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Ballard FC’s Inaugural U.S. Open Cup Match: What to Expect

Ballard FC will host USL1’s Spokane Velocity.

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3 min read
Photo courtesy of Ballard FC

Ballard FC will face off against first-year USL 1 side Spokane Velocity in the club’s first-ever appearances in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday.

The game will also be the club’s first in Memorial Stadium, where they will play the 2024 season during renovations at their home ground at Interbay.

Sounder at Heart spoke with Ballard FC about the opportunity to play in the storied tournament, beginning their tenure at the historic stadium, and more. 

Ballard FC earned their way into the tournament by winning the 2023 USL2 National Championship. Like all professional sides in US Soccer, Spokane earned an automatic invite to the tournament. The Seattle Sounders will also compete in this year’s Open Cup, entering in the Round of 32.

So yes, it is theoretically possible that Ballard could advance far enough to play the Sounders. A similar matchup occurred in both 2011 and 2016, when the now-defunct Kitsap Pumas played the Sounders. The Sounders won both meetings, 2-1 and 2-0, respectively.

For many, the beauty of the Open Cup is the meritocracy of the competition. In theory, a semi-professional team like Ballard FC could advance to challenge bigger and bigger clubs, and everything is decided on the field. In that sense, it is a unique tournament in the United States and is the longest-running soccer competition in the country, first played in 1913.

“Qualifying for the U.S. Open Cup was a major achievement for our club but hosting the first round match is a dream,” Ballard FC Co-Founder and President Sam Zisette said. “This historic tournament provides incredible opportunities for small clubs like ours to compete against professional teams in competitive, do-or-die matches. We’re incredibly honored and excited to host the first round match against Spokane Velocity FC.”

Ballard is still in preseason mode, as their season does not start until May. Their roster is not yet complete, and not all players have arrived in Seattle. The team has additional players from the Seattle area joining the club for the Open Cup run. New head coach James Riley has had the luxury of leaning on a lot of returning players from last year’s roster, but it is undeniable that the team is in the very early stages of training. The team roster for this match has not been announced, but expect Riley to start a mostly veteran side with familiar names such as Khai Brisco, Leo Burney, Charlie Gaffney, Bailey Letherman, and Peter Kingston along new players recruited for this competition.

“It’s definitely a challenge on both the game day operations and team preparation side of things,” Zisette said. “We don’t have our full summer operations staff so we’re a bit more limited on what we can do. On the team side, James and the staff have done a fantastic job recruiting and preparing the team, but there are limitations given the nature of this. All in all, we feel really good about our ability to host a fun game and to beat Spokane.”

The Opponent: Spokane Velocity

The Velocity were established in 2022 and began play this season. They have played one league match – a 3-1 loss to Greenville Triumph SC in which forward Josh Dolling scored the team’s first goal on a 13th-minute penalty. They also played Tacoma Defiance in preseason, falling 3-1 in that game. The introduction of the club was major news in USL and in the city of Spokane. They will play their home matches in the new One Spokane Stadium, a $31 million multi-purpose venue built by Spokane Public Schools that has a seating capacity of 5,000. The Velocity report that they have sold 3,800 season tickets for the inaugural season. 

Spokane will play their first-ever home match on March 16 before turning their attention to their trip to Seattle to face Ballard. That match will stream on ESPN+ for any fans wishing to get a preview of the team before next week.

Matchday Information

Where: Memorial Stadium, Seattle

When: Wednesday, March 20th, 7:30 PM (Gates at 6:00 PM)

Tickets: $17.50 General Admission

  • All seating is general admission in the south stand. There will be food offerings from Kottu, T’Juana Tacos, Mainstay Provisions, and Bake Shop. 
  • A beer garden sponsored by Rueben’s Brews will be located outside the stadium on the SW corner. 
  • Parking around Memorial Stadium is very limited. The team is encouraging fans to carpool and use public transit.  Memorial Stadium in Seattle is accessible by several bus routes including the 1, 124, 4, 40, 5, 62, and E LINE.
  • Fans can also ride LINK Light Rail to Westlake and finish the trip to Seattle Center on the Monorail.