have a target on our backs as the reigning champions," Person said. "Everything we did last year doesn't really matter this year."
Person takes over as head coach this season following two years under Kyle Bakas.
With a new logo and uniform design and returning title sponsor St. Luke's in tow, the team's 14-game league schedule kicks off Saturday with a four-game road trip.
Duluth FC schedule
Home games at Public Schools Stadium
At 7 p.m., unless noted
May 12 — at Minnesota Twinstars
May 16 — at Dakota Fusion
May 19 — at La Crosse Aris
May 23 — at Med City
May 26 — Minneapolis City
June 2 — at Sioux Falls Thunder
June 6 — VSLT
June 9 — Dakota Fusion
June 16 — at VSLT
June 20 — La Crosse Aris
June 23 — Sioux Falls Thunder
June 27 — Minnesota Twinstars
June 30 — at Minneapolis City
July 6 — Med City, 7:30 p.m.