Road to MSA Cup begins

PAUL TURENNE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:30 PM ET

It's time for the minnows to show what they're made of.

Twelve men's teams begin their quest today for the Manitoba Soccer Association's most coveted prize, the MSA Cup.

But few of them -- if any -- actually expect to win it.

Today's first round features teams from the Manitoba Major Soccer League's first, second, third, fourth and fifth divisions.

The next round, which begins July 10, introduces the four teams promoted to or relegated from the premier division last year, and the remaining premier division teams, which represent the cream of Manitoba's soccer crop, don't enter the competition until the third round in the first week of August.

But for the teams who begin play today, it's all about the chance to knock off a giant.

"(Lower division) teams enter the Cup for two reasons. One, to see where they rank against the better teams in Manitoba. And two, to show the players what they need to do to be able to compete at that level," said Robert Thompson, a player/coach with United Football Club, a second-division team which begins Cup play tonight against first division side Cosmos FC. "The only way you get better is to play against better teams."

The Cup has not left the hands of premier division powerhouses Lucania, Sons of Italy and Sokol since 1995, when fellow premier (then-Super Soccer Alliance) side Polonia hoisted it.

But there's no reason to believe it can't happen.

"On any given day, with any given team, it can happen," said Lou Guffei, second vice-president of the MSA and one of the Cup's organizers.

Guffei points to the success of FC Lusitania, who last year reached the semi-finals as a third division team, knocking off premier side Winnipeg Croatia in the process.

"I'm expecting another strong turnout from them this year," he said.

Manuel Brum, an assistant coach with Lusitania, which has been promoted to second division this season, said his team is even more confident this year.

"There's (premier) teams we can beat no problem."

But Lucania or Sokol?

"Those are going to be a little tough, but on a good day anything can happen," he said. "It's a good challenge to see how good our team is, because we'd like to make it to premier some day."

Over the next three rounds, 25 MMSL teams will compete for seven spots in the MSA Cup finals, which begin Aug. 23. The eighth spot will be filled by Wanderers, who represent the Winnipeg Soccer League.

The Cup champion will represent Manitoba at the national club championships in Calgary in the fall.

The women's and youth MSA Cups also take place in August.

The four women's finalists are determined by schedule play in the Winnipeg Women's Soccer League, said Guffei. Ten boys and ten girls teams from each of the under-14, under-16 and under-18 age groups will also compete for the youth Cups, he said.

Today's men's Cup games take place at 4:30 and 7 p.m. at Vince Leah Community Centre in Winnipeg.


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